A word of warning: buying an infant ticket on American Airlines in conjunction with upgrades can turn out to be a very messy process. I’m still shaking my head at how absurd the process was for my family.
Warning: Infant Ticket International Upgrade Experience On American Airlines
I had to return from Europe last-minute and opted to book Basic Economy tickets on American Airlines. The price was 276CHF per ticket for a ticket booked 48 hours prior to travel and the schedule worked out perfectly to break up the trip in London, where my sister-in-law lives.
This pricing was only available from a European point-of-sale. I tried booking this via aa.com and the price was significantly higher. When I switched to AA’s Swiss website, which appears to operate on a different Amadeus platform, I was able to find the pricing I wanted, but encountered an error when attempting to complete ticketing:
Same issue on AA’s UK website:
But I finally managed to ticket the reservation, with the infant ticket, on Expedia’s UK website.
Shortly after ticketing, I called in AA to upgrade the reservation. Flights were lightly filled and our upgrades were confirmed immediately.
For American Airlines (and many airlines), when you upgrade an infant ticket, you must pay 10% of the current cost of the cabin you are upgrading to. So in my case, I’d be responsible for 10% of the business class fare.
I was fully expecting that and had already calculated the price: a one-way business class ticket was available for 2,114.50CHF so I expected to pay 10% of the 1,729CHF base fare (173CHF) plus the taxes and fees, up to 385.5CHF (in my experience, however, AA would have also only charged 10% of the carrier-imposed surcharge (YR) so 10% of 278CHG would have been 27.80CHF. In any case, I was expecting something in the range of $250-400.
This, by the way, for the pleasure of allowing my daughter to sit on my lap on an empty flight, as if she was going to take up more real estate onboard.
Why not just buy her another 269CHF ticket? Because then I would have had to use an extra systemwide upgrade for her, since she would have her own seat.
(in retrospect, I should have done that)
Infant Ticket Problems On American Airlines
Anyway, the Executive Platinum desk quoted a price of $1,328 for Claire Marie’s ticket. Uh…
I found that the rate desk was taking the cheapest one-way fare from a U.S. point of sale, which was $10,328.35:
Two problems with that. One, our first segment would remain in economy class. Second, the fare bumped up to first class the segment from London to New York…the system could not even price the ticket in business class.
The AA agent agreed that the price was absurd and told me she would reach out to another agent in the rates department.
After about 15 minutes on hold, she came back and told me they were working on my ticket and to check back in the morning.
The next morning, the day before we were to leave, I called back and was quoted the same price again. I explained to the agent it made no sense, mentioned the point of sale issue, and was once again placed on hold.
The call cut off, the ticket went from pending to re-issued, and I did not call back.
At check-in the next day in Zurich, the British Airways agent noted an issue with the infant ticket and was only able to check us in as far as London.
Trouble At The Airport
We spent the night in London and then showed up at the AA counter at Heathrow T5 about two hours prior to our flight.
After attempting to check-in, I was directed to the ticket sales line, where an agent asked me to pay $1328.
I protested (politely) and explained the point of sale issue. In fact, I pointed out that a same-day, walk-up business class ticket from London to Los Angeles via New York on the same flights were 1300GBP. Yes, a paid business class ticket!
She also agreed I was right but claimed her hands were tied. I escalated to a supervisor and was bluntly but politely given an ultimatum: pay the fee or downgrade.
Well, I told them the baby could ride in economy class and we would stay in business class….
They chuckled, though I wasn’t exactly joking.
While I considered paying the fee and trying to get it back later, I ultimately was not willing to take the gamble.
The flight was EMPTY. Business class had only two other passengers and everyone had their own row(s) in economy class.
So I downgraded myself and the baby and was re-seated in economy class. The whole process took 90 minutes, giving us just 30 minutes to clear security and board our aircraft. Augustine and Heidi remained in business class (and Heidi and I ultimately shared the business class seat).
Quite frankly, the whole process was beyond absurd and AA’s archaic and opaque method for calculating infant fares on upgraded tickets borders on criminal.
I understand these fees are viewed as nice sources of additional revenue, but give me a break? Over $1300 so that I can hold my baby in my lap? I don’t think so.
By the way, I tried to buy a round-trip infant ticket for my daughter, which also would have dropped the price significantly. I was told that was impossible and her ticket had to match mine.
Be aware that infant ticket prices are re-calculated if you upgrade and that AA’s pricing is whatever it darn well feels like charging. Not only did I waste hours on the phone and at the airport, but I felt like a fool and came to despise American Airlines for it. American Airlines should charge a flat fee for infant tickets. Its current process is nothing short of absurd.