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.
Did you call one of AA’s Reservations #s in Europe?
Closed for the holidays and very limited working hours…typical.
If you’re trying to beat the system, this is a perfect example why it does not work and backfires… You seem to have a lot of time on your hands
Not trying to beat the system at all, which I why I only called twice. Here, American Airlines was trying to screw me…
If you knew anything about airfares and ticketing, you would know Matt was NOT trying to beat the system. What the whole debacle shows is that he has a lot more knowledge than these low-level clerks standing at a ticket counter – and this has been the point for years – (other than their rate desk people, of which it takes YEARS to get proficient), airlines just don’t care about training onsite people to get a basic common sense of airfares and exceptions. Really is it so horrible to create a flat 10% fare of whatever the adult is paying (regardless of upgrade or not) ? (as Matt suggests)….. It’s an infant !!! – they’ll be on the parent’s lap 95% of the time. As well, God forbid they train people, supervisors or whomever at any level to THINK OUT OF THE BOX instead of jerking people around at the last stupid minute to get on an airplane. It’s not like he didn’t make the effort days in advance. 21st century and you’d think we were back in 1968. Frankly, things were a lot easier to handle in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s.
The most surprising thing is that they kept quoting the same (absurd) price. On Delta, I would usually buy a Y lap infant ticket when I bought my own Y ticket, upgrade with GUCs, and was never charged more for the lap infant. Usually that kept the price under $50. When I was traveling on J awards I’d call 3 different times and get 3 different prices. One time I had a complex routing and the agent quoted me something like $3,000. I told him that was ridiculous and he said ok, hold on a minute. He came back and said it was actually only $16. I said “I’m a little offended you were going to overcharge me by that much, but let’s go ahead and book it.”
Every call was an hour lost. I figured worst-case-scenario they could price it properly at LHR. Nope. Clueless nitwits there.
Too bad you didn’t buy your daughter a round-trip ticket. I would love to read her report abou hidden city ticketing.
But then again, she doesn’t want to risk all her hard-earned miles.
Actually, we would have used the return…we’ll have to get back to Europe this spring. Sad performance by AA.
Two great things about kids turning 2:
1. Getting out of diapers.
2. No more international lap infant ridiculousness.
Maybe I have those in the wrong order.
Oh yes, and AA still has not returned my systemwide upgrade…
In my experience the infant fee is 10% off the lowest published fare. The fact that your ticket was last minute and one way likely forced this price so high. The pricing system enforces this and while it seems counterintuitive that a walk up fare would be cheaper, it also has much more restrictive tariffs (which didn’t matter to you as you were traveling as a family, but nearly impossible to work around). I’ve had the same issue on United.
But this was a point of sale issue. Apparently AA is unable to price an infant upgrade except from a US POS.
sorry, I should have added the 10% fee is charged off the lowest refundable published fare.
Don’t think so. I certainly don’t see that published anywhere.
Agreed it’s not published anywhere. But I’ve been charged a +$1,000 fee flying on UA Business class from NYC to Europe on a lap child ticket and ran into the exact same issue. In fact this was on a FFP ticket. Even the agents can’t really tell you the rules since they are programed in the pricing engine and nowadays they cannot be overwritten. While it very well might be an additional POS issue, you must keep in mind that the selling fare and the benchmark used to calculate the infant lap fare are not the same.
Of course my kids are now much older so the system might be different than when I flew
One single phrase: I am so glad my kids are no longer babies. Not because I don’t love babies, actually I am sad they are no longer babies, but for the purpose of going to the mess you encountered which happened to me so many times. First of all, why do they need to charge for you to bring a baby on board? They charge $175 for you to bring an emotional animal (even on first class) and want to charge a stupid rate for a lap infant? I had the same issue so many times and to be honest I never found a winning solution.
I’m wondering if booking it on Expedia contributed to the issue. I haven’t used OTAs for many years, since I had an experience where they would not let me change the ticket even with a change fee. (I eventually got the DOT involved, who finally made them honor the CoC after the airline was caught replying to the DOT with an untruth about the flights available.) I thought at the time, though, was something about buying the ticket on an OAT that caused problems for both systems in trying to make any subsequent changes.
Shouldn’t make a difference. He was purchasing a new ticket and the 10% is calculated on the current price of a new ticket. Seems the issue was that the price defaulted to the US-based POS, which normally wouldn’t matter but in this case was exorbitantly more expensive.
Yeah, but why did it do that? Could it have something to do with having purchased on Expedia UK rather than AA.ch? Buying through Expedia does put some different information on your ticket. Could that have made the AA system think POS was US if, for example, Expedia has your US address?
When I had babies I had to use aeroplan and mostly lh. Only easy option.
At least it was a day flight from Europe.
Oh and by the way. We have three kids and finally figured out on the third to always bring the kids seat on board. Infants so much happier strapped into their seats. Wayyy less squirming and much easier to get them to sleep. All the way up to 3 years old
I feel for you and have experienced my fair share of similar usury. I’m only surprised that you’re surprised. This is (sadly) hardly an AA issue. The airline industry as a whole only grudgingly allows lap infants and most airlines don’t actually HAVE fully fleshed out policies that agree with the software they’ve slaved themselves to.