Travelling on frequent flyer points is a commonly used tool for the savvy traveller to obtain cheap flights in exchange for their hard earned points. Often booking these flights can be done relatively easy when there is a party of 1-2 people travelling. What is often missed in this area is how do point redemption flights work when one wants to travel with an infant?

Definition Of An Infant (When Flying)

With most Airlines out of Australia, an infant is defined as a child who is under the age of 2 when travelling. As long as this definition is met, most airlines will permit the infant to travel free of charge under an adult ticket. The only thing the airline usually requests is that if a bassinet is required, then you should call the airline to schedule this in before your flight. However, this policy is often only found when a ticket has been purchased outright, not with frequent flyer points.

Infant Travel On Frequent Flyer Points/Miles

What we have discovered in research is that when redeeming flights with points, the cost of travelling with an infant can differ significantly between frequent flyer programs.

A general ‘Rule of Thumb’ is to consider that a maximum cost of 10% in either point redemption or ticket value is going to be required if booking an infant fare on your hard earned points. The good thing is there are also many airlines out there that will allow you to travel with an infant for no fee at all.

One thing to note as well is some airlines when booking on other partnered airlines, might require you to contact the airline’s hotline directly to add the infant to the booking. Please note we are unable to list every airline and partnered airlines that require this due to the significant amount of different partnerships that exist.

The aim of this article is to have a look at some of the popular frequent flyer programs accessed by Australians and what costs are associated when travelling on points with an infant.

Qantas Frequent Flyer & Infant Travel

When booking directly with Qantas Classic Rewards, you will be happy to know that you do not have to redeem extra Qantas points when adding an infant to a booking. The T&C’s state:

Infant passengers under two years and not occupying a seat travel are not required to redeem Points to travel as long as the accompanying adult is travelling on a Classic Flight Reward. Taxes, fees and carrier charges may be payable for Infants accompanying other passengers travelling on a Classic Flight Reward booking.

My take home from this is that given you can redeem so many different options and airlines under the QFF program, you will find the fees may differ based on where you are flying if on a partnered airline overseas.

However, we did multiple test bookings with Qantas, Emirates, Japan Airlines and Qatar Airways and when booking online, no fees or points are charged when adding an infant at the time of booking.

The questions is, what happens when the infant isn't yet born but you want to lock in your booking now? After talking to Qantas (and after being on hold for 1 hour…), they confirmed there are no fees when adding an infant to your booking later (e.g. when the infant is born) since you will need to enter the date of birth at the time of booking.

For partner redemptions Qantas said there might be a small fee for "taxes", but we think in most cases there will be no additional costs at all. When I asked Qantas to quote me for such a fee on a one-way award booking from Perth to Dubai, the agent returned with a $400 price.

I then asked if there was a difference if booked online vs. adding an infant to the booking later; the agent said that it was the same.

I'm putting this down to the agent quoting the wrong price because this topic is discussed heavily on frequent flyer forums where the overwhelming amount of people did not pay any fees or taxes for adding an infant.

Update: Chatting to https://www.instagram.com/salty__sam/ on Instagram, he had a recent experience booking Qatar via Qantas classic rewards and was charged a $620.01 infant fee for a one way Perth – Doha – Houston itinerary. He initially though it was free when booking online but the system didn't allow him to ticket. He then called Qantas and they informed him that he would first need to pay the infant fee.

Keeping that in mind, don't rely on what you see via Qantas Classic Rewards until it's actually booked as fees may arise depending on the partner airline.

What Happens When My Child Turns 2 After Commencing Travel?

If your infant turns 2, after travel has commenced, Qantas will allow you to use the original ticket which was booked for the infant. But please check with partner airlines as the rules could change.

Virgin Australia Velocity & Infant Travel

Virgin Australia operates in a similar way as Qantas. However, without the fees and taxes! They also do not charge you any additional points to book an infant. It’s important to know this only applies to domestic flights.

Fees when booking with other airlines in the Virgin Velocity Program

For international and partner airlines, the Virgin Australia website states that infants only need to pay for taxes, fees and surcharges. This will differ depending on the airline and route chosen.

Infant Turning 2 During The Journey

If booking for an infant who will turn 2 years of age during the journey, the flights must be booked as a child for the entire journey.

Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer & Infant Travel

KrisFlyer is the frequent flyer program utilised by Singapore Airlines. Often regarded as one of the best airlines in the world, you would expect that their fees and services when it comes to infants to resemble their reputation. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Unlike the above Aussie providers that either let infants travel free of charge, or at the very least taxes only, KrisFlyer will charge you 10% of the revenue fare for the entire itinerary based on the price as of when you made the award booking.

The other issue is that you will not be able to book in an infant fare online. You will need to complete your booking of an adult fare and then call up for the call centre to add the infant to your booking.

Infant Turning 24+ Months Old After Flight Commences

If booking for an infant who will turn 2 years of age during the journey, Singapore Airlines will honour the age at which your infant started the journey so there's no extra cost other than the infant fee.

The link below outlines all the specific requirements when travelling with infants.

https://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/us/travel-info/special-assistance/travelling-with-children?affc=721bf760-4287-4de1-b053-e4da8039222d

American Airlines AAdvantage & Infant Travel

AAdvantage is the Frequent Flyer Program Operated by American Airlines. When travelling with infants under point redemption, you can expect to pay 10% of the adult fare + fees and charges.

The link below outlines all the specific requirements when travelling with infants.

https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/special-assistance/traveling-children.jsp

Avianca LifeMiles & Infant Travel

Operating under their Colombian based airline Avianca, this is the 3rd biggest Airlines out of South America, which also offer a very unique Frequent Flyer program known as LifeMiles. They also offer a unique partnership through the Star Alliance program.

The general rule when redeeming these points seems to suggest that you pay for fees and taxes only associated with the infant.

However, given the numerous redemption options available through its network of Star Alliance partners, you have to keep in mind that when you book a partner airline (which is what most Australian based travellers would do), their infant policy applies.

For example, when you're booking a LifeMiles redemption on Swiss Airlines, you'd have to pay 10% of the fare. There are mixed reports on who is responsible for ticketing but you shouldn't have an issue if you follow these steps:

  1. Make your redemption through LifeMiles
  2. Call up the airline who you will be flying with
  3. Ask them to purchase an infant seat
  4. Get them to link the infant booking to yours, if this can't be done due to the fact you have an award redemption, escalate the issue and get the airline agent to liaise with LifeMiles or vice versa.

Keep in mind booking infant seats on a LifeMiles redemption is not for the faint hearted and many people have experienced problems getting it done.

The link below outlines all the specific requirements when travelling with infants.

https://www.avianca.com/ar/en/before-your-trip/special-needs/traveling-with-infants/

Etihad Guest & Infant Travel

The Frequent Flyer program operated by Etihad Airways is a highly used airlines servicing many Australians accessing the world via the UAE. The benefit with Etihad Guest is their great code share with other airlines allowing you to earn points and redeem via the Etihad Guest Program.

The cost of travelling with an infant with Etihad Guest Redemptions is an amount equal to 10% of the adult fare. This will be in points. The T&C's state that the slider tool when booking GuestSeat Rewards should state the amount required to complete the booking. Infants are also able to be added to an existing booking via the Etihad Guest Service Centre.

The link below outlines all the specific requirements when travelling with infants.

https://www.etihadguest.com/en/terms-and-conditions.html

Emirates Skywards & Infant Travel

Emirates Skywards is the Frequent Flyer program used by Emirates. This is my go-to airline when travelling via Dubai to locations all over Europe.

For those wanting to redeem infant bookings with Emirates will find they are in line with other airlines. They charge a 10% fee based on the point redemption for an adult fare.

The link below outlines all the specific requirements when travelling with infants.

https://www.emirates.com/english/skywards/skywards-rewards.aspx

Alaska Mileage Plan & Infant Travel

Alaska Airlines operate a bit differently than the above airlines, whereby the cost of the infant booking is based on where you are actually flying.

The website states "Lap infants travel free of charge within the United States, but are subject to approximately $17 USD in fees when travelling from an international location into the United States."

A recent move that also angered many in the Frequent Flyer Community is that in November 2018, Alaskan Airlines announced that any infant booking with a partnered airline would no longer able to guarantee that lap infants will be accepted with your international partner award ticket. Until further notice, Mileage Plan members will need to book seats for infants at the standard mileage rate on international partner award bookings.

The link below outlines all the specific requirements when travelling with infants.

https://www.alaskaair.com/content/travel-info/policies/traveling-with-lap-infants

United Airlines Mileage Plus & Infant Travel

A popular airline operated primarily out of the USA with services to surrounding countries around the world. Mileage Plus is the Frequent Flyer Program by United.

The Good news is that infants under the age of 2 travelling without a seat within the U.S., Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands do not require a ticket. Infants travelling internationally (including to Canada, Guam and Mexico) without a seat are required to have a purchased ticket and are subject to infant fares and taxes. When making your reservation, you should indicate that you are travelling with an infant, regardless of your destination.

The only time when a fee is applied is for infants travelling between the U.S. and Canada, or from Mexico to the U.S. or Canada. Infants travelling without a seat to other international destinations, including Guam, are charged 10 percent of the adult fare at the time of infant ticketing.

Star Alliance partner redemptions through United Mileage Plus are also charged at 10% of the equivalent cash fare.

The link below outlines all the specific requirements when travelling with infants.

https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/special-needs/infants.html

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles & Infant Travel

Asia Miles is the frequent flyer program by Cathay Pacific, while their program is very lucrative for Australian frequent flyer; this is not the case when it comes to infant travel.

Infants on Cathay Pacific attract a 10% fee of the equivalent ticket in cash, this can get pretty expensive when flying in first class so you may be better off booking through Qantas or British Airways Avios.

Cathay Pacific also does not allow infant tickets to be booked when a child turns 2 during a trip; in which case you will have to book a child ticket fare for all your flights.

For more info on Cathay Pacific infant ticketing see:

https://www.cathaypacific.com/cx/en_AU/travel-information/help-for-passengers/travelling-with-children/infants-new.html

British Airways Avios & Infant Travel

Avios is the mileage currency earned through the British Airways Executive Club frequent flyer program. Since Avios can be redeemed for all One World partners (including Qantas), it is an excellent currency for short haul business class redemptions.

British Airways Avios charges 10% of the adult fee in miles + 10 % of the taxes which is much better than the 10% cash fare some airlines charge.

For more info on British Airways infant bookings see: https://www.britishairways.com/en-au/information/family-travel/tickets-and-travel-documents

Infant Award Travel Conclusion

The main take-home message from the above is that there are so many different ways Airlines operate their own infant policy. However, applying the general rule of thumb, you can expect to pay at a maximum 10% of the adult fare + taxes, except if flying on a partnered airline via Alaskan Airlines.

The guide is also useful for Australian’s who predominately book fares in Australia. You are able to see that both Virgin and Qantas will not charge you a fee to add an infant to your booking (when flying domestic).

Please also note over time the above policies may change and should be checked when making your booking. As for your infant turning 2 after commencing a trip, it's a mixed bag of results. While some airlines will charge you for a child booking, some will still honour the infant booking.

Just keep in mind that a 2 year old might not fit in the bassinet anymore so you'll have to have him/her on your lap for the duration of the flight… unless you're lucky and find a spare seat. When booking through an alliance partner, keep in mind that the rules once again might be different so it's important you check with the airline you will be flying on.