How do I book a lap infant ticket?
If the baby will be traveling as a lap child, they must be under two years old. You may add a lap infant to an adult ticket free of charge. Once you book the adult ticket, you can either call the airline ahead of time, or just add the infant to the adult ticket at the counter when you check in. The agent will ask for your child’s date of birth and full name.
Does my baby need ID to fly?
Generally, no formal identification is requested at security for the child when traveling domestically. However, it is a good idea to travel with an extra copy of your child’s birth certificate or other identification. Some airlines will require proof of age for babies under 2 years at check in.
Can I fly with more than one lap infant?
For obvious safety and sanity reasons, airlines limit lap infants to one per ticketed adult. Also importantly, depending on the airplane’s configuration, you may be limited to one lap infant per row. This is due to the number of oxygen masks installed per row. Ask at ticketing and again at check in if you and a traveling companion are both traveling with a lap infant. In this case, you may need to sit separately.
What happens if my baby turns 2 during our trip?
If your baby’s birthday falls between your outbound and return travel days, then you will have to buy them a seat for the return part of the trip. This applies to all types of infant ticketing- domestic, international, and award tickets.
How this works on basic domestic fares, is you would buy the round trip adult fare like normal, and then purchase a one way ticket for the child. Generally, one way fares may be significantly more costly than just half of the regular round trip. It may be worth paying the difference and getting a round trip ticket for the child.
Also keep in mind that children can fly on award tickets, so a one way award ticket for the flight after they turn 2 could save you the cost of the one way fare. If you choose to go this route, you may need to call to book, as most airlines websites won’t let you book a ticket for a child that age without a parent or guardian also on the record.
Is there such a thing as a ‘child ticket?’
Notably, Southwest offers discounted infant tickets for babies under 2 years. These tickets are fully refundable and changable, but there is limited availability per flight, so if you can try to book early.
Other airlines may offer discounts on certain international routes, depending on the age of the child. Call the airline for more information.
How old does my baby have to be to fly?
This is a question for your pediatrician, since they know you and your baby best, and may have advice and guidelines particular to your child. However, the airlines’ have their own restrictions:
American: Accepts infants as young as 2 days old. However, if you’re traveling with an infant less than 7 days old, your physician will be required to fill out a passenger medical form before your flight. (A special assistance coordinator will send the form directly to your physician.) Call AA for details.
Delta: Requires a letter of approval from a physician for babies under 7 days old.
United: United does not accept infants in incubators or infants younger than seven days old.
Alaska: Has no minimum age restrictions on traveling infants.
Southwest: Infants under 14 days old require a letter of approval from a physician.
In general, ‘baby items’ fly for free. This usually means a stroller and a car seat. Checking these items does not count as one of your ‘checked bags.’ You may choose to check these in at the ticketing counter when you arrive at the airport. If you do this, you do not have to carry them through the airport, and you collect them at the regular baggage claim after the flight. Larger strollers or car seats may be sent to the ‘oversize luggage’ area for claim, so if you don’t see your items on the belt, that’s probably why.
The other option is to “gate check” these items. This means you will want to arrive at the gate a few minutes prior to boarding time for your flight, which is usually 30 minutes before the departure time. It may be 45 minutes to an hour if you’re on an international flight with a large plane. The gate agent will provide you with a gate check tag, and then you will leave your items at the end of the jet bridge just before stepping on the plane. You collect them at the gate once you arrive.
The downside of this is obviously that you have to bring more with you in the airport. On the other hand, if you would rather have a stroller with you to use in the airport and on layovers, then this is a good option.
Be aware, though, that only lightweight strollers are allowed to be gate checked. American Airlines sets this limit at 20lbs, and requires that gate checked strollers be collapsible. United does not specify an exact weight, but does not allow ‘large un-collapsible strollers’ to be gate checked. We have gate checked both the Britax B-Agile, and our Summer Infant umbrella stroller with no issue.
Keep in mind when packing that airlines disclaim responsibility for any damage to strollers and car seats you check with them.
Using Car Seats on the Plane:
If you have purchased a seat for your child, you will need to bring an approved car seat, or “child restraint device.” Many popular car seats are also approved for aircraft use. To see if yours is, look for a label on the seat that states that it is “certified for use in motor vehicles and aircrafts.” You may also bring a car seat to the gate, and if a seat is empty next to you, you should be allowed to install it for your child, without purchasing the extra seat.
You should install the car seat in the same position you would in a car, appropriate to your child’s weight and height. Depending on the seat, you may need to ask the flight attendant for a seatbelt extender when you board to correctly install the seat.
Remember that car seats may not be installed in emergency exit rows, and if they are wider than 17″ (16” on some planes), may need to be installed with the arm rest of the parent’s seat raised. You can check ahead of time to see how wide the seats will be on your flight:
Note that for all of the airlines, the narrower seats may refer to fixed-armrest exit or bulkhead rows. Call ahead to find out if car seats are approved for installation in premium classes. Some airlines may specifically prohibit car seats in business or first class due to the design of the seats.
Car seats should not be installed in seats where they could block another passenger, so should be in window seats on narrow body (one asile) planes, or window or center of the middle rows on wide body (two aisle) planes.