Avoiding Lap Baby Sticker Shock

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One of the messages I try to get out there about family travel is that flying with a lap infant can be very pricey, and it also isn’t even always the most practical or comfortable seating decision.  I only flew with my 5 year old as a lap infant once on a short flight, though I will admit I may fly with my second daughter a few times as a lap infant while she is very small.


Technically you can fly with your child as a “lap baby” until they turn two years old.  For domestic flights lap children are free and this works out well for many travelers for a period of time while the baby is young.  Yes, there are some safety concerns and trade-offs to consider

However, when you start talking about international flights and mobile toddlers as “lap infants” then there are some things you really need to be aware of…namely that lap infants can come with big sticker shock.  For example, most airlines charge a 10% fee for lap infants on many international flights, and that amount can be in the four digits!  I know many families that have redeemed airline miles to sit in business or first class seats only to be hit with over $1,000 in charges when they add their lap infant to the reservation.

I have a very detailed post on various airline lap infant policies and fees that might be helpful (some carriers charge much less than others), but I also recently participated in a story on lap infants that ran in the LA Times that is worth checking out in case you may have a lap infant in your future.

Have you ever run into lap baby sticker shock?

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  1. The best and cheapest way is to not fly with your infant!

    All jokes and passenger etiquette issues aside, this would be very helpful to those that absolutely have no choice but to fly with their kids.

  2. “I know many families that have redeemed airline miles to sit in business or first class seats only to be hit with over $1,000 in charges when they add their lap infant to the reservation.” Include me in those families 🙁 We had our first baby and I got a new job that would have very heavy travels on the first few months so I decided to have my wife and baby travel to South America to be close to family until my travel schedule was back to normal and baby was a little older. I redeemed miles for a business class ticket so my wife and baby would have more comfort to then realize it would cost almost $1200 for the baby to be on that flight on my wife’s lap. Unbelievable!!!!! I guess someone at Delta wrote that rule. I ended up paying the fee so they could have a better experience.

  3. I had to pay $1,100+ for a lap infant on AA first class award with JAL. I am still in shock. Hoping the JAL rate for my itinerary will go down so I can at least get a partial refund.

    • Regarding lap infant tax…

      This was something I ran into for our upcoming trip to London in Business class.
      There is something you REALLY should check.
      First, are you booking the award as separate one way awards?
      If you are, try to see if you can get a FULL round trip award.
      Our retail price on 2 separate one way was about $12,000 and the lap infant would’ve been 10% of THAT.
      Changing our itinerary to full roundtrip, the full retail was only $7,500, and the lap infant tax came out to be $750….which was a lot better than $1200.

  4. My husband and I suggested his coworker redeem for a business class award to Taiwan for his wife and infant on United. They were flying alone and we thought it might make the trip easier…ha! I dont remember the exact price quote, but I am thinking it was $1800!

    On a side note, fellow flyers, please, please, please don’t hold your child in your arms. What about even some turbulence? You cant protect them from harm like a proper seat restraint can. Think more of your child than a few hundred (or even thousand) dollars.

    • Though I agree a proper seat restraint would be most ideal, it’s not always logistically affordable for everyone to purchase another seat. My son will actually have 5-6 flights under his belt before the age of 2. These trips were only possible due to the free or reduced cost of his lap ticket. The cost of ticketing him like an adult flyer would have reduced our trip count to 2-3.

      Please remember however, planes are statistically more safe than being in an automobile. Having a lap child is more safe than a child in a car seat of a car, statistically speaking, in terms of chance of being hurt in the process of travel.

      Back in February, I actually priced out the cost of a May ticket in a first class apartment on EY, and the price surprisingly came in at around $900-$1,000.

  5. Comfort – yes. Get a seat.

    Safety – sure, it sounds logical. There has only been one incident (not even easy to find on any blog), EVER, of an infant in arms having any serious damage. This is so overblown. There are laptops, tablets, and tons of other things that can fly about a cabin. Many kids in car seats are not belted in. They are playing around or crawling on the floor. The safety thing is complete B.S. Don’t buy it. This is the same crowd that thinks vaccinating your child will give them autism – more B.S.

    • Yep. I have a lot of experience doing flights with lap children in coach on my own dime and every dime was HARD to come by. Also readers for your safety: don’t get out of bed cause you might stub your toe, don’t get in a car cause you might get in an accident, don’t get pregnant or impregnate someone cause you may actually have to pay something for your first class flight like the infant taxes on LUXURY GOODS…

  6. I flew an Israeli airline together with my wife and 1 year old daughter. We elected to pay for a ticket and seat for my daughter, it was a 12 hour flight. When meals were handed out we were refused a meal fo rmy daughter. When I asked for her meal I was told that she did not pay for a seat and was not entiltled to the meal. I corrected the crewmwmber and demanded the Pursor adress this issue. The chief pursor appeared, demanded to see all our tickets and still refused to apologize.

  7. One thing that may work, I have never done it but priced it a couple of times, is if you are traveling two parents one kid is put the premium award tickets in one parent and the kids name and buy the cheapest coach ticket you can find for the other parent. Then just have the two parents sit in the good seats. Especially on a first class ticket, it may end up being cheaper then 10% for the lap infant.

  8. Just redeemed Delta Skymiles for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class with Lap Child. 62,500 miles and $33.00 for my seat and $615.00 for my 14 month old son to fly on my lap from ORD to LHR. Pretty ridiculous since he isn’t going to be using any resources on the plane – except a portion of my seat.

  9. Flew from the U.S. to Australia and back, and also to New Zealand a couple times with a lap infant. It is so easy, just make sure you are sitting up next to the bulkhead where the bassinets are. Yes there is a 10% fee usually… not a big deal if you’re in coach. #1stworldproblems

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