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When you fly with a lap infant domestically, the infant can fly for free in your lap until they turn two years old if you so choose. You ideally should add the little one to your reservation sooner rather than later as there are some restrictions on how many lap infants can be in each row, which rows the child can sit in because of oxygen mask limitations, etc. Just looking at it from a financial standpoint, there is no fee whether you attach the baby the same day you book your ticket, or you wait to add them at the airport on a domestic flight since they are free.
However, once you leave this country and start flying internationally, the equation changes significantly and you could literally owe thousands of dollars for the right to hold your baby on your lap on some premium cabin tickets. It varies airline to airline, but most airlines charge 10% of the fare + taxes for an international lap infant. If you can afford to book a $10,000 premium cabin ticket for yourself, then perhaps a $1,000 lap infant charge isn’t the end of the world. But for those of us flying on miles in a seat that otherwise sells for thousands of dollars, it can be extremely jarring to learn just how expensive a lap infant charge can be since it is often based on the cash price of the ticket, not the mileage price, even if the parents are flying on miles.
Some loyalty programs, such as British Airways and Aeroplan, allow you to use miles to cover a lap infant charge on an award ticket, which is generally a much better deal than spending hundreds or thousands of dollars based on the revenue price of the ticket. This is generally the exception, and not the norm, as most airlines want you to pay cash to hold your little one internationally.
Years ago, Virgin Atlantic was one of the airlines that allowed you to use a fixed number of miles for a lap infant when you were flying using miles. However, when they did some tech changes a few years ago, that policy changed overnight to become 10% of the fare + taxes, which is quite painful for those flying in Upper Class compared to the fixed mileage charge that prior to that time was just 1,500 miles in Upper Class.
Thankfully, they have now changed back to a fixed mileage charge for those looking to add a lap infant to an award ticket. If you are flying on an award ticket using Virgin Atlantic miles on a Virgin Atlantic operated flight, a lap infant will now cost you:
- Economy Class – 1,000 miles per sector
- Premium Economy – 2,000 miles per sector
- Upper Class – 5,000 miles per sector
I first saw this information at Head for Points, but then chatted online with Virgin Atlantic today to try and get a few additional details.
You can only use miles for your lap infant if you are flying on miles. If you are on a revenue ticket, you must still pay 10% of the fare + taxes and fees. As of right now, these tickets involving lap infants must be booked over the phone, however that may be changing in the near term and become bookable online.
Perhaps most interesting of all is what may be coming soon. I was told that for now when you redeem miles to fly on partners (like the great values you can find on ANA), you must still pay for the infant ticket with cash, but that “this will most likely change to mileage as well in the next months to come”. Y’all, this would be a hugely positive development for those who like to fly with infants on partners using Virgin Atlantic miles, so fingers triple crossed this comes to pass.
Virgin Atlantic is a transfer partner of multiple major credit card loyalty programs. For example, you can transfer points to Virgin Atlantic from Chase Ultimate Rewards and cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Amex Membership Rewards and card such as The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card, and also from the Citi ThankYou program. This means it is extremely easy to rack up lots of Virgin Atlantic miles, and now those with lap infants can get an even better deal when flying with their baby.
Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.