United just made lap infant awards a whole lot cheaper

Feb 12, 2021

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Lap infant fees can vary drastically by airline and route. The fees for lap children traveling with adults on award tickets can also vary from paid fares. While the fee can be as low as just the taxes and fees, they can sometimes cost upwards of 10% of the adult fare.

Well, good news: United has just significantly reduced lap infant fares for international awards. As reported by Live and Lets Fly, United has quietly changed its ticketing policies so that lap infants are charged a reasonable, flat rate on international MileagePlus awards, as opposed to a percentage of the adult’s fare.

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United’s updated lap infant policy

United has always allowed lap infants under the age of two to travel for free on domestic awards (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands). However, lap infants cost 10% of the current revenue fare for most international award tickets.

Now, United will charge a flat rate for lap infants on international awards. Specifically, infants traveling internationally without a seat are subject to infant fares between $20 and $250 plus taxes, depending on the route and cabin of service. This could add up to some big savings, especially for those frequently booking international one-way or premium cabin awards. For instance, on an international business class award that usually costs $5,000 the lap infant fee would’ve been $500 — double the new maximum fee.

Related: Flying with a lap infant — here’s what you need to know

There are two exceptions to this, but they’re good. Similar to domestic awards, there’s no fee for lap infants on awards between the U.S. and Canada, or from Mexico to the U.S. or Canada. Rather, you’ll only need to pay the taxes on the ticket, which are usually a nominal amount.

There are no changes for lap infants on paid tickets. Lap infants continue to be free on domestic flights, costing just the taxes on flights between the U.S. and Canada, or from Mexico to the U.S. or Canada and 10% of the adult fare at the time of infant ticketing for all other international destinations.

Related: 8 tips for flying with kids in business class

Bottom line

Overall, these changes make the United MileagePlus program much more appealing for traveling families than many of its competitors. By comparison, American Airlines and Delta continue to charge 10% of the adult fare, plus taxes and fees. Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines indefinitely stopped issuing lap infant tickets for international partner award tickets. So, until further notice, Mileage Plan members need to book seats for infants at the standard mileage rate on these bookings. 

Still, there are some foreign frequent flyer programs that can be cheaper than the U.S. ones. For instance, Air Canada Aeroplan charges some of the lowest fees for traveling with a lap infant. Infant awards are free for travel wholly within Canada and between Canada and the United States and cost just CA$25 ($19) or 2,500 points for all other itineraries.

Only time will tell whether the other big U.S. carriers follow suit, but for now, kudos to United for quietly making this customer-friendly change.

Featured photo by Odua Images/Shutterstock.

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