Pay another $166 or your baby stays in Costa Rica

Igor Stepovik/Shutterstock
Igor Stepovik/Shutterstock

When Daniel Weisleder tried to board his return flight from San Jose, Costa Rica, to Houston with his wife and 10-month-old son recently, a United Airlines ticket agent delivered some bad news: He’d have to pay another $166 to fly home with the baby.

“Someone made a mistake,” the agent said.

That might be an understatement. Weisleder, who directs an educational consulting firm in Pittsburgh and is an elite-level United customer, reluctantly forked over the extra $166 to fly home. But he couldn’t understand the late charge.

“When I booked the reservation, I notified United that I would be traveling with an infant on my lap,” he says. “I was charged $991 for the tickets. We checked-in in Houston without a problem, but when we were coming back, we were told that our baby had to pay an additional ticket.”

He adds, “This, of course, made no sense at all — why would you charge us extra to have a baby on our lap?”

There’s an answer to that question. If you’re a travel industry insider, you probably know it. But you don’t have to be a card-carrying travel agent to understand that United leaves no stone unturned when it comes to making money. Just last week, it raised its change fees on domestic tickets from $150 to $200, meaning that many discounted tickets are essentially unchangeable.

There’s an even bigger question that his experience raises, I’m willing to bet the answer isn’t as certain: Can an airline — can any company for that matter — charge you again long after the final bill is settled? And is that ethical?

“Late” billing lives!

Other travel companies have raised what’s called “late” billing to a fine art. Hotels famously add items to their “final” bills that may have been missed at check-out, including a guest’s breakfast, charges for wireless Internet access or, most notoriously, a “cleaning” fee for having allegedly smoked in the room.

But in the travel industry, car rental companies are the true masters of billing you long after your trip is over. Drivers are routinely late-billed for cleaning, traffic tickets and missed tolls, and often with little or no evidence of the infraction. Damage claims can be made on some rental cars months, and even years after the rental, with customers’ credit cards either being billed directly or a threat that if they don’t pay up quickly, you’ll be reported to a collection agency.

In the overall scheme of things, a $166 bill doesn’t seem so bad. But is it right?

Technically, yes.

United’s policy, which is clearly spelled out on its site, says his son needed a ticket.

“Children under the age of two traveling internationally without a seat are required to purchase a ticket and are subject to infant fares and taxes,” it says. “When making your reservation you should indicate you are traveling with an infant, regardless of your destination.”

But that’s exactly what Weisleder did. He told United he was flying with an infant, and left it to the airline to calculate the correct fare.

It did not.

In an email response to Weisleder, United seemed to shift the blame to him.

“The reason our staff in Costa Rica issued a ticket for your infant is because the infant did not have a ticket,” a representative said, adding, “Before you commit to your ticket online, the screen ‘Review trip itinerary’ displays a fare breakdown showing the ticket price and the taxes. If an infant fare had been included, the details would have been displayed. Clearly in this instance, the fare breakdown did not include the infant ticket. I am sorry that you were not aware you had not purchased it at the time of booking.”

Fare errors that favor the customer

Even if Weisleder had hit the wrong button, the ticket agents in Houston on his outbound flight should have identified the problem and fixed it. But catching it on his return flight seemed tactless and opportunistic, because it looked as if United was holding his baby hostage. The implied threat was: “Either pay up or the kid doesn’t fly.” Its response, in which the airline suggested he’d somehow screwed up his own reservation, is equally implausible. As a 1K-level frequent flier, Weisleder surely knows his way around

All of which makes me wonder if United should have just let the family fly when it tried to board its flight back to Houston.

In the past, I’ve been critical of passengers who knowingly take advantage of fare errors and then try to shame the airline into honoring the price. And I’ve endured plenty of hate mail from folks who wrongheadely insist a business should honor a quoted price every time, no matter how erroneous the price.

After all, a deal’s a deal.

But actually, a deal is not a deal when you’re traveling. The final price can be re-negotiated and revised. You may have to pay an upcharge, a surcharge or a late fee and what’s worse, you may not even know about it until you get your credit card bill. Such is life on the road.

What matters — and what seems to be missing from the discussion on the dynamic nature of the “final” price — is common sense and compassion and yeah, maybe a little reason.

Common sense would have told the San Jose gate agents that Weisleder was no fare thief, but a new dad trying to get home. Compassion would have moved them to let him, his wife and the lap child board the flight back home without demanding more money. Reason would have informed them that United, which is always looking to maximize its revenues, could have lived without the extra $166 from a customer who has already given the airline his loyalty.

When dealing with miscalculated airfares and late charges, every case has to be evaluated on its own merits. Motives matter and no two cases are exactly alike. A good company empowers its own customers to weigh each billing mistake on its own merits instead of applying a set of arbitrary rules.

No one said this would be easy.

Should an airline be able to charge more for your ticket after you've booked it?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • dourdan

    “If an infant fare had been included, the details would have been displayed.”

    United is correct. i just tested it on their site.

    now i have to blame the OP. this is like if someone bought a ticket, got a confirmation number but their card was never charged. then when they get to the airport they get all angry because THEY did not think to check their bank account.

    the OP should have noticed that there was no infant charge. just because the Huston gate agent was in too much of a hurry to catch the mistake does not make it United’s fault.

  • technomage1

    If he booked it on United’s website I agree with you. It spells out the policy very clearly and is pretty much foolproof. However, given the price he paid for the tickets I wonder if he used a discount site and tried to contact United later to add the infant.

  • john k

    This exact same thing happened to is this year, also on United. “Mistakes” happen pretty regularly. Seems more like avoiding adequately disclosing full fare costs.

  • JewelEyed

    I don’t think there should even *be* lap children. It’s not safe in an emergency. If you wanna bring your munchkin on a plane, bring them in a car seat and pay for a ticket.

  • Rabbi Pedro Goldstein

    Typical of United, alienate your most loyal customers because they know there aren’t any options left if you live in a fortress hub city.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I played with the United website, too. I chose a date 3 months out, specifically said 2 adults ages 18 – 64, with an infant under the age of 2, as a lap child. The website returned a fare of $766 a person, with a total of $1531. There’s *nothing* on the initial fare search screen that says 10% of the adult fare, as is indicated on the separate “Infant Travel Policy” screen.

    I didn’t take it all the way through to the payment screen, so maybe it shows up there, but if the same rates displayed on the fare search results screen populate the final payment screen, maybe that’s what happened to the OP? Seems more like a programming error by United than a mistake made by the OP.

  • Raven_Altosk

    The New United, people.

    Thank you, SMI/J

  • TonyA_says

    In fairness to United; almost all international carriers I know charge for a INF passenger type code passenger. The INF fare can be found in the filed tariff fares.

    An INF is an infant without a seat – meaning he/she will be on the LAP of a parent or accompanying adult on the flight.

    There was NO WAY the OP could have entered the name of the Infant passenger and getting ticketed for an *international* flight without:

    (a) entering the age

    (b) paying for the fare

    For international flights the Infant is a PAID passenger (even if s/he does not have a seat).

    For US domestic, the infant usually flies free. The infant does not need a ticket, ergo they are not in the reservation. The parent (or adult) just has to notify the US carrier that s/he will be traveling with an infant.

    Note that for international, the infant needs a passport. For domestic, the infant does not need any ID. (However the airline may want proof your little one is not yet 2 years old.)

    There is something missing here. The OP must have not included the name of the infant in the INTL reservation thinking this was a DOMESTIC flight reservation.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I went to United website and it shows…

    ** Infant Travel Policy – Additional charges may apply. For award travel, any additional fare for a lap child will not be included in fares that will be displayed in your search results, but will be displayed for review prior to purchase.”

    …when entering the number of adults, children above 2, children under 2 with their own seats and children under 2 as lap children.
    Then I entered a reservation from PHX to PVG and it shows:

    1 Infants (under age 2 at time of travel) $59.00
    1 Child $1,058.00
    2 Adults (age 18 to 64) $2,116.00
    Additional Taxes/Fees $307.30
    Total: $3,540.30

    I think that it is transparent about the fee for the lap child.

    It is possible that the OP did NOT entered his lap child on the reservation. It has been discussed on this site before that most people are NOT aware that there is 10% fee for lap children on international flight. The agent at Houston could have been an agent that forgot about the 10% fee, was new, etc. The only way that we can determine if the OP made a mistake or it was a mistake made by United is to see the copy of the boarding pass for the lap child and a copy of the reservation.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I agree that the United’s website is very clear. He could have purchased the ticket on a third-party site or made a phone reservation and the agent forgot that there is a 10% fee for lap children or he made the assumption that there are no fees for a lap child on an international flight since there is no fees for a lap child on a domestic flight.

  • TonyA_says

    Don’t forget the OP was about to skip on paying taxes, too.
    Even INFANTS (with our without seats) have to pay the US International Travel Taxes.
    The only thing the babies will not pay are the Passenger Facility Charges of the airport.
    However they will pay the rest of the charges adults pay. For an R/T international flight, that is about USD 54.40.
    The airlines collect these money with the purchase of an airline ticket.
    If you do not name your baby (not in reservation), then the airline has not collected the taxes.
    So OP please pay up. I do not want to subsidize your baby.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Based upon the information in the article, it seems like the OP did NOT pay the lap child fee which is 10% of the standard fare of the class of travel of the parent(s). It has been discussed on this site in the past that most travelers are NOT aware of the 10% lap child fee for international flights…so even a 1K-level frequent flier such as the OP who was probably was taking their first flight international with their child could have not been aware of the 10% lap child fee.

    I went to the United’s website and it was crystal clear. Without seeing the print out of the ticket reservation and the boarding pass that was issued for the lap child in the Houston, we won’t know who made the mistake.

    In regards to the ticket agent in Costa Rica, the agent was doing hisher job when it was discovered that they did NOT pay the lap child fee for thier infant. It is my guess that the local agent at the San Jose airport was a contracted employee (i.e. an employee for a localdomestic airline) not an employee of United since it is very common for the agents at foreign airports to be other airline employees. This agent probably doesn’t know what 1K level frequent flier is. The agent understood that the lap child had no ticket and needed to collect the money or the money will be coming from the agent, etc.

    As a flyer that has flown over 1,000,000 miles, I wasn’t aware of the 10% lap child fee for international travel until the birth of my son when I started to research flying with infants, toddlers and young children when my wife become pregnant.

    When my son was 16-MO, we circled the globe. One segment of our trip was a short (1.5 hours) flight on Cathay Pacific where our son was a lap child (he had his own seat on the other flights). We cashed in Alaska Airlines miles for the tickets for this segment. I told the person at Alaska Airlines that my son will be a lap child and it needs to be calculated in the award tickets. The fee would have been $ 75. When we checked in, there was no ticket for my son and we ended up paying $ 84. After the trip, I contact Alaska and they explained that the problem was with Cathay Pacific when they gave them the information but since we got the tickets from Alaska they gave us 5,000 miles and a voucher for future travel for the inconvenience.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Weird, weird, weird. I did the same thing you did – and here’s what the search results screen comes up with (see attached for a closer look at what I see). It says “$2,461 R/T per person, $4921 all travelers”

    Once again, I put in 2 adults, and 1 lap child, and the search results screen is still NOT showing the fare for that child on the initial results screen.

    BUT – if I go selecting the outbound and return flights, it comes back with a different way of adding up to $4921 – it shows all 3 travelers, not 2 travelers. (2nd screen shot).

    “Fare Details

    1 Infants (under age 2 at time of travel)$180.00

    2 Adults (age 18 to 64)$4,506.00

    Additional Taxes/Fees$234.40


    As I said, weird, weird, weird. Same total – but broken down differently. I’m still thinking some sort of programming glitch, since the initial results screen implies that the lap child flies “free” or at least has the ticket price rolled into the adult ticket prices, but the details screen specifically spells out the fares and fees per person.

    Still thinking programming glitch here, somewhere.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    If the OP made it all the way through without having to pay for his baby, I would’ve said, “let it go”. But the fact that United caught its mistake on the return leg, I’m not sure what reason the OP has to dispute the charge, frequent flyer or not. I can’t see why he’s enlisting your help here… The title could’ve just as easily been, “Pay another $166 or your baby stays at home”.

  • $16635417

    Chris…twice you used the term “awash in profits” when describing United. I just checked an article from last week and they are claiming a $417 million 1st quarter loss. Perhaps “scrambling to capture every dollar of revenue they can” would be a better description?

  • Christopher Elliott

    You’re right. Changed.

  • EdB

    How about because he told United yet they failed to add the charge to the total when booking. They had the chance to correct the mistake at the initial check-in (but for me that would be also be too late.) Once the travel starts, that should be the end of the billing. If a mistake was made, the airline shouldn’t be able to hold the person hostage for more money while they are away from home like they did here. As the story said, someone made a mistake. Because that someone, since they work for the airline, made the mistake, the airline should eat it. If the passenger only has 24 hours to cancel a ticket with no charge, the airline should only have 24 hours to catch a billing error so the passenger has the option of cancelling and finding another fare.

  • John Baker

    Actually this should be really easy to fix. If the OP would simply produce his boarding pass with “Infant in Arms” or the boarding pass for the child, it is then obvious that UA in Costa Rica made a mistake. If his boarding passes did not have this on them, he didn’t have a ticket for the infant. If he did not have a ticket for the infant, Yes they should have charged him for one.

  • EdB

    But according to the OP, he declared he was going to be flying with the infant and United failed to add that to his total at the time of booking. So that brings up the question that has been discussed several times on here recently. How long after making a reservation and making payment should a company be allowed to go back and charge extra for a mistake they made?

  • Meghan Guilford

    I voted “no” for the poll but only based on the “your ticket” phrase. No, after I book my own ticket, you should not be able to charge me more. However, if I fail to properly book my lap child, then yes, I should be charged. I was not aware of an international infant fee, but am now.
    There are other incidences where people are charged for another seat and yes, they should be charged at the gate/airport if they haven’t taken the steps to confirm the right seat for themselves.
    I do not believe that once we show up at the airport we should pay extra money for seat assignments such as exit rows or aisle seats.

  • mbods

    I think it’s horrible business to charge someone more after the fact. If that ever happens to me I’ll never do business with that company again.

  • Asiansm Dan

    Infant in US and Canada don’t need a separated ticket, but International travel, even if it’s free a separated ticket is always required, It’s not new, it’s like that since last century, at least in the 1950’s.
    I vote NO because the United website is not accurate enough about infant traveling international.

  • Linda C. Snyder

    Chris, it was you who helped me regain my money on a train ticket in Scotland by suggesting I go through my credit card company. It worked very well, maybe it would have helped int his situation.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    It is not a programming error…the $ 2,461 per traveler is the actual fare for each ticket holder (the lap child doesn’t have a ticket but is subject to the 10% fee). It will be misleading to take the 10% fee of $ 180 and states $ 880.33 ($ 2,461 x 2 plus $ 180 divided by 3) is the average fare per passenger. It will be a violation of the ‘new’ regulation requiring the airlines to fully disclosed the fees, etc.

    Again, the United websites states initially “any additional fare for a lap child will not be included in fares that will be displayed in your search results, but will be displayed for review prior to purchase.” I am not a big fan of United but to be fair to United…their website is in compliant with the government regulations about fees, fares, etc.

    Please remember that the OP didn’t pay the 10% lap child fee. In the article, it states that he made the reservation online. If he entered “1” for the number of children under the age 2 as a lap child on the United website then he would have been charged correctly and he won’t had to pay $ 166 when leaving Costa Rica. This is like the recent Budget story where the OP didn’t fully disclose everything. Did he made the reservation online or did he made the reservation over the phone?

  • Raven_Altosk

    Agreed here.
    Also, even when I traveled with my then-4-month old, United stated on the reservation that they wanted a birth certificate at check-in. This prevents the “my 5 year old lap child” nonsense.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Chris, did he made the reservation online or did he made the reservation over the phone? It is somewhat confusing in the article. This sentence of “He told United he was flying with an infant, and left it to the airline to calculate the correct fare.” implies that he made the reservation on the telephone. The response from United in the artile, it states that he made the reservation online.

    If the OP made the reservation online then he failed to enter “1” for the number of children under the of 2 as a lap child. The United website calculates the 10% lap child fee for international travel correctly and it is in compliant with the government regulations concerning the disclosure of fees, etc.

    Yes…the ticket agent in Houston missed the 10% lap child fee and it is my guess that the agent forgot about the 10% lap child fee since most people are not aware of the 10% lap child fee for international travel.

    IF the OP made the reservation online, he made the mistake of not entering the information for the lap child. The bottom line is that he didn’t pay the $ 160 for his child. Since you believe that airlines should not be responsible for ‘fat finger’ fares then you must hold the same standard for passengers that make ‘fat finger’ typo which was the case here (unless you can show the readers the initial confirmationreservation showing that the lap child was on the record thus showing us it was a programming error on the United wesbite) since the OP didn’t entered the correct number (again, assuming that the OP made the reservation online…it will be a different response if he made the reservation over the telephone).

    I am not a fan of United but I don’t see where United failed here…the OP didn’t pay the fare for his child.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    It seems like the OP made the reservation online and the OP didn’t entered his child as a lap child. It was caught by the ticket agent in Houston but it is the responsiblity of the OP to enter the correct information on line. I can’t tell you how many times that an airline ticket agent, a retail sales clerk, etc. doesn’t know all of the policies, regualtions, sales terms, etc. I was booking a birthday party for my son over the weekend…the sales manager told me one thing and when I finalized the paperwork with the General Manager a few days later, he wasn’t aware of the terms.

    Unless the initial travel confirmation is posted showing that all three individuals was on the PNR, the OP didn’t pay the “fare” for his son. Just because it was caught on the outbound doesn’t mean that the OP doesn’t have to pay it on the return segment.

  • AgainstBigotry

    We’ve had the same thing happen. We flew with a lap child to England on American and used miles for the two adult tickets. We booked over the phone and the airline knew we were flying with a lap child but did not provide us with a ticket or make us pay money when we left the country (or mention on the reservation that we would have to pay). We did not know to ask. When we went to return home, we were denied boarding at the gate and informed that she needed a ticket and that we needed to pay ~$250. We were caught off guard as this was never communicated to us even when the ticket agent checked us in, in person, in London prior to entering security. The ticket agents were helpful and waived all fees, but it was very strange to be told on the return trip that we had done something wrong, when we followed all instructions and communicated openly and honestly from the beginning.

    Much like the story above, our kid made it out of the country with no problem at all. It was the returning that was difficult. It’s hard to understand why this only became an issue on the return flight and wasn’t part of the problem on the way out.

  • EdB

    You need to reread the first paragraph. It wasn’t until the INBOUND or final segment of the trip it was caught. If it had been caught on the outbound, then that would be fine to do the correction then. After that, United should eat the mistake.

    An employee of the business dealing with verifying the passenger is properly booked has no excuse for not knowing all the rules. If they don’t know them, they shouldn’t be in that job.

    As for the OP not entering the correct info at booking, all we have to go on is their statement that they did notify United of the infant. If they didn’t enter it correctly at booking, it should have been caught when they boarded in Huston when leaving.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I guess I was making the wild assumption that as an experienced UA traveler that he would know how to enter everything correctly on the initial input screen, since there’s a distinct spot to do so for a lap child. But you know what they say about making assumptions! :)

  • TonyA_says

    It does not work that way. For international flights you MUST book and enter the infant’s name as it appears on the passport. The infant is a separate passenger.
    So it does not matter if you declare or say you are traveling with an infant internationally. That’s irrelevant. YOU MUST BOOK THE INFANT, PERIOD.
    The reason why folks are confused is because for DOMESTIC flights, you do not have to book the INFANT in the reservation.

  • EdB

    I understand how it is suppose to be done. My question is about the declaration. Did he tell United in the proper way that he would be flying with the infant and United failed to properly booked the ticket initially or was the declaration not sufficient for United to know to book the child. The answer to that effects the proper response.

    However, regardless of who’s mistake it was at the time of booking, the time to correct the error was at the start of the trip, not the end.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I have a friend that is charge of IT at an airline. He has informed me that there is an issue when booking ticket with miles with a lap child. It could be 100,000 miles for a ticket but how do you calculate the 10% lap child fee. At some airlines, the 10% fee is based upon the fare that you paid and at other airlines, it is 10% of the standard fare of the class of service that you are traveling. IT needs to add the programming to accomodate this transaction of award tickets with lap child.
    I had the same issue back in 2007 as I wrote in another comment. I was aware of the fee but my credit card was charged for the lap child fee when I booked award tickets. We ended up paying $ 10 more but Alaska Airlines gave us miles and voucher even it was Cathay Pacific mistake of not charging the card (lack of technology to accommodate award travel with a lap child).

  • emanon256

    I agree as well. In fact, I booked a if domestic flight before my son was born and called to add him later. They wanted his DOB which I could not provide when I booked :) Then we looked at some international trips later and his fare popped up along with ours. I’m wondering if the OP clicked the “Children” button and then hit search. It brings you to the advanced search screen where you can add the children separately and if you don’t actually add them, it goes on like a normal search. He may have though all he had to do was click children. They agent in IAH may not have even thought about it since they were stateside. I boarded a fligth in IAH last week right next to a plane bound for SJO.

    My friends flew to SJO recently with their infant daughter and it is so cute to see a baby face on a passport. Best passport photo ever.

    I have always brought our sons birth certificate with us when we have flown with him domestically, so far no one has asked, but also he is obviously under 2.

  • TonyA_says

    This is not about changing the price of a ticket or holding a baby for ransom.

    This is about the STUPIDITY of an American traveler abroad with his baby.
    The fact that the OP is an educational consultant makes me question the quality of education in the USA. I painfully say this as we are paying for 2 college students right now.

    His baby does NOT have a ticket, period.

    The father failed to buy one before he left the USA. That is negligence.

    While the UA gate agent was mistaken to allow his baby to board in IAH, that does not change the fact that the baby does not have a ticket.
    Listen carefully now – the Costa Rica immigration officials could have REFUSED entry of his baby since it did not have an onward/return ticket. Now how stupid can a father be?

    The United agent in Costa Rica did his/her job correctly. Maybe they are smarter there than the ones in Houston.

  • TonyA_says

    According to the article, he was the one who made the booking. So why didn’t he book his kid? How stupid can one be?
    If you want your agent to book your infant, you better give them the infant’s name on the passport and date of birth and gender.
    If you do not give that, there is no way to book an infant as baby doe …
    I will repeat your declaration is irrelevant. You must ask the agent to book your infant.

    When did he know he made a mistake? When the agent in Costa Rica caught the mistake.
    And what did he do? He complained to Chris about it.
    What? It was his mistake, not the airline’s.

  • EdB

    The way I read the story is the father tried to book it correctly but because of some problem somewhere along the line, it did not get booked correctly.

    Calling the father stupid is completely out of line. You don’t know all the facts about the booking. None of us do. If you want to call anyone stupid it should be the agent who let them board without the proper tickets.

  • AgainstBigotry

    The IT issue makes sense, and it explains, at least to me, why they didn’t end up charging us because how would they have, in the moment, calculated 10% of our reward tickets. That said, I still never understood how we got to England, enjoyed two weeks there and only encountered the problem returning home!

  • TonyA_says

    Really? I would consider a parent negligent and stupid if they travel internationally without the proper tickets and documentation.
    That is my opinion.
    ADDED: You want to find blame. For me that is irrelevant. The PARENT is always responsible for the well being of the INFANT, period.

  • mbgaskins

    Why is the prospect of the contract of carriage being a valid contract not ever discussed? I would be hardpressed to ever side with the airline in this case for several reasons.

    Even if we agree that there has been an offer, acceptance, and consideration given shouldn’t the therory of Unconscionability, a defense against the enforcement of a contract based on the presence of terms that are excessively unfair to one party, be conidered. Is there any doubt that the contract of carriage is grossly one sided in the favor of the airline?

    Shouldn’t a court to find the contract unconscionable through the process through which that contract was formed with the substantive problem being that the terms are unfair and the airlines superior bargaining position or knowledge, and other circumstances surrounding the bargaining process?

    There are several typical scenarios in which unconscionability is found such as where a party that typically engages in sophisticated business transactions, the airlines, inserts boilerplate language into a contract containing terms unlikely to be understood or appreciated by the average person. Does this soud familiar?
    Just questions from a non-lawyer!

  • EdB

    You are assuming he knew he didn’t have the proper tickets and documentations. If he felt he properly booked the tickets and nothing was said about a problem when he left, why would he think he didn’t have the proper ticket and documents?

  • TonyA_says

    He SHOULD know. If he does not know then he is …….

  • TonyA_says

    Read this
    Traveling without an onward ticket is quite dangerous.

  • Matty B.

    “The FAA said in 2005 that it doesn’t mandate the use of safety seats on
    planes because this would require adults to purchase a separate seat for
    the infant, and that when forced to buy an additional ticket, many
    families will choose to drive rather than fly. And, as driving is a
    statistically much more dangerous way to travel, permitting kids to fly
    as lap children is seen as the lesser of two evils.” -

  • EdB

    “ADDED: You want to find blame. For me that is irrelevant. The PARENT is always responsible for the well being of the INFANT, period.”

    Yes. The PARENT is always responsible for the well being of the INFANT. However, the airline is responsible for seeing that the passengers they allow onto their planes are properly booked.

    And I am not trying to find blame. All I am saying an error was made somewhere and it was not corrected at the proper time.

  • TonyA_says

    Re: However, the airline is responsible for seeing that the passengers they allow onto their planes are properly booked.
    That is a SEPARATE issue.
    The baby still does not have a ticket. That is what is fundamentally wrong here.
    Would you have preferred the baby was stopped in Houston?
    Have you any clue how that baby will be ticketed on the stop at Houston?
    The parents could easily have been VOLUNTARILY denied boarding.

  • EdB

    Not everyone knows everything about travel like you do Tony. The story doesn’t say what research the OP took in planning the trip. He knew enough to inform United about the infant. I would hope he had a passport for the child too. Which reminds me, don’t airlines check (not sure if they are required to or not) that passengers leaving the US have a passport? It doesn’t sound like he didn’t have the correct documentation for traveling with the infant. Only that he didn’t have the correct plane ticket.

  • Daddydo

    In 58 years of being part of a Mama Papa Agency, I have never heard of this happening to one of my clients. Either the e-ticket is issued, or an exact amount wad stored in the PNR ( reservation in the airline’s computer system) There are international, taxes and fees, that Tonya stated below. Some countries have tourist card fees! BUT any legitimate travel agent knows all of this and when you talk to the airline, you may be talking to I am an ID10T. There are certain countries that I have had to bribe the agent to find my reservation, but those are wild and weird places. UNITED was wrong!

  • EdB

    “Re: However, the airline is responsible for seeing that the passengers they allow onto their planes are properly booked.

    That is a SEPARATE issue.”

    A separate issue from what? The story is about how the fact the airline allowed a passenger on without a valid ticket at the start of the trip and tried correcting the fact that missed it at the end.

    Would I have preferred the baby was stopped in Houston? I would much prefer him to have been stopped there than in a foreign country like he was.

  • TonyA_says

    EdB, I have yet to meet a customer who travels INTERNATIONALLY who believes they do NOT need a ticket for their infant. Many of my customers did not even grow up here or were educated by the great American education system. They have plenty of common sense, though.
    I find it incredulous that people want to shift blame to others when it is clear they NEED TO KNOW important stuff before they travel overseas.
    IMO the OP is making himself look like a fool for bringing up his case.

  • john4868

    Hey guys… people are starting to flag this conversation. Could you both just step away from the keyboard for a bit before lines get crossed?


  • Eileen Joan

    Love your reply! If we make a mistake there’s hell to pay. If the airline does, oh well! They have the power here. Same rules should apply to them as it does to passengers. 24 hours to inform and correct a mistake and that’s it.

  • DavidYoung2

    I’m with you Tony. If you’re not sure how to book an international flight with an infant, read the fine print until you ARE sure. Or use a travel agent. Just because you think you did it right, doesn’t mean you did it right. And just because somebody missed the mistake on the outbound, doesn’t mean you get a free pass on the return.

  • NotA1K

    I have seen other situations like this. The remote stations usually have much less latitude in using discretion when enforcing rules. Staff is not as senior and many times are contractors held under a short leash. I would place more blame in United Customer service after the fact.. A Simple Mr. 1K, sorry for the situation the GA did the right thing however we will provide you voucher to offset the charge or some other type of refund.

  • EdB

    Why do you keep trying to claim he didn’t know he didn’t need a ticket? He said he told United he was traveling with an infant and I would guess he knew he did need one and assumed United would ticket him correctly. However, somewhere in the booking process this didn’t happen.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Good questions. Unfortunately, in reality contract construction is much more complicated. Just because a contract is one sided doesn’t make it unconscionable. Unconscionability is fairly difficult to prove. Also, a although the contract may be complex, purchasing an airline ticket is a fairly straightforward process, so its not really a complicated business transaction.

  • TonyA_says

    You mean he did not LOOK to see if the infant had a ticket?
    I don’t think so. He knew the infant did not have a ticket.

  • atlmom

    AND when we *did* bring our car seat on the plane – that had been labeled okay for flying – the flight attendants wouldn’t let us use it saying it wasn’t okay to fly with it.
    and really? you think a 6 month old needs his/her own seat? you’d rather that they be wailing in a car seat rather than asleep on mom’s shoulder?

  • atlmom

    there is the ability for the airline, in a case such as this, to give the child a ticket and not charge them. since it seems it was their mistake.

  • atlmom

    only if he knew there should be an infant charge.

  • EdB

    You are making assumptions here. He may had thought he needed a ticket, told United, and when United did not issue one may have thought he was wrong.

    The child needed a ticket and one was not obtained. However, United should have caught this when they boarded the first time. United’s agents really have no excuse for allowing an unticketed passenger on the flight to begin with.

  • TonyA_says

    What was the airline’s mistake, not issuing a ticket for FREE?
    I disagree with you completely. Sorry.
    A big part of the infants ticket is TAXES. Why should anyone not pay that?

  • john4868

    Gentlemen I’m going to try this again… people are starting to flag this conversation. Could you both just step away from the keyboard for a bit before lines get crossed?
    You are both getting dangerously close to us having to do something about this thread


  • EdB

    Would you please clarify what posting rules are being violated to warrant moderation so this is not repeated in the future.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    I agree…it seems like everyone is missing the point…the baby did NOT had a ticket. The OP did NOT pay for a ticket for his son so what is the issue of paying for the ticket when it was discovered.

  • EdB

    I see the point being more WHEN the mistake was found, not that there was a mistake. It should have been discovered before the OP was allowed on the plane the first time.

  • john4868

    @edboston:disqus Your thread is getting heated and both of you are coming close to personal attacks. All caps etc. Neither of you have crossed the line, yet, but we thought we’d step in early so neither of you did. Both of you are making valid points, we just don’t want either of you, as valid contributors, to cross the line.

  • TonyA_says

    Very simple. INTERNATIONAL flights require tickets and boarding passes for ALL passengers. That was the reason why it was obvious in Costa Rica.
    The Houston gate agent was simply confused because US Domestic Flights do not issue boarding passes for infants. They stamp or print something on the parent’s boarding pass since the baby has NO TICKET COUPONS.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    It is simple…there are people doing their jobs correctly and then there are people not doing their jobs.

  • EdB

    All caps on single words are to emphasize the word since you can’t italicized words in responses. If entire posts were all caps, I would agree. Are you now trying to say we can’t emphasize items in our posts?

  • TonyA_says

    Simple answer to WHEN it was found – prior to boarding in Costa Rica.
    The baby did not have a boarding pass.
    The OP himself had a boarding pass so there is no reason not to allow HIM to board.
    So they had to buy a ticket for the baby in SJO. It’s that simple.
    The baby got a free ride one way? Depends on what the ticket looks like.

  • EdB

    But that implies it was fine to fly to Costa Rico without the boarding pass. If it isn’t, it should have been caught and corrected then.

  • TonyA_says

    No it is not fine to fly to Costa Rica without a ticket and boarding pass. Anyone who does that has cheated the airlines and the US taxpayers and government. I completely disagree with this line of thinking – since the IAH GA forgot to check, therefore I don’t need to pay for a ticket.

  • EdB

    So because the OP thought he had done everything correctly and United made the mistake of letting and unticketed passenger board, he is the one cheating the government out of the money?

    The OP paid the extra fare. His question, and the point I have been trying to make is why it wasn’t caught at the start of the trip. When should a business be required to cover the cost of a mistake they made, that being missing it the first time.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    IF the OP made a telephone reservation then it is clearly the fault of United of not charging the OP the lap child fee at the time of the reservation. However, the response from United in the article stated that he made the reservation online. IF this is correct, what person at United did the OP told that there was a lap child if he made the reservation online? No one IF he made the reservation online!

    The fact is that Chris does NOT get all of the facts from the people that contact him or he gets an one-sided story. The first thing that I did after reading this article was to go to United website. To me, it was very clear…it states upfront that “any additional fare for a lap child will not be included in fares that will be displayed in your search results, but will be displayed for review prior to purchase.” When you start an online reservation, it asks you for the number of children under the age of 2 that will be a lap child. Then I entered the information and it calculated the fare and it shows the fare for the lap child. Don’t know how much clearer it can be!

    The second thing that I did was to use a tool to check the cached pages of the United website to see when changes were made. In other words, did United changed their website recently to add something, correct an error, etc. I want to know if the current features on the webpage was available when the OP made their reservation. If the lap child questionsdrop-downetc wasn’t there you can’t blame the OP. Unless the OP made this reservation years ago, it seems like the current lap child questions have been in placed for years based upon my cursory research.

    So IF the OP made a reservation online (which does NOT include talking to somone), he made a mistake in entering the information for his son as being a lap child.

    Maybe the agent at Houston entered the information but didn’t look at the payment screen…maybe heshe discovered that payment was due after the OP left the desk. We don’t know. It doesn’t make it right for the OP not to pay for the “ticket” for his lap child. There could have been customs issues.

  • EdB

    There was a problem at the time of booking. Where the problem happened, we don’t know. The OP said he told United about the infant. We don’t know how that was done. If the OP thought he had told them correctly, how does he know that if what is displayed at the end is correct or not. The notice said it would be add at the end and when it wasn’t, he could have thought it didn’t apply on his trip. He probably should have called and verified that. But United made the problem worse by allowing an improperly ticketed passenger board to start with and then hitting him up at the end of the trip.

  • TonyA_says

    Here’s the problem folks. The OP said “This, of course, made no sense at all — why would you charge us extra to have a baby on our lap?

    From the get go, the OP did not want to pay for a baby in his (or his wife’s) lap because it made no sense to him.

    Well whether it makes sense to you or not, you have to buy a ticket for an infant if you travel internationally.

    To give y’all an example of an adult and lap child ticket on United’s cheapest fare from IAH to SJO roundtrip.
    ADT01 640.00 82.57 722.57
    INF01 48.00 79.57 127.57
    *TTL 688.00 162.14 850.14

    The adult will pay $722.57 and the infants without a seat will pay $127.57

    But to help the OP and some of you to make sense why the infant pays $127.57, you need to see a breakdown of where this money goes. You will see why it is NOT fair to all us who actually buy an airline ticket for our kids if we allow this 1K traveler to have his way. Why should he be so entitled?

    The linear or fare construction line for the infant ticket is:

    INF HOU UA SJO24.00UA HOU24.00NUC48.00END ROE1.00UA XT34.40US
    TX 5.50YC 7.00XY 34.40US 5.00XA 2.50AY 7.21FS 2.96IK 15.00NW

    The airline makes $48 (NUC 48.00 END)

    The US Government collects $54.40 (5.50YC 7.00XY 34.40US 5.00XA 2.50AY)

    The Costa Rican Gov’t collects $25.17 (7.21FS 2.96IK 15.00NW)

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    First, we don’t know if the OP did everything correctly. IF he made the reservation online, I have doubts that he did everything correctly based upon my research.

    Second, the OP didn’t paid the EXTRA fare. He actually paid the fare that he should have paid for in the first place. It has been the policy for US based airlines to charge 10% of the fare for a lap child on international flights for years.

    If you went to a store and they undercharge you for an item or forgot to charge you for an item or give you back too much change, it is okay to walk out of the store without telling the cashier that you was under charged, wasn’t charged for an item or was given too much change? What if the cashier follow you out to the parking and said “I didn’t charge you for an item or give you back too much cash”…are you going to say “tough luck”?

    The OP didn’t pay for the “ticket” for his lap child. It might have not been handled in the best way but he still owes for the lap child fee.

  • Lisa Simeone

    EdB, hope you see this before it gets deleted. The mods here get upset about upper-case letters and about punctuation. (I know, it sounds like a Seinfeld episode. In fact, it was a Seinfeld episode):

  • TonyA_says

    You see there is where we differ – I do not believe the OP did everything correctly from the get go.
    I do not blame United for failure to issue him a ticket.
    I have an issue with his attitude towards having to pay for a lap child to begin with.

  • EdB

    “It might have not been handled in the best way but he still owes for the lap child fee.”

    That is the point of this whole thing. The OP did pay the fare. He questioned the timing and the way it was handled.

  • EdB

    It’s obvious that the OP didn’t book it correctly by the fact he didn’t get charged for the infant. It is the implications that he knew he messed up the booking on purpose that I object to. We don’t know if he did or not. The story says he notified United of the child so I would be inclined to think he was not trying to get out of paying for the ticket.

    The attitude I see from him was questioning the timing. He didn’t have to pay on the way out but does on the way back?

  • EdB

    Hey, how did you get the word WAS bolded in your post? Maybe if I learn how to do that I won’t get admonished for not breaking the rules.

  • PowerHungryLittlemen

    john4868 takes his job a little too seriously, it seems.

    “Keeps your hands off the caps lock now ….”


  • emanon256

    I am curious if this is the same consultant named Daniel Weisleder that Chris wrote about last year who was complaining about having to tip?

  • TonyA_says

    Probably. But he was in Houston then. Now he is in Pitts.
    I goggled his name and it seems he went to school in Costa Rica.
    Makes this story even weirder.

  • TonyA_says

    Awash with DEBT :)

  • jimp

    1. The UA agent in Houston was responsible for the INTIAL boarding and correct reporting of the the pax count including children and infants. The error, oversight, omission, whatever should have been handled then. They are responsible at check in for verifying passports, tickets, baggage and visas if required. End of issue.

    2. Was the agent in CR a contractor or a real UA employee? No room for contractors to make common sense judgement if the PNR now reflected the error, they will change it or UA fires them.

  • flutiefan

    yes, it is fine to fly to Costa Rica without a boarding pass… if you are a lap child under the age of 2 traveling with a ticketed passenger. many airlines don’t give a “separate boarding pass” paper, but rather it is remarked on that adult’s BP that they’re traveling with a lap child.

  • emanon256

    Daniel is 2 degrees away from me on LinkedIn and we are connected through a director at Untied whom I went to college with. My college friend was responsible for addressing escalated complaints related to crew/passenger issues. He has since been promoted to a new position.

    I am not sure why Chris said Daniel directs an educational consulting firm. It looks like he is the director of leadership academies at an executive trade group that coaches high level executive officers in large companies. I was sad to see the comments posted here about our educational system, but now feel better. He educates corporate executives, not every day students and/or teachers. No wonder he doesn’t like tipping and doesn’t think he should have to pay for his child’s air fare, he works with corporate greed on a daily basis.

    As much as I hate the new Untied, I don’t think its ever right for someone to get away with not paying for something. A mistake does not mean someone should get something for free. The fact that he contacted Chris about having to pay for a service he received makes me question his ethics.

  • flutiefan

    i know everyone here is blaming the Houston gate agent, but look at it from my view. i have NEVER EVER been trained to look to see if an infant has paid their international return taxes. maybe my airline (i’m rather new to this part of the operation, but i’ve been around 13 years) doesn’t charge that 10% fare thing on lap children. i don’t know. seriously, i don’t know and that was never in my training. i rarely check in international flyers — max 1 or 2 a day, almost always adults — so if it is happening, i apologize. (p.s. i do NOT work for United.)
    think about this: what if this was not the OP’s child and they were just dropping off the baby. maybe it is their baby and they’re sending it somewhere else to live, therefore they are not returning with a lap child. why would the Houston agent need to see if they paid the return international 10% fare thing? they wouldn’t. and it’s really none of the agent’s business if that is what people are doing.

    i know i’m just spitballing here, but i can see how the domestic agent would not know, and perhaps would not find it necessary to deal with on the outbound flight. their main concern is that everything is copacetic for the passenger’s travel that day.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Hi John. I agree that the tone seems a little strong, but I really don’t see what’s to flag about the exchange. Neither are using ALL caps for their posts, but capitalizing a word to emphasize a point. I do that occasionally. Since I don’t have bolding or italic functionality, I have to resort to caps or *starring* a word to denote the significant word in the sentence.

    When I flag a post, it doesn’t give me a way to say what I find offensive about the post. For example, there’s a couple of fake posts that have shown up yesterday and today that are designed to advertise a website. I flag those, but that’s it. No chance for me to offer an explanation. So, I know it’s difficult for you as a moderator to guess why a post is being flagged.

    I’ve made the comment before, and I’ll make it again: some people are using the flagging as a retaliatory measure, because a down vote just isn’t strong enough for the flagger/voter to express their dislike of the poster. I sure hope that’s not going on here.

  • TonyA_says

    You bring up an interesting point. Reminds me of this United snafu

  • Christopher Elliott

    Here’s our comments policy. Thank you all for keeping today’s discussion civil.

  • EdB

    “but i can see how the domestic agent would not know, and perhaps would not find it necessary to deal with on the outbound flight.”

    This was an international flight though. So the gate agent checking people in on the segment that terminates outside the US I would hope have been trained properly on the airlines procedures.

  • TonyA_says

    There is something else that bothers me here. You do not get to 1K without traveling a lot (including International). You also probably know how the system works (and how to abuse it or go around it).

    There is a bad security lapse in this case. From an international flight or airline’s perspective what is the difference between your own baby or a kidnapped one?

    If you do not buy a ticket then the baby is not in the passenger list. You do not have to check in the baby and show any passport since there is no RES for the baby. The TSA will allow the baby in since babies do not need much id. Most TSA agents do not even know the difference between a domestic and international flight :)

    So up to this point, no one has verified the baby at all. You’re waiting to board the plane. As a 1K, you know United might not bother to check babies and let them board for as long as adult accompanying it has a boarding pass, so you get in the flight. Then you know United is too lazy to do a body count or you keep the baby out of sight. The airline manifest is missing your baby’s name (no need to do USCPB APIS, etc.). You land in a foreign country that has lax rules. They never check if you have inbound tickets anyway. They MIGHT check if you have onward tickets. But what if you are not a stranger to that country. Maybe your grew up there or were from there originally. No one would suspect anything is going wrong. You show the babies passport (or any baby’s passport for that matter) and you are off. Nobody knows whose baby you really flew with. Crazy huh?

  • Lisa Simeone

    Ed, it would take too long to explain here, so take a look at this website, one of many that explain basic HTML (italics, bold, etc.):

    (And of course my comment to you pointing out the facts of what goes on here got downvoted. LOL!)

  • EdB

    Okay. So just the basic html tags.

    got it

  • Lisa Simeone

    Jeanne, well said all around. And of course flagging is being used as a retaliatory measure. Which in itself would be simply hilarious if it weren’t so pathetic. Flagging that way is like tattle-taling. “Mommy! Daddy! So-and-so is being mean to me!” Very immature.

  • emanon256

    That’s really interesting and scary. It would be too easy to leave the country with a kidnapped baby.

    I have been on 6 segments on United in the past 5 months with my baby as a lap child. And all domestic. Every time I was given my boarding pass and a separate INF boarding pass with my sons name. One time, not sure why, it said my son was a 1K and had my MP #. Every time the gate agent has told me its not necessary to scan his boarding pass. I am curious if this is due to us being on a domestic flight. Also Flutiefan mentioned not needing to see the infants boarding pass when leaving the country. So it could be very possible they did everything right in IAH and it wasn’t necessary, only for the return. I do recall reading about certain fees only being due upon returning to the US, but not when leaving. Though I believe that was just some type of international tax.

  • TonyA_says

    Boarding Pass in necessary for departure control.

    If you have a ticket, the airline needs to change the status to lifted then flown.

    By scanning your boarding pass (which is associated with the ticket), the status change can be automated.

    Obviously if the infant does not have a ticket (or does not need a ticket), there is nothing to scan and nothing to change status. So the boarding pass is only like a token to get in the airplane (if they bother to check at all).

    Multi-use agents who do both domestic and international will probably not lift or look at the infants boarding pass if the parent’s give their own because they think it has no purpose. But international carriers or agents will inspect it together with the passport.

    Tax is another issue since it is collected with the purchase of a ticket. Outbound, you owe US International Departure Tax $17.20 (US) plus at least one US Security Service Fee $2.50 (AY) with a ticket. Inbound you owe US International Arrival Tax $17.20 (US), Immigration Fee $7 (XY), US Customs Fee $5.50 (YC) and Agricultural Inspection Fee $5 (XA).

    Costa Rica has 3 taxes totaling approx $25.17 for a tourist going in and out of there.

    Since the airline did not issue a ticket, then there was no vehicle for collection of these taxes. I do not know of any airline that does not require a ticket to travel from the USA to Latin America.

    The point is the OP did not buy a ticket and tried to beat the system.
    You can see it from his attitude – he does not believe he should pay for a baby in his lap.
    I’m glad they caught him. This time the good guys WON!

  • TonyA_says

    You mean the GA in Houston who let his child through without a ticket/boarding pass.
    Infant in arms is domestic only. You need a real boarding pass for the infant for international flights since the infant has his own ticket.

  • emanon256

    I agree.

  • TonyA_says

    Did you also notice he paid $991 for R/T tickets from Houston to Costa Rica traveling with wife and baby. If he did not buy a tkt for baby, then 991 divided by 2 is about $496 each. Try look for UA tickets at that price? Is there something wrong with this picture? Lowest I can find with AA or UA is at least $700+. You think he used awards one way going there? I’d like to see how you get an infant ticket with awards :)

  • Susan Richart


  • TonyA_says

    Dang do you remember the time when Delta needed to issue a PAPER ticket for an infant.
    Lots of parents traveling to Asia were very worried because they had their etkts while infant was still waiting for his in the mail from Delta. You know that just got fixed quite recently but all of my clients do not bother with Delta anymore if they have babies.

  • TonyA_says

    Emanon, I went to UA online and tried to do a booking together with an infant.

    Even for DOMESTIC flights, they now ask for the name of the infant and DOB and gender (they just won’t charge anything for the infant).

    So how on earth did the OP not enter the infant’s name when he bought his tickets online?

    I find it interesting that UA printed a boarding pass for your baby even on domestic flights.

    So how come they did not for his.
    The reason is that you keyed in your baby’s name and he didn’t.
    Why? Most probably because he did not want to pay for the infant fare.
    ha ha ha

  • EdB

    “So how on earth did the OP not enter the infant’s name when he bought his tickets online?”

    How on earth do you know he didn’t? When he says he notified United, he could be referring to having entered the child’s information.

  • emanon256

    He could have done a one way award tickets, or the miles+money feature where you pay a little of each (Always seems like a rip off to me). Or he could have meant per person (see my last paragraph for price).

    My assumption is that for award tickets, they calculate the 10% based on full fare because I booked and later canceled an international award ticket with my son DEN-ORD-ROM. I did it in coach and the infant fee was around $150, and then I did it in business class and it the infant fee was around $900. We went back to coach, and later decided not to go to Europe.

    When I try DEN-SJO a few months out it has me connect in IAH, and then it offers the same booking for cash in coach for $929 or First Class for $1,153. $224 round trip difference between coach and first, no wonder I am 0% for upgrades on the new United. Who would not pay $224 more for fist class when the alternate was back of the bus middle seats and baggage fees?

  • emanon256

    No what does he mean when he says he notified United? Perhaps will booking on-line he verbally spoke into the mouse? There is no way to notify them, you either add them, or you don’t. I’m with you, he just didn’t want to pay.

  • TonyA_says

    It would be on the PNR if he did. There are some things that are just obvious to those who work for airlines or the industry :)

  • EdB

    But if the system failed to issue the ticket in the first place because of some error, why would it add the name if it didn’t think it needed to issue a ticket?

  • TonyA_says

    Really? Then he would have complained about that loudly. Duh.

  • EdB

    Why would he know to complain if he entered the info and the system dropped it leading him to believe a ticket wasn’t needed.

  • flutiefan

    no, not when the procedure for an outbound flight doesn’t call for the passenger to pay for anything (free lap child).

  • Daisiemae

    Good Lord!

  • Michael__K

    Delta will enter the name and DOB of the infant on the reservation before payment, and then — depending on how far in advance the travel date is — will offer the option of paying for the infant ticket in advance and sending a paper ticket for the infant in the mail. The other option is to pay at check-in.

    And this transaction could only be done by phone or in person, not online. It was not possible for me to enter my son’s name myself. And as of over a year ago, the same was true for United/Continental too.

    Also, there are seating restrictions for lap children on many jets. If only one side of the aircraft has extra oxygen masks, the lap child must be seated on that side. But I learned the hard way that many airline reservation agents aren’t aware of this. You can buy tickets together as a family and then learn at the last minute that you need new seats…

  • sunshipballoons

    I don’t understand. If my wife and I thought we bought two tickets, but accidentally bought one, we’d have to buy a second ticket when we showed up at the airport. If we’re travelling with our son, and we thought we’d bought three tickets, but discovered at the airport that he didn’t have one, we’d have to buy his ticket. I don’t see the difference between these two situations The only issue here is that the passenger didn’t know the rules. I guess you could argue that the airlines *shouldn’t* charge for babes-in-arms, but that’s not the issue raised in this post.

  • Michael__K

    I can personally attest that as of a couple of years ago, it was not possible to book a lap infant ticket on United’s website.

    The current advanced search page — with a pulldown menu to select the number of infants — was first crawled by almost exactly one year ago.*/

    We don’t know exactly when the OP booked his flight. Although if the 10-month-old child was already born and this trip was truly “recent” then that does suggest it was less than a year ago.

  • TonyA_says

    because a ticket won’t spit out for the infant.
    the questions are now becoming inane.

  • TonyA_says

    Not only United, Delta, too.
    Not too long ago you needed PAPER tickets for infants.

  • TonyA_says

    As you very well know, having or not having a ticket for the baby is crucial. Any caring parent will check that out before leaving the country. That is why this story does not cut it for me. I do the training for entering infant PNRs in our company and I know how crazy it is. It used to be we had to charge a Fedex fee to make sure they got the physical tickets :)

  • Asiansm Dan

    It must be very stressful when the date of traveling is near, not counting the error and delay of delivery of the mail ticket.

  • TonyA_says

    Flutiefan, remember if the adult pax included an infant in the International flight PNR, he could not check in online, cannot get seats, cannot do this and that, etc. I can see why a 1K would like to beat the system.

  • fshaff

    I haven’t flown internationally in years. So, that being said, I have some questions.

    1. why are the airlines charging for a “lap baby” if they are NOT taking up a seat? Does it really cost the airline 10% to transport an infant?

    2. if a pregnant passenger gives birth during an international flight, will the airline think of some way to charge for the newborn?

  • TonyA_says

    Answer the Question #1 – because they can.
    China airlines charges an infant without a seat (lap baby) 100% of an adult fare. Maybe that’s better.

  • Ana Elisa Leiderman

    Happened to me just last year. I made the reservation on the phone with a UA agent who neglected to ticket my 1yo. It was a mess at check-in and did not get any better the whole trip, as the baby was on a separate reservation that they could never pull up. I was platinum on UA and got an apology and some miles.

  • delivron

    United’s slogan should be changed to the “Unfriendly Skies of United”. $200 for change fees. Then changing fairs mid flight. What next!

  • Cam

    These poll questions seem to be getting more and more leading to me.

  • Michael__K

    Sometimes I’ve reached phone reservation agents who seem pretty clueless about handling lap infant matters and ticketing. Usually they will ask me to hold while they confirm processes with a supervisor. It wouldn’t shock me at all if the OP reached someone who was not only clueless but who also gave bad answers without asking for help.

  • IDoNotBowToCommies

    I see 56 loyal stooges voted Yes.

  • Guest

    Got to love how a moderator can be psychic enough to know when commenters are about to make personal attacks yet miss actual ones in the same thread. Unless calling someone stupid isn’t a personal attack.

  • Daisiemae

    But most importantly, Hal, did the commenter use capital letters to call someone stupid? Those capital letters are beyond the pale.

    Uh oh, I feel an attack of capitals coming on. I just know someone is about to launch some capitals. Perhaps the moderators should raise the yellow alert flag.

  • Joe Farrell

    Here is what happened:

    1. Outbound they show up to fly to Costa Rica, which, for those in Rio Linda, is not in the United States. Hence, it is an international flight.

    2. Gate agent in Houston has been working dozens of flight a day and 95% f those flights are domestic, as in inside the United States, meaning they are not international.

    3. Gate agent board a 1K member with a lap child in coach without giving it another thought.

    4. People arrive at the airport in Costa Rica and it is an international flight, since basically all flights are international ones.

    5. The Gate agent knows the international rules because thats the only type of flight s/he works – catching the mistake from the ticket issuance.

    The guy owes the money – would have had to pay the money regardless.of when he became aware of the charge. United has become one of the most money hungry companies in the world.

  • Joe Farrell

    Given that it is impossible for a human adult female to hold onto anything in her arms weighing 10lbs at more than 2 G’s – and that even turbulence can generate up to 3, babies in arms are a pretty unsafe way to transport kids.

    Want to prove it? Take a 5 lb sandbag type weight onto a roller coaster and clutch it to your chest for the entire ride – see if you still have it when you get a true adult style roller coaster. Would you pay $300 to walk off the airplane with your child in your arms in the event of an emergency landing?

  • Cybrsk8r

    So United now wants $200 for changes? Are they insane? Looks like I won’t be booking any flights with them. Just last summer, I was a strategic no-show because it would have cost more to change the ticket than it was worth. So I’m supposed to waste my valuable time on the phone to do them a favor and cancel my flight to save them money when they’re trying to screw me at every turn. I don’t think so. Good thing Southwest flies most of the places I need to go.

  • eileen

    My question for United is, “What exactly is it that this customer should have done that he didn’t do to make sure you all charged him properly when he made and paid for the reservation?” The answer here, is nothing. Its United’s oopsie, and United should eat the $166

  • Jean|HolySmithereens

    if there is an infant on the ticket, the date of birth should be entered and UA should have picked up that the child is more than 14 months. (hence requiring them to pay the 166 before ticket is issued) but the infant rule doesnt just stop at 14 months. most airlines have a weight limit/restriction on an infant. some infants are just bigger than others. and in cases like that, even if a ticket has already been cleared and purchased (and even if the infant is legally under 2), if the airline deems, upon physical observation on check in, that the baby should have a seat of its own due to safety reasons, then i am all for paying the extra fee if it means flying safer.

  • flutiefan

    actually, on the airline system i’m new to now, the passenger CAN check in online with an infant in the PNR.

    i admit i don’t know if this applies to international travel, as i’ve yet to have an infant on one of these itineraries.

  • TonyA_says

    Look carefully. The adult may or can but the infant cannot. But the infant also has a ticket for international flights. Just no seat.
    Also the adult may want bulkhead seats and that causes a whole different set of problems.
    After TSA required advanced passenger data even domestic airlines began collecting infant’s name, gender and DOB. That required inclusion of the baby on the pnr. So today it is really no longer enough just to notify the airline you are traveling with a lap child. We need to key in the names even if there is no fare.

  • bayareascott

    Yes, the proper time to correct it is at the start. HOWEVER, just because that is not done does NOT mean that it can be ignored at a subsequent point. If an infant is boarding an international flight, then he/she needs to have a ticket. If they somehow went one direction without one, then they need to purchase one one-way.

  • Guest

    The point that several people have been making is that because it was missed at the start of the trip, the pax should not be hit with a surprise charge on their way back. The airline should fix the ticketing problem but eat the charge because of their mistake.

  • bayareascott

    So instead of paying half the cost of something, you should now pay zero the cost because you did not pay in the first place? That’s pretty ridiculous.

  • JewelEyed

    Wait, you mean it might be a bad thing if people who aren’t interested in making sure their kids are safe decide not to fly so we don’t have to spend time with them locked in a pressurized metal tube? I can’t see how.

  • JewelEyed

    I would take that up with the FAA then. And I don’t care if mom or dad picks the baby up when he’s crying, as long as there is someplace safe to buckle the kid back into on take off, landing, and in an emergency condition.