Should fee-hungry airlines profit from your kids?

Chungking/Shutterstock
Chungking/Shutterstock
How far would airlines go to collect a few more bucks from you? If nothing would surprise you anymore, then you should hear Hesha Duggirala’s story.

Earlier this year, she booked a summer vacation to Europe for her family of four on United Airlines using frequent flier miles. As a reminder, having lots of frequent flier miles suggests you’re a loyal, and valued, customer.

“The representative who helped us told us that since our youngest child would be under two years when we began the trip he could be ticketed as a lap child,” she says. Duggirala gave the agent her son’s birthdate to verify that he was, indeed, a lap child.

The United agent issued the tickets and the Duggirala family prepared for their European vacation. But only 10 days before their trip, they received a surprise phone call from United.

“An agent told me my son can only be a lap child for the flight to Europe and not on the way back,” she says. “I told them what the representative had originally told us. They said we were given the wrong information and would need to pay the current rate for a child one-way ticket — a whopping $2,800.”

Obviously, the United agent who had booked her award tickets either gave her inaccurate information or didn’t adequately communicate the airline’s policies. They are clearly stated on United’s website. What bothers Duggirala, and me, is that instead of taking responsibility for the error — which could have easily been verified by reviewing the call recordings — United chose to stick it to her.

“The thing that really set me off was the callousness of one of the representatives,” she told me. “She was actually a supervisor that I asked to speak with after a customer rep could not help me. This supervisor very rudely said that my son would not be allowed to board the plane in Stuttgart, Germany. However unlikely or absurd that may sound, it’s simply something you do not say to a mother. I couldn’t shake the image of my precious boy wandering around by himself at Stuttgart airport.”

As a father of three young children, the thought of one of my kids being left behind makes my heart skip a beat.

That nasty supervisor who told Duggirala to take it or leave it was actually just following orders. United’s CEO, Jeff Smisek, has publicly stated he wants to increase “ancillary” revenues by 9 percent in 2013. Apparently, the $5.3 billion in fees United collected from passengers last year just wasn’t enough.

I wish I could say this problem was isolated, but a few months ago, it happened to another reader on a United flight. I’m starting to think this isn’t a misunderstanding as much as it is a money grab.

Seating extortion?

The problem of cashing in on your kids extends beyond lap children. Most major airlines now charge for seat reservations, even in economy class. So when a family wants to sit together, they’re asked to pay even more for the privilege. The art of monetizing children in that way appears to have been pioneered by US Airways several years ago.

When Alexandre Cunha booked a recent flight on American Airlines to Brazil, an airline representative told him it couldn’t give him, his wife and three-year-old daughter a seat assignment. He wrote to me, fearful that he might become the latest victim of the airline industry’s “unbundling scheme” and would have to pay more to sit next to his child.

Even though two separate agents reassured him his family would be able to sit together, they refused to make it official by giving him the necessary seat assignments.

“I believe airlines have gone too far in their resolutions to make a profit,” he told me. “A seat reservation should be done when you buy a ticket.”

I gave Cunha my cell phone number and told him to call me if he and his daughter were separated. Fortunately, the American reps were correct. The Cunhas didn’t even have to pay any more for their tickets, as they feared.

Duggirala didn’t get off that easy. I asked her to contact United in writing, to have a better understanding of what might have been said during her initial reservation. Instead, she called the airline and negotiated the following deal: For an extra 30,000 miles and about $200 in taxes, her son could catch a return flight with the family.

“It’s certainly better than paying $2,800,” she says.

Rules of engagement

You know what would have been even better? If United had reviewed its call records and then said, “We goofed. We gave you bad information and we’re going to honor our verbal agreement with you.”

That would have been the right thing.

Beyond that — and I’m speaking here not only as a consumer advocate but also a father — I think it’s time for everyone to agree on a basic rule of engagement. When it comes to ancillary fees, charge what you want, and whatever the market will bear.

A fee to use the toilet? OK. A fee to have access to an in-flight oxygen mask? Fine.

But shouldn’t our kids be off limits?

Should airlines ever be allowed to make money from our kids?

View Results

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Update (8 p.m.): We’ve had a few comments on this post. During most of the day, I was on the road and unable to view the discussion. Our moderators tried their best to bring things back to an on-topic discussion, but at the end of the day, that was my job. I take full responsibility for allowing things to veer off course. I will do everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

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 chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • jpp42

    I know that your poll questions are sometimes a bit separate from the article, but you’ve included the same silly question in the title, which is maddening as this is not the subject of the article at all! The article is about a strange discrepancy in policy – lap-child rules differing based on US vs EU origin of the flight. This is almost certainly related to differences in aviation regulations, not profit motive: otherwise why wouldn’t they require seats for both legs? The fundamental problem is United’s failure to realize this at time of booking and poor service recovery in dealing with the situation. This is a story of failed customer service, which is of course all too common with US airlines these days – it’s not fundamentally about extra fees for children.

    If United was really the callous child-hating profit-monger you imply with the question, they wouldn’t have notified the family of the ticket problem at all, and would have charged a full walk-up fare at the check-in desk in Stuttgart. I do agree the ticket requirement should have been explained at the time of booking. Since it wasn’t, a discount would have been nice as an apology for the original booking error. But failure to provide a discount doesn’t mean they hate children in particular, it just means they don’t care about their customers in general!

    So the answer is Yes, United should be allowed to profit from any of their customers, which includes families and children. Their business is transporting people from place to place, and they have to charge fares and fees to make a profit : they are after all a for-profit company. If the EU regulations require a seat for the 2-year-old, so be it: they have the right to charge an appropriate fare for that seat.

    The best we can hope for is a level playing field for competition, so that customer unfriendly airlines will eventually lose business.

  • jpp42

    One further thing that occurred to me, is that perhaps the return flight was a codeshare on another airline that has different lap child rules? Would that be a possible explanation besides regulatory differences, and maybe this incident could be added to the stack on the annoyances of codeshares? We don’t have much detail about the itinerary.

  • PsyGuy

    What is rally the big deal about not sitting next to your kids? Its a plane, there isnt anywhere for them to really wonder too. Your away from them for a whole day, out of sight and miles away. Why the stress about having them 10 feet away? Why do parents think just because they reproduced that the world should make special considerations for them. If I want an assigned seat, I pay, if I dont I dont have to pay. If im flying with friends or a companion and I want to sit with them, I pay for seat assignments together, if I dont, I dont pay. Why should parents and families get special consideration?

    Oh I know the parents are going to say “its different when its your young child”, and I say no its not different, a passenger is a passenger and a seat is a seat.

  • JewelEyed

    I’ve never paid more to sit next to my boyfriend on a flight. Ever. I’ve never had to because I plan in advance. We didn’t even have an issue when my grandfather died and we had to fly down on short notice because we picked a flight with open seats next to each other. If you absolutely must have a certain seat and can’t plan in advance, it doesn’t matter whether you have kids or not, it’s going to be an issue. And seriously, no more lap children! It’s not safe, we know it’s not safe! If more parents opted not to use the lap child option, maybe airlines would be forced to provide an airplane approved car seat to children flying on planes considering you paid for another ticket. Which would be better for parents AND kids anyway.

  • maryannk

    Why are they still allowing lap children? It would be safer if they had their own seat. A blog entry about that issue might be interesting.

  • JewelEyed

    I’m childfree too, but I disagree. It is different. Kids and severely disabled people require constant supervision, and for all you know, the stranger your kid or person in need of supervision sits next to could be a creep. Being at opposite ends of a plane is a real issue if you have kids or a severely disabled person to watch. Plus, you have no way of tending to their needs so they don’t annoy the shit out of everyone else on the plane. My problem is that it’s a parent or caretaker’s responsibility to make sure it isn’t an issue, not the airline’s.

  • sirwired

    While certainly United should have initially stepped up to the plate with a better solution than $2,800 for a last-minute one-way fare, and she had a right to be angry (I would have), to be honest the rest of the article was a bit silly.

    Of course United was not going to force her child to be left behind in Stuttgart. For starters, that would mean that Mom decided to board the aircraft without her son, as if they would be dragging her kicking and screaming down the jetbridge to whisk her back to the US while her “precious boy” stood tearfully at the entrance watching Mom leave. Of course she may have ended up missing her flight while working it all out with United, (which would have sucked), but injecting talk about the her poor abandoned child was needlessly dramatic. If that’s the mental picture that popped in her (or your) head, that’s not United’s fault. If she’s this dramatic in her letter to you, I can only imagine how she sounded on the call… not usually a recipe for getting what you want from a customer service supervisor who has wide discretion in what they offer you. (As a side note, 30k + taxes seems to be a pretty good resolution. Not as good as a free ticket, but still a very reasonable price. And at least United figured out the problem before she left on her trip instead of springing this surprise on her in Stuttgart.)

    And the story about not being able to receive seat assignments together… I can’t get advance seat assignments on half the flights I take, even when travelling alone. (And on Southwest, there is no such thing as an advance assignment.) There was no need for him to panic; the airline is not going to force you to sit away from a child that cannot fend for him/herself. All three of them might not have been able to sit together, but a young child won’t be separated. And if an airline that usually has them isn’t offering any seat assignments at all, they certainly aren’t extorting a fee. They’ve simply overbooked the flight and have no seats to offer yet. (Also, the next time you think about posting an article about the big, bad, airline moving around a seat assignment, you might want to keep this story in mind. Shifting a family around so they can sit together is probably the most common reason to yank a seat assignment that was picked at booking.)

    To answer the poll question: Yes, airlines should be able to make money off of kids. Lots of companies do. Airlines aren’t children’s charities, and neither are makers of diapers, infant formulas, car seat companies, toys, pediatricians, etc. Do you complain that P&G doesn’t sell Pampers at-cost?

  • sirwired

    The NTSB and FAA have looked at this repeatedly over the years. They started with the fact that flying is FAR safer than driving. (You are much more likely to be killed in an accident while driving to the airport than you are while in the plane.) If requiring families to purchase a seat means more of them would take a driving trip instead, it saves lives to let parents carry kids in their lap, even if that would result in a preventable death during a very rare plane accident.

    Keep in mind that the recent Aisiana accident was the first mainline accident in over a decade in the US with ANY on-board fatalities (and it wasn’t even a US airline.) This is a safety record unmatched by any other form of transportation. Even when you take commuter airlines into account, it still makes driving look like a crapshoot in comparison. (And the last time the FAA/NTSB looked at this, the airline accident rate wasn’t nearly this good… if the conclusion was valid then, it’s even more valid now.)

    That said, a trans-Atlantic flight with a lap child is certainly not my idea of a good time.

  • sirwired

    Well, if the child is young, then yes, airlines, can, do, and should, make special efforts to make sure they get to sit together. And, on a practical basis, even if the child is old enough to fend for themselves, but not yet, say, a teenager, I don’t WANT to sit next to a kid where a parent is not nearby to (hopefully) distract/control/discipline him/her.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to rustle up moral outrage that airlines would have the temerity to make profits off of Our Precious Children, but working it out so parents get to sit next to young children doesn’t seem too far removed from giving up your seat to an elderly lady on the subway.

  • marie3656

    It’s not so much about parents needing to sit with their kids, but with kids needing to sit with their parents.How about this for a rule? Airlines can ensure adjacent seating for anyone who would not otherwise be allowed to travel alone? Most have an age (12? 15? 16?) where children are considered unaccompanied minors. You can either travel with minors or make arrangements with the airline to “accompany” them. If you travel with them, they should arrange seating so that you can, in fact, accompany them.

  • John Baker

    Actually I’ve read a few places where the NTSB has continually argued against lap children. There website seems to suggest the same thing (http://www.ntsb.gov/safety/children.html ). Because of the way our safety system is setup, the NTSB can only recommend actions to the FAA and the FAA, with the guidance of the airlines, has continually opted not to adopt this rule.

    Oh and yes, my children have always flown in a seat.

  • sirwired

    You gotta do what you gotta do. Sometimes even far in advance there are not seat assignments available on a particular flight, even far in advance. This isn’t a big deal, as the airline will work something out at the airport.

    And while it’s counter-intuitive, lap kids ARE safe compared to the alternative, which is parents taking a road trip instead. (Even with the kid in a seat in the car.)

  • John Baker

    Sorry… Your case 2 is all on the parents. Its simple. As a parent, you don’t book flights where there are not enough open seats together for your family. Period.
    Does that mean you might have to travel at a less than ideal time? Yep. Does that mean you might have to plan a little earlier? Yep.

    I have a family of 5. It takes work for us to fly anywhere. It means that I can only book flights with open seats together (I check before buying). It means that after I book I periodically check to make sure the airline hasn’t moved us. It also means that between my wife and I we plan in advance what we’re going to do when Murphy jumps into our travel plans and we get rerouted. Worse case … I buy the better seats so we sit together.

    Sorry but I see no reason why my family should displace someone who has planned in advance.

  • John Baker

    “Sometimes even far in advance there are not seat assignments available on a particular flight, even far in advance”

    Then you don’t book the flight and find a different routing.

  • sirwired

    Hmmm… I stand corrected. *sheepish look* I see that the NTSB changed their recommendation in 1995; you’d think I would have known by now. It appears that their recommendation changed because survivable accidents have increased. (I guess previously more airline accidents weren’t survivable, making child restraints a moot point.)

    That said, if the recommendation made sense when airline travel was more dangerous overall, I can’t figure why it doesn’t make sense now that airline safety has improved so much. (Car fatality rates have dropped too, but not nearly as much.) The only thing I can figure out is that a preventable child death would be a political nightmare for the agency…

  • EdB

    But the problem here is that the airline wouldn’t even give them the seats after purchasing the tickets. They could have been the first people to have purchased tickets on that flight and the seating chart could have shown every seat was empty. It wouldn’t have helped these people out because the airline would not assign them seats unless they paid extra.

  • EdB

    I wonder if the RT fare would have been less? Even though the child qualified as a lap child for the outbound trip, doesn’t mean they couldn’t have purchased a seat for him and put him in a car seat for the trip.

  • John Baker

    @edboston:disqus I’ve never had that situation. For me, its always been the seating chart I see before the purchase is the same one after. Any open seats can be assigned.
    I think the situation is more likely the OP didn’t check until after he bought the tickets and there weren’t any seats available together. He was upset that the agents wouldn’t move people already assigned or remove holds from certain seats for his family.

  • TonyA_says

    Private daycares and schools, and so do orthodontists, make a lot of money from your kids, what’s the diff?

  • TonyA_says

    A seat reservation should be done when you buy your ticket. Really?
    Ever flown Southwest, or a flight inside Europe?

  • EdB

    We don’t know if that is the situation or not because it is not disclosed in the story. Given that the person was “fearful that he might become the latest victim of the airline industry’s “unbundling scheme” and would have to pay more to sit next to his child”, I would lean towards the airline trying to get him to pay for the reserved seatings.

  • TonyA_says

    Poor United Airlines call center agent. Now they want you fired or pay for the not-so-infant’s fare because you are only human like the rest of us mortals.

  • TonyA_says

    How about the winners due to unbundling? Some win, some lose.

  • TonyA_says

    I wonder about those bassinets.

  • EdB

    I’m not arguing if there are winners or losers with unbundling. Just the situation John brings up. He feels it was one way and I was just pointing out how it could be the other way.

  • TonyA_says

    Can take a family to Europe and not afford to pay a seat for a two year old?
    Great priorities, lady.

  • John Baker

    @sirwired:disqus … No worries. I was in school around the time the NTSB was doing their studies. One of my engineering professors had us analyze the forces involved with baby turned projectile and its always stuck with me. One of the reasons why I never let my kids ride as lap children.

  • MarkKelling

    Here is the key statement no one has latched onto yet in Duggirala’s story: “since our youngest child would be under two years when we BEGAN the trip he could be ticketed as a lap child.” That would indicate the child had a birthday during the trip and was then too old to be a lap child on the return according to policy. While the call center agent should have explained that this meant a seat was required for the return (maybe the OP just didn’t hear that part when it was explained), at least there was a solution that didn’t require leaving the child in Germany. Rudeness is also always relative to your point of view. The supervisor may have calmly and clearly stated that a seat would be required for the child and of course the OP took that as being rude, callous and uncaring.

    Many airlines also don’t give seat assignments until check in time. And of course Southwest doesn’t even have any. This doesn’t mean that a family will not sit together when flying on those airlines. At least these airlines are not charging extra for some of the seats when a group wants to sit together.

    But should any airline be able to profit from any of its passengers? Of course they should. That is what they are in business for. People have to realize that sometimes traveling as any kind of group, whether family or just friends, if you want to be all together it is probably going to cost extra. And people who have paid extra are not going to be willing to give up the extra cost seat because you were too cheep to buy one yourself. If a specific airline charges for things you feel you don’t want to pay extra for, look for a different airline that doesn’t charge for that item. Or get one of the airline credit cards that give some or all of the perks you desire (seat assignments, priority boarding, no luggage fee, whatever). Or just don’t fly.

  • Michael__K

    If you read the contract, that’s not a solution because seat assignments are NEVER guaranteed.

    You can book as far in advance as you want and pay as much extra as you want, and verify your seat assignments every single week, and still be stuck when those seat assignments are cancelled by the carrier for whatever operational reason.

  • TonyA_says

    Re: For an extra 30,000 miles and about $200 in taxes, her son could catch a return flight with the family.
    I understood you were talking to the UA awards department orginally since you were traveling using miles. So why didn’t you use miles for the pax that turned 2 by the commencement of the return flight in the first place?
    Is there any airline that allows pax 2 years old and above to travel as a lap child?
    Elliott tells us about it is wrong to take advantage of mistake fares.
    So why is it correct now to take advantage of mistakes by agents when it is common knowledge that the definition of an infant is a pax that has not turned 2 at the commencement of a flight?

  • Michael__K

    What are you going to do when you book seats together and then you lose those seat assignments through no action of your own?

    You can say it never happened to you all you want. But take it from me: the odds will eventually catch up with you.

  • Raven_Altosk

    UA screwed the pooch in this case by giving misleading/incorrect information. However, the melodrama of “imagining her child wandering the German airport” or whatever the phrase was made me choke on my coffee.

    C’mon people, when you write crap like that, it doesn’t do you any favors.

  • TonyA_says

    Ok, you know that if you declare you are traveling with an infant you are NOT entitled to advanced seating reservations on most airlines for international flights.

  • Deborah Orth

    Here’s an idea Stay at Home and Raise your kids instead of taking them on long flights to annoy the rest of us. Having children is a choice deal with it. You don’t always get everything you want in life.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Agreed. What I’m paying for my baby to attend daycare, I could be paying full instate tuition at UT or A&M…

  • jerryatric

    And to all you airline apologists I say again! Service & value in the airline industry have gone downhill over the last 25 -35 years. They tell you 1 thing & then don’t deliver. In the end they milked this woman for more points & tax anyways. Flying today is a major chore, & in the U.S. your TSA just adds to the misery. Travel in general is a headache! Last trip to Sandals in St. Lucia was an example.
    Groped so thoroughly by TSA I was wondering if I should have kissed him after. And Sandals @ $500 nightly? A nightmare!

  • TonyA_says

    Then what is the issue then if no seat assignment is guaranteed?

  • Raven_Altosk

    THIS. When I book seats for us, if I can’t get bulkhead for the two of us and the baby, I pick another flight.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Probably the same kind of person who whines about no free refills on soft drinks in Europe…

  • John Baker

    It has happened to me …. We’ve had more than one flight or equipment change. Because I’m proactive, I can usually get seats together again since everyone else on the flight is in the same boat. In one case, I paid the extra amount for + seats so we could be together. Also, on schedule changes, the airlines I fly allow for fee free changes or refunds so I’ve also rerouted my family to make sure that we could stay together.

  • EdB

    And again, what does this have to do with what was being discussed? I was addressing John’s comment that the situation was caused by the person booking late and there were no seat assignments. My point was it could have been there were seats available for assignment but the airline wanted to charge for them. The point being based on the information given we didn’t know. And just because you aren’t ENTITLED to something doesn’t mean they can’t give it to you if they want to.

  • EdB

    “You don’t always get everything you want in life.”

    Yeah. Like a kid free flight. I think you need to take your own advice. You can stay at home too. Taking that trip is a choice.

  • Michael__K

    None of those opportunities will necessarily be available for a given route and flight(s).

    If you are proactive and get to the airport very early, then you are extremely likely to get seats together because the airport staff (so far in my experience) does make it a priority to keep families with small children together. But there’s nothing you can do (under current policies) to completely protect yourself.

  • Deborah Orth

    Travel is not for everyone. If it is such a headache for you then stay home!

  • TonyA_says

    Who decided to go to Sandals? We or you? 500 bucks a night for that?
    Even tripadvisor would laugh.

  • Michael__K

    She was prepared to book a round trip ticket for the infant (presumably for 60,000 miles). It appears the rewards agent talked her out of it, recommending lap-child ticketing.

    If everything had been handled properly on the first call, then the infant should have had a return ticket for 30,000 miles and an outbound ticket as a lap child in the first place. Which was ultimately the end result here, but it was much harder than it should have been for the OP to reach that result.

  • Michael__K

    Do you want to be on a flight with toddlers scattered apart from their families?

  • TonyA_says

    I don’t care. I had 3 of them who don’t act like idiots even when separated from us.

  • Michael__K

    At the age of 2 or 3?

  • jerryatric

    Sadly it was we- we went with a group of 8 friends. Never again. But that’s not my point. Point is travel in general is just getting worse.

  • EdB

    And this from the person complaining about the people with children should stay home so they don’t cause those headaches for others.

  • TonyA_says

    It was a choice. But we are still free to make a choice.

  • jerryatric

    I dare say @ 75 I have travelled far more than most. When I was working I was constantly travelling. From short hops within N. America & later to the Orient for my own business. Personally have travelled throughout Eastern & Western Europe including Russia ( talk about horrors of flying there), the Mid & Far East & part of S. America, as well as 5 countries in Africa. So don’t need lectures about “staying home” from the likes of you.
    MY POINT IS SIMPLE: Travel HAS gone downhill over the last many years.

  • TonyA_says

    I did not get that impression in the story.

  • Cam

    Spare me the “think of the children” whine

  • TonyA_says

    Vacation to Europe at that age?
    My wife and I were not that crazy.

  • Deborah Orth

    Not a lecture but you and other old crabs like you need to Stay HOME where you belong.

  • Michael__K

    For the OP it was a vacation. For some of us, it’s the only way to see close family members.

  • TonyA_says

    Damn right. Never had a problem with my family of 5 either. There are ways to do this correctly.
    First is to stop bitching and complaining.
    That won’t help.

  • Did you NOT see that Jodi Foster movie, “Flight Plan”? (kidding)

  • I wonder if this comes down to people having to pay for window and aisle seats. Perhaps if only one parent pays, the child is guaranteed to sit next to them. Who’s going to want a middle seat anyway?

  • Dutchess

    I think the survey question is loaded and pointless. Your “kid” is just like any other passenger and should be treated as such.

  • jerryatric

    Great! From telling Raven & I to just stay home you prove my vision of you! A young yuppie type who is single & “entitled” I just love meeting people like you when travelling. I guess all travel for you has been pleasant & uneventful. Or just accepts what’s handed out without ever a complaint! I may be an “old crab”, you sound like a bitter young (old) spinster!

  • It doesn’t seem to me that the OP is challenging the policy, just that she brought it up to the CSA and wasn’t told upfront that the child could only fly free one way. If she had had the right info, she may have moved the trip forward.

  • +1

  • EdB

    I had been thinking the same things about Ms. Orth. She sounds so much like the entitled travelers we make so much fun with. “Don’t bring your kids because they cause headaches to me” “Stay home if you can’t deal with the headaches.” “Everyone needs to stay out of my way and cater to my every whim and desire so *I* have a nice trip.”

    While I have not traveled nearly as much as you, in my travels, it has been the younger, single travelers that have caused me more headaches than any of the families I have encountered on my travels.

  • EdB

    And maybe you should stay off forums like this if you can’t express yourself as an adult without using personal attacks.

  • RITom

    I voted yes on this. The kid was going to be 2 at the end of the trip and she knew it. I have seen this before on travel shows where they try to get away with it, half way But that is not the point why would you put a kid in your lap for 6 hours on a plane when you put them in a car seat to take then ONE mile to the local store?
    .
    Does anyone remember the 3yr old girl in Canada crash in a Cessna 172?
    How about NorthWest Flight 255 4 yr old Girl found belted in her seat, they found her next to the bodies of her mom, dad and 6 yr old brother.
    .
    These were NOT LAP KIDS where the parents wanted to save a buck.

  • RITom

    That is why it is called “Parenting” and not baby sitting

  • RITom

    Why would you want to take a 2 year old with you on a European Holiday to begin with? Do they really want to see the Rhine or just think it is a place to take a bath in?

  • mythsayer

    That exact thing happened to me WITH an infant. I had confirmed seats together, just us two, both had seats, not an exit row (I know where we could sit together) and they took my seats without notifying me… I confirmed in advance and they disappeared after I checked in. At first they told me we would be separated but they found me seats together after I told them to find someone to change and feed my daughter. They had every intention of separating us. Don’t say it doesn’t happen (to those who did) even when you plan way in advance. Even when you have confirmed seats in a row where an infant is allowed to sit. It happens.

  • mythsayer

    THIS! There was no reason to charge him a one way before the flight started.

  • TonyA_says

    They had all these frequent flyer miles burning a hole in their pocket :)
    And they came here and read to better use all of them miles asap or they will be worthless.

  • jerryatric

    Thanks for the confirmation. All I wanted to bring up was the fact travel has become more difficult. It used to be a pleasurable experience in any class of seats. You were treated like a customer. The only airline I never fly with is United! As I stated elsewhere – don’t fly the local Russian or Chinese airlines, as they are far worse.

  • Lisa Skier

    Reservations plenty early, seats chosen (and paid the extra fee for) to have 2 year old sit with his parents (he has never been a lap child always bought a seat). AA has changed the flight twice now, caught the seats not together the first time but not the second. Now there are not enough of the EC seats (together) to put the 2 year old together with his parents. To sum it up – it doesn’t always pay to pay extra – we will see when we get to the airport what happens.

  • TonyA_says

    ROFL

  • bodega3

    Regarding seat assignments, they are never guaranteed. With that said, I would like to see a code attached to a parent and child flying together, that when they are assigned seats together, those seats stay married and can’t be changed unless they are reaccommodated together. It happened on my son’s flight recently where UA took his family’s 4 seats that were together away and the only remaining advance seating options meant spreading the family throughout the flight. The 3 year old wouldn’t have made anyone on that plane happy, so we did upgrade them to economy plus, which we had discussed doing even before this happened.

  • TonyA_says

    It is. Have you checked the prices vs inflation? That’s why.
    Chinese airlines have some dirt cheap fares :)

  • TonyA_says

    Simple. Do not allow ASR to anyone. The PNL/ADL will have all the ages of the paxs and the DCS will help the check in agent give the correct seat assignments.

  • TonyA_says

    Details? Not important here. So are those thing called rules.
    Sometimes clever manipulation of the truth works wonders.

  • Deborah Orth

    I really feel for you Eddie but my arms are too short to reach you

  • Deborah Orth

    Sorry Jerry YOU ARE WRONG ON ALL 3 COUNTS CONGRATS YOU ARE BATTING 1.000

  • EdB

    Don’t worry about it. Wouldn’t want you touching me anyways. And the name is Ed, not Eddie.

  • Deborah Orth

    Whatever you say Eddie

  • TonyA_says

    Save points/miles to be exact (and fees) :)

  • TonyA_says

    ROFL

  • Dutchess

    It always surprises me when people demand someone be fired. What would happen if you were fired every time you made a small error on your job.

  • TonyA_says

    And the real surprise is that we read about this in a consumer advocate’s site.
    I would expect it to be kinder and gentler :)

  • Deborah Orth

    ME 2 glad I made someone laugh

  • Dutchess

    I don’t think this is the case, if you look at the United page Elliott posted:

    Acceptance of accompanied children under two years

    Children under the age of two traveling within the United States with a parent or with an adult 18 years or older can travel on the adult’s lap free of charge. If there are two or more children under the age of two traveling with the same adult, only one of the children may travel as a lap child. Any additional children are required to purchase a seat. **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.** When making your reservation you should indicate you are traveling with an infant, regardless of your destination.

    So the information they were given was wrong.

  • TonyA_says

    *WITHIN* the United States. So unless this was Stuttgart, Arkansas, or some joke like that, then internationally, a infant without seat would almost always need a ticket that is at least 10% of the adult fare. For miles awards, different rules might apply.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    This supervisor very rudely said that my son would not be allowed to board the plane in Stuttgart, Germany. However unlikely or absurd that may sound, it’s simply something you do not say to a mother. I couldn’t shake the image of my precious boy wandering around by himself at Stuttgart airport.”

    As a father of three young children, the thought of one of my kids being left behind makes my heart skip a beat.

    __________________________

    Christopher, can we take the hyperbole down just a tiny bit? For the most part I agree with you on this case, but this section is just over-the-top. Nobody was going to be left behind. Do you think they were going to deny the child boarding and then force the rest of the family at gunpoint to take the flight?

  • Hi guys. This thread has been flagged by multiple readers. Let’s just move on to something more productive, shall we?

  • pauletteb

    The old flying vs. road trip safety issue is comparing apples to oranges. Personally I think there should be NO lap children. I’ve seen a mother unable to hold on to her child in heavy turbulence. I’ve also had a mother give me the stink-eye because i wouldn’t let her toddler, for whom she did NOT purchase a ticket, have my window seat so that he could “look at the clouds.”

  • TonyA_says

    I wonder what they paid for Lil Johnny on the outbound leg?
    On UA international, don’t infants on lap for award tickets pay 10% of F/J/Y fares anyway? So you might as well use miles for the infant to get his/her own seat.
    They are complaining about the INBOUND leg because now the kid has to pay the CHILD fare. sheeeeesh.

  • Guest

    Like how once again the moderators have failed to address the issue of actual posting guideline violations for personal attacks and again issued a general reprimand to the very person who was attacked? Yes. Let’s talk about that instead.

  • DavidYoung2

    Perhaps what happened is the same thing that happened to us a few years ago. Our daughter was under two years old at the beginning of the trip (ie, a lap child for the OUTBOUND flight) but turned two during the trip. Thus, she didn’t qualify as a lap child on the return portion.

    This is something the OP should have realized because, hey, if you can’t keep track of your own child’s birthday, why expect the airline to do so? I agree that the rules can be complicated and complex, but lap children are those under two years old. If your child isn’t under two, they’re not a lap child. That’s not all that confusing.

  • MarkKelling

    And we have to consider HOW she brought it up as well as how well the phone agent understood what was being asked. She could have asked “My child is not yet 2, can he fly TO Europe as a lap child?” To which the answer would have been “Yes, of course.” Phrasing is everything. But we will never know exactly what was said and what the responses were because UA will never share the phone recording, if it even exists.

  • DavidYoung2

    The airlines should make sure children sit with their parents not as a service to the traveling family, but to the potential unfortunate seat mates of a the child. Do you REALLY want to put my daughter next to two complete strangers for six hours? Trust me, mom and dad would love the break, but I think the new ‘nannies’ aren’t going to be so thrilled by her nonstop jabbering, annoying video games or constant, “I have a question…….”

    Do everybody a favor – put the families together.

  • MarkKelling

    Didn’t think about that!

    The international lap infant fare is “all applicable fees and taxes plus a percentage of the accompanying adult fare which may increase closer to departure date.” Sounds expensive to me.

  • Dutchess

    Right, if you see the asterisks I had added, I was highlighting the need for a ticket for international flights. It appears they were given some incorrect information but corrected it before she had to abandon her child “to be left wandering around the airport” in Germany…do it for the children! Do it for the children!

  • Raven_Altosk

    Hey Chris…
    Could you do an article with a Di$ney contact about what they are doing to stop the abuse of the GAC? Fiance used to work there (12+ years ago) and at the time they were used mostly in the way they were intended. Now we get stories about people hiring “disabled” folk to cut the lines and last week while running favorite route, I heard a family on the flight telling another “just go say your kid has autism and you can get it, too.”

    Urgh.

  • Mei

    Two stories to prove that airlines do deliberately
    use our children (through our creditcards) to gain from.

    Last year I helped my cleaning lady to book
    by her family trip back home to Ecuador. A trip they had been saving up for 4
    years to go with parents and two children age 17 and 3 years old.

    Searching the web for the cheapest direct
    flight we came to decide that the KLM flight through Cheapflights.com was the
    best offer. We booked online and found out that the 3 year old was just as
    expensive as the 17 year old, therefor decided to go to KLM directly for the 3
    year old because the discount given there was better. But, you can’t book a 3
    year old separately. The service was given by telecom booking directly through
    KLM desk. The whole trip, from Amsterdam through Lima on the way in and direct
    from Quito to Amsterdam back. The part from Lima to Quito was by a local company but
    arranged by KLM.

    Getting to Lima, they wanted to board on
    the flight to Quito, but were stopped because according to the TACA officer,
    the 3 year old didn’t have a ticket for the flight. They could choose to leave
    her behind or pay €400 for the one-way flight of the child. Here all 4 family
    members had to be calmed down by paramedics, what do you think of this. In the
    2 hours of stopover they suddenly had to spend their holiday money, they had
    saved for over 4 years or leave the little innocent star of the family to the
    hungry wolves in Lima.

    Complaining about this at KLM after their
    return, KLM did first not want to admit they had made a mistake until I had
    spent 5 telephone calls and several e-mails of complaint and proof that they
    had made me a reservation and make a down payment for the trip including the
    LIMA-QUITO connection with TACA. The
    difference had occurred later on issuing the e-ticket which indeed did not include
    the missing connection for the 3-year old, which I unfortunately had overlooked.
    I received a voucher of only €157 to compensate for the inconvenience and
    shock, no excuses.

    Another example, which occurred just this
    morning, again KLM (unfortunately). My ex had booked the holiday flights to
    come to his residence in France through KLM for my two daughters 13 and 14
    years of age, without being stopped and warned that they couldn’t fly un
    attended. Arriving at the airport, 90 minutes sharp before departure time, for
    which they had been checked-in online by him the night before, we were stopped
    at the luggage drop-off because of minority. I had to pay an extra €100 per
    child’s return flight and fill in a lot of paperwork (all in a hurry, otherwise
    they would miss the flight). The check-in online hadn’t given a notice either, nor
    did it stop on entering the age of the children. An unforgivable mistake, in my
    view because we were to believe that they could go unaccompanied by the check
    in. And cash again for KLM!

    Don’t tell me they are not after our money
    when it comes to our children. Indeed it is the new immoral ancillary fee!

  • Raven_Altosk

    Sit down and let the grown ups talk, Cupcake.

  • TonyA_says

    Hey Chris,

    Weren’t you the one who keeps on saying the all these Frequent Flyer Mile Programs are worthless.
    Well, the OP used miles. If she read your articles maybe she would not have had this problem :)

    Also interesting that simple google foo says that the OP is a PhD for working for the Government – FDA. Division of Epidemiology. Office of Surveillance and Biometrics.
    You think she collected many miles while traveling on taxpayer’s money (like medical conferences) ?
    I often read you say that many of these people are elites who make miles do so on behalf of their employers. Sure makes us feel good if we know that Lil Johnny was not traveling on miles paid by taxpayers.

    Wouldn’t you think a PhD would have read the rules on INTERNATIONAL travel using UA Mileage Plus?
    No let’s blame it on the poor UA call center agent (wonder how much money she is paid?).

  • TonyA_says

    Whenever I read the OP use the RUDE exploit, I know the article will be exciting !!!

  • Trudi

    My thinking exactly. I would expect to pay for my child if she/he turned two during the trip. Without knowing the conversation, it’s difficult to determine whether the airline rep and the parent made that point clear.

  • Deborah Orth

    I’m not a cup cake little black bird and you are way out of your league so just fly away

  • EdB

    Whatever you say cupcake.

  • Trudi

    I guess I’ve been lucky over the years, I never had an airline question the placement of my kids. I don’t understand why an airline wouldn’t want to allow a family to sit together; it’s certainly easier on the other passengers to have parents able to help with their own kids. However, if I understand this correctly, families feel discriminated against because sometimes those seats are more expensive. We all pay the price to travel in comfort; it purely sucks, but it is the price of travel. It’s not a surcharge on the family, it’s a surcharge on the seats. I hate that, but I don’t see anyone getting special dispensation over it.
    As for the mis-understanding on the return ticket for the 2 year old; there’s something missing. Did the child turn two during the trip? If so, then she should pay for a seat for the baby. If not, then the child would still be a lap-baby and should not require the purchase of a seat.

  • Helio

    The OP was aware about the child’s birthday date. But the representative wrongly told her that it wasn’t a problem.

  • Helio

    If the OP is also a 5 members family, UA has a nice 777 version with 5 seats in the middle row…

  • Michael__K

    You physically can’t book an itinerary for your own lap child on United unless you provide the child’s DOB and the child is less than 2 for the whole itinerary. At least that validation is in place today — I just tested it myself on united.com.

    If a phone agent overlooked this problem and issued tickets anyway, then I don’t see how you can spin that as the fault of the parent’s “phrasing” on the phone call. The agent should have said, “sorry, I can’t issue this ticket.”

    And if the problem wasn’t caught until months later and 10 days before the flight — it’s extra troubling if the airline demanded payment for a last minute full-fare ticket at that point.

  • John Baker

    @Raven_Altosk:disqus While I agree with you, unfortunately ADA prevents Disney from verifying any disability. We had a conversation about it during a Disney Institute class I was in.

    I will say that when we were down in June, the policy seemed to change that GAC no longer got you to the front of the line. Just held your place while someone waited (I think. I’m not into gaming the system so I wasn’t watching that close but that’s what I overheard. A few very upset people that their rental scooter no longer meant no waiting.)

  • Helio

    Or anticipated the trip, to celebrate the birthday at home ;-)

  • Raven_Altosk

    Thanks for the info, John. I was just curious because while I know ADA prevents verifying a disability for “equal” access, one might argue that a GAC provides “better” access. Since they can require proof for a HC parking place as it is “better” access, I wonder if they could do the same? Course, then the fakers will just get their fake doctors to write fake notes.

    I know Universal has a system that allows the GAC folks to get a “return time” which seems much more fair than what these two families were discussing on the plane.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I once had a nice exit row aisle seat. Next to me was a teenage girl (probably 16-17). Her mother threw a fit and demanded that I move because “all men are potential rapists.”

    I told her to get bent and if she wanted to sit next to her daughter find another way since I wasn’t giving up my exit row aisle. She tried to get the FA involved but she was kind of, “I can move her out of the exit row” but the mother didn’t want her to move out the exit row–she wanted my (much better) seat.

    Needless to say, she didn’t get it.

  • EdB

    Geesh. Did she think the big bad potential rapist was actually going to try and rape her daughter in public on a sealed aircraft?

  • MarkKelling

    I agree that something in the UA system should have caught this at booking time and not been allowed to proceed (can the rewards phone agents override something like this? I would hope not). And I agree that the ticketing price for the infant should have been at the rate it would have been when the original tickets were purchased. But this is UA. :-)

  • MarkKelling

    Always.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Not loving how the obvious troll gets to stay but my comments keep getting deleted.
    I don’t understand how “Sit down and let the grownups talk, Cupcake” directed at the troll violates any of the rules.

    Way to be totally sucky today, Mods.

  • TonyA_says

    These are international “paid” tickets accompanying award tickets.

    These are probably entered manually with overrides in UA’s own RES system.

  • EdB

    And don’t forget how the original personal attack by the troll has been allowed to stay, at least it was the last time I checked.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Indeed. I’ve emailed Chris about this…seems like his guard dogs are chewing thru their leashes again.

  • MarkKelling

    Yesterday I flew from IAH to DEN on UA in F. An unaccompanied minor, maybe 14 yrs old female, was placed next to me. She wanted to move because “mommy says I can’t ever sit next to a man on a plane” and started crying when the flight attendant didn’t want to move her. A grandfatherly man sitting behind offered to swap so the child could sit next to his wife. The flight attendant said “all seat assignments in 1st class are final!!” So I sat next to a crying 14 yr old the whole flight. I wrote a detailed email to Jeffy, wonder if I will hear back with an offer of mileage for my disappointment with their service. (The flight is on a pre merger UA plane with pre merger retirement age FAs.)

  • EdB

    And didn’t Chris say something before about we are suppose to be notified if one of our comments are delete? I know I didn’t get any for my deleted comments.

  • emanon256

    I think the first OP got the best deal ever. They got a saver one-way award space opened up for them for their child to have their own seat on the return on short notice. Paying taxes on an international award ticket is normal. Finding 3 international saver awards on the same flight is almost impossible.

  • TonyA_says

    I’m glad you saw this. I was doing the math on the infant and child fares but I figured why bother try to convince those who never want to stick to the rules.

  • emanon256

    Same here. Works out so far. We did get moved to a non-bulkhead row in Economy plus once to accommodate a family which baffled me as we were also a family, but it wasn’t bad. I let it go and enjoyed the flight.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Neither is sitting next to them. I sat next to a young mother with a two year old on her lap and it was uncomfortable for all. A child close to 2 years old isn’t an “infant”. I think it should be 1 year old and after that, they need to buy a seat.

    Of course, the secret is that in most cases, the flights aren’t totally full and the mother finds an empty seat and trades her own with someone else and puts herself with the child there.

  • Lindabator

    And this is the major problem here – they can usually GET seats together, just not the best ones or ones they would have to purchase, and then get incensed that THEY have to pay for what everyone else has to. Just stuff and nonsense. (And I’m SURE the 16 year old girl was GLAD to get away from mom!)

  • emanon256

    I usually book on-line and it makes me enter my child’s age, however for a recent trip I booked by phone. My original flight was booked on-line, but discontinued 2 months before I flew, so I called and they booked a new flight for us with no change fee or fare difference. They asked if my child would be under two for the entire trip, but did nothing else. Then exactly 10 days before the trip, I got an e-mail from United telling me my child’s DOB was missing, and they needed this before we could take our trip. It instructed me to call, which I did, and they updated the resevration.

    I am wondering if the OPs case was like mine, where the phoen agent never entered the DOB, and then the problem was caught 10 days before the flight. Had the agent entered the DOB, it probably would have caught the issue. There is also the question as to what the actual conversation was with the Op and the agent. The OP could have misunderstood.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I remember growing up that when we were in public, our parents expected us to behave in a civilized manner. If we acted up or made noise, they simply noted it and later arranged for a punishment (a chore such as picking up all the litter around the house, etc.) Yes, even 6
    year olds can do certain tasks: weeding, raking leaves, sweeping to name a few. Or just take away TV privileges.

    After a few outbursts at restaurants or grocery stores, and the consequences, we learned quickly. I see this in many other parents I travel with as well. They don’t need to raise their voice with their children. There is no significant issue in having them sit separate.

  • emanon256

    Yep, 10% of full Y.

  • Marmoset509

    Kids need supervision! Do you want to supervise a stranger’s toddler just because the parent is sitting at the back of the plane but YOU happen to be sitting next to them for the duration of your flight?

  • PolishKnightUSA

    As someone with international relatives, I can sympathize with parents who want to take a small child on a flight. The grandparents may live overseas and can’t travel. It’s cruel to deny them the experience of seeing their grandchild.

  • emanon256

    Here is another choice: Stay home and never leave. That way you don’t have to risk being around other peoples children.

  • TonyA_says

    Again and again, you have OP come here and berate airline employees with no mercy. But when you do the math, usually the OP is wrong or trying to pull a fast one. Don’t you get sick and tired of these people?

  • As I mentioned to Raven by email a few minutes ago, I’ve been on a plane all day and just landed.

    I’ve asked the moderators to review the flagged comments. I share their concern about the tone of some comments, but I want to make sure we are not overreacting.

    Hyperbole aside, this is a debate worth having.

  • Lindabator

    UNIV also offers that as a complimentary service for those staying at the 3 onsite hotels (NOT the new one opening, though), or if you purchase one of the limited ones they offer in advance. (About $89 pp/pd tho)

  • emanon256

    You were on my flight last week, weren’t you?

    I was on a very pleasant flight with our infant last week. He didn’t cry the whole flight, he smiled at everyone. Many people including the flight attendants wanted to come see him. He laughed when people played with him. It was an amazing flight! When we were de-plaining we got even more compliments.

    Then in baggage claim when I was getting the bags, a woman approached my wife and said, “I just have to say something to you. You had no business bringing your squaking baby on that flight. I paid a lot of money for my ticket and your baby ruined my flight.” My wife told her that she is shocked that he didn’t cry or cream the whole flight and the only sounds he made was laughter when people payed with him, and that we too paid for our tickets and had every right to be there. The woman continued to berate my wife until I got back and asked what was going on and the woman said she had to tell my wife something and then she took off and I got filled in.

    I saw the same woman later at the hotel rudely yelling at and talking down to a desk clerk about how she should not have to pay the resort fee because she doesn’t not want to use the internet or phone.

    I take it you were that woman?

  • emanon256

    I honestly do. I will be the first one to admit that I don’t like the airlines. But with so many of these cases, I actually feel sorry for the airlines for having to deal with over entitled customers who refuse to accept or follow the rules.

  • emanon256

    I think we know who should be the one to stay at home here :)

  • emanon256

    Stuttgart, Arkansas!
    I actually laughed so hard I almost cried.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Oh, and don’t forget that if she ever does have kids, then her rules will instantly change and she’ll suddenly be entitled to all sorts of special consideration as she takes her kids traveling. It’s not about kids vs. no kids, it’s just about some people always needing to be special.

  • emanon256

    I agree, though I read recently that in response to the people hiring disabled people (There is a company that actually does that), that Disney now sells a line pass to the rich for an absurdly high price.

  • TonyA_says

    ROFL. This must have been a great weekend for many of us :)

  • Michael__K

    I’m not sure if a DOB is strictly required for domestic lap infants, but in my experience it has always been strictly required for ticketing for international travel. And Chris reports that the OP provided the DOB (how else would United have noticed the problem on its own 10 days before departure?). So I don’t see what could have been misunderstood there.

    BTW, many (most?) carriers won’t let you book lap infants at all except by phone or in person (see Delta for example).

    If you are booking an international flight long in advance for an anticipated child who is not born yet then I believe you can get a notation on the ticket. But you would still need to call back to formally issue the infant ticket before departure.

  • TonyA_says

    Since you also lived in Memphis, you know where that is :)

  • emanon256

    Actually, I am pretty sure the family I sold my old car to is from there. They own a local pizza joint. They used to call me every once in a while and let me know how my car was doing. I haven’t heard from them in a few years.

  • MarkKelling

    Could that actually be what happened here? UA called to confirm the child’s birth date 10 days before travel because it was not entered by the original phone agent and then told the OP that a return seat was required? It would make sense given how UA seems to keep track of these things.

  • emanon256

    So strange. I have traded seats in pmUA F many times so people could sit together. Unless I get 1A or B, then I fight to stay put.

    I heard a new one on my last flight. A guy asked the FA if he could be moved so that he could sit next so an empty seat because he was shy and didn’t want to half to talk to anyone (this was in Y). The FA found him a seat in the last row.

  • MarkKelling

    Neither did I.

  • Michael__K

    Feel free to provide us details on a United codeshare partner with a different lap child cutoff age.

    I don’t see anyone here complaining about the rules. Some of us think that people whose job it is to know the rules and enforce the rules bear some responsibility for their errors and misrepresentations.

  • TonyA_says

    They must have some robot software looking at all the tickets when they begin firming up the flights. The 2 year old kid was not entitled to an infant ticket so it got flagged IMO.

  • TonyA_says

    So sad. Why would the mommy put her kid through this?

  • MarkKelling

    I find earphones work pretty good when I don’t want to talk. ;-)

  • MarkKelling

    Most 14 yr old kids seem perfectly able to handle sitting next to anyone on a plane these days. Not sure what “mommy” had told this one or poisoned her mind with that she would get that upset about having to sit next to a man.

  • KetchumResident

    If they charged me for the oxygen mask I’d take it with me.

  • KetchumResident

    No child should be allowed to be a lap child. It’s extremely dangerous in case of any turbulence.

  • DavidYoung2

    We took our daughter on five international trips before she was age 2. And no, we didn’t buy a seat for her on any of them.

    First, there is a virtual certainty that there will be an open seat somewhere. You reserve mom and dad’s seats with one open seat in between them and people are always willing to move (who wants to sit between a mom and a dad who are swapping a lap child back and forth all the way from LAX to CDG?)

    Second, you book the bulkhead and use the bassinet.

    Airlines don’t give people many breaks these day — a free lap child is a rarity and it doesn’t last long, so take it if it’s offered.

  • emanon256

    I was thinking the same thing as you, but looks like she is more middle age and married. Still entitled, and still hates other people. However, I am guessing she would be happy if people brought their dogs on flights.

    http://www.themarknewsonline.info/meet-your-neighbor/26-neighbor/1391-rescuing-greyhounds-is-a-way-of-life-for-the-orths.html

  • TonyA_says

    I don’t mind paying the correct fare for my kids. If someone made a mistake it’s okay I will pay the correct fare. That’s my morality. No need to fire a person for it. Also would not bother to come here and try to get your and anyone’s sympathy.

  • Grant Ritchie

    What is “the GAC”? I can usually figure out acronyms by Googling them, but in this case I got “Great American Country,” “Global Assembly Cache,” “Governmental Advisory Committee,” “Georgia Accrediting Commission,” “Great American Conference,” and so on and so on and so on. Nothing that seemed to tie in with Disney. Help!

  • Raven_Altosk

    Fiancee said the “VIP Tour” has been around forever. It’s like $350/hr, max of 12 people, minimum 6 hours, she said, remembering to the best of her ability. You get driven around in a van and get backdoor service. It’s usually used by celebrities because of security reasons.

  • Raven_Altosk

    “Guest Assistance Card.” It was devised as a way to assist attraction CMs to help those with invisible disabilities. Fiancee said it used to be given to children/adults with severe autism and such. Generally it allows them to use “an alternate entrance” aka Fast Pass line whenever they’d like, however many times they’d like.

    Now, anyone can go and say they need one and they get it. Seriously, I just saw on a forum that someone wanted one for her ADHD kid. Really.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Aww…look, the little doggie tries to bite.
    And fails.
    It’s so cute.

  • TonyA_says

    Free or 10% of adult fare?
    David we had 2 boys (less than 2 years apart). We tried Hawaii. Too much for Mrs. A. Then we had the 3rd boy. That sealed it. Now it’s fine, no more babies.

  • Michael__K

    What gives you the idea that she didn’t pay the correct fare?

    The original tickets couldn’t have been issued (and they WERE issued according to Chris) without payment of the round trip lap infant fee.

    And 30,000 miles + ~$200 sounds about right for a one-way saver award from Europe. I wonder if they bothered to credit her for the return lap child fare?

    What exactly do you think she got away with it?

    When you make an error, do you call your customers months after you issue a confirmed ticket and 10 days before departure to tell them that they need to pay for a one-way walk up fare to the tune of $2,800 because, oops, that is the “correct fare?”

  • Deborah Orth

    Oh look the little bird brain thinks it made a joke

  • Grant Ritchie

    Thanks.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Except that a subway ride is not an 8-hour trip like a flight across the Atlantic.

  • TonyA_says

    Did you read the article? You don’t need to be a super sleuth to understand that the 2 year old kid traveling of a infant w/o seat is NOT OK.
    Also forget the histrionics. She had 3 options:
    (1) Pay for a child R/T fare before they left.
    (2) Pay for an infant accompanying an adult award ticket holder 10% Y fare outbound – AND- a child one way return fare inbound.

    (3) Get an award ticket for the child.
    Of course what was mentioned here was the one that made the airline look bad.
    But for folks who really know how this works, YAWN.

  • FQTVLR

    First, UA should have admitted to its mistake and fixed the problem. It may have had to do with the age of the child on the return. If the child turns 2 during the travel time then they pay the appropriate fare for the portion they are aged 2.
    Second, with the proliferation of mileage credit cards and points, you no longer have to be an elite frequent flyer to get the miles needed for awards tickets. I have a friend who has the system down to a fine art and gets many more miles shopping, dining, etc than actually flying. And travels to Europe in business class on the miles acquired through shopping and brings a friend as well.)
    Third, and not least, I am tired of the belief that because someone is traveling with small children or any age children for that matter that they are entitled to avoid fees the rest of us have to pay and that their demands trump all else on flights. I recently had parents demand that I move (and it was a demand) so that they could all sit together. Turns out they were originally seated together further back in the plane but dad moved the kids forward so that they could move forward too (The gate agent looked at the history of their seating to figure this one out). Kids were moved back with parents. And I got a nice round of applause for not giving in.
    Parents need to sit with their small children and if it costs more for them to do it, then so be it. You are not more important than me or any other adult on that flight. You are not entitled to extra benefits because you have children. Yes the airline can charge you and your child fees. Pay them and get over it.

  • TonyA_says

    I guess even her biological father is not good enough since maybe he is a MAN.

  • Ami

    This.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    I can’t image why anyone would take a 2-year to Europe on vacation.
    To look at the Mona Lisa?

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    I can pretty much guarantee that those miles were on the government’s dime…or should I say the taxpayers.
    Lots of folk I know that work for Uncle Sam have a ton of FF miles.

  • Judy

    United stuck me with a $300 charge because their customer service reps in India either lie on a rule, or have absolutely no idea what they are doing. When I asked that they fix the error, I received a response stating that they could look into it for me, but that it “might” involve “research charges.” They then sent me a customer satisfaction survey and I indicated my displeasure and wrote that if they actually care to know the details of what happened, they could call my cell number (and I provided it). I never received a call. They don’t care. United is the single worst airline I have ever dealt with in my 42 years on this planet. Their U.S. employees are miserable, too. I have spoken with some of them. The company treats them poorly and they take the brunt of the constant complaints about the poor customer service people get out of their Indian office. I cannot say enough about how bad an airline United is. They are horrible. It’s like they TRY to screw us over and make us miserable. I’ve never seen anything like it in any other situation where I am a customer.

  • Judy

    Sorry, meant lie “as a rule.”

  • TonyA_says

    Are there airline customer service departments from India that do not suck? Really?
    Sorry but if I call and get India. I just call back and try my luck again and again.

    With American, Delta and Southwest I always get someone NOT in India.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    What on earth is going on? I’m usually not for censoring posts, but if such blatant trolling over that many posts doesn’t bring any more action than this, then Chris has a serious problem.

  • emanon256

    Actually, in my experience with United, the Indian reps are often nicer than the US reps. When I call and enter my frequent flyer I more often get a US rep who seems to hate their job and doesn’t want to have to do any work. Then I call and don’t enter it, and get someone in India. While they generally have no clue what they are doing and have to put me on hold a lot, they actually want to help, and usually end up helping.

  • TonyA_says

    You could easily get trampled there by so many Chinese tourists.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Chris, I’ve never understood how exactly your moderators work but today takes the cake. Unless I missed it, the biggest rebuke to the troll was “Hey, this has been flagged, so let’s all move along.” Why have moderators at all if this is how it all plays out?

  • TonyA_says

    Why are there so many loyal UA flyers if service is this bad?
    By pure luck (my location and destinations) I don’t have to fly them.
    But I have to admit, of all the US carriers, they seem to have the best award program to Europe. Is that still true?

  • Joe_D_Messina

    The part I really dislike is when they assign Western names to the offshore reps, like they’re going to fool you into thinking that “George” with the impossible-to-understand accent is sitting in Cedar Rapids or someplace. That’s insulting to the worker, insulting to the customer…just horrible all the way around.

  • AirlineEmployee

    Hasidic or certain Orthodox (?) Jews ask this all the time when the are traveling with females (i.e., in a large group)……
    ….”Will my wife/ daughter/ sister be sitting next to a man?” I know it’s not for the same reason as fear of some “molestation”, but we have no way of knowing this and frankly, without sounding prejudiced or insensitive, we cannot take the time to figure out who is in the next seat – almost impossible by the time the plane is boarding, self-changing seat changes by passengers, etc.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    I was in Venice back in January and was stunned by the numbers of Chinese tourists. And they were spending a lot of money in the high end stores. After that, I would say the Russians have money to burn.

  • Michael__K

    What are you griping about then? She would have already paid the 10% Y fare on the original lap infant tickets plus she did (3). But that’s still too generous for you apparently.

    Do you expect airline agents who issue tickets to understand that a 2-year old kid traveling without a seat is not okay?

    Is this how you would handle your own errors? Pass all the cost of fixing the error onto the customer?

    You think she should have been stuck with 10-day advance
    fares? After having confirmed tickets issued months in advance? Do confirmed tickets not qualify as a contract?

  • emanon256

    They often have the best flights and times with the most availability and they do far better than the discount carriers when they have irregular operations frequent flyer or not. They also have or at least used to have a very good schedule. I could get almost anywhere from Denver with 4+ flights a day every day where the discount carriers had 1 flight a day on certain days. If I had a DEN-XXX on UA and it was canceled, there were 3 more flights that day. If I had the same flight on F9, they wouldn’t have another one scheduled for 2 days. I still think for the most part, their customer service is good, but it depends. It has gone down hill since the merger. I miss the Hawaii call center, they were the best!

    Also, the scheduel has gotten strange since the merger. Instead of the same flight 4+ times a day at the same time every day year round, its now 3 some days, 2 on others, and the times and numbers random change every few weeks. I think its part of Jeff trying to maximize revenue by making sure every flight is 100% full. That being said, they still have better times and are often cheaper than the competition.

    The awards program has gotten pretty bad since the merger, they raised the rates for C and F, and they have much less saver availability. But its still better than other US carriers form what I hear.

  • TonyA_says

    Did you price 10% of the Y fare? Try it and then come back and argue.
    You will see why.

  • EdB

    Hey Joe, it’s even worse than that. The moderators not only rebuked the person the troll attacked, they left the attacking post and deleted all the other ones!

    I still want to know why we are not getting the notifications of posts being deleted like we were told we would.

  • EdB

    I guess you always plan for an unexpected $2800 expense on your travels after everything has been confirmed.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    What do you want a dodgy system like the old Aeroflot ? Of course kids have to pay & when did having a lot of frequent flyer points/miles ever mean you were a loyal customer ?
    Kids should pay the same as adults if they want a seat.
    Most points/miles are gained from credit cards not actual flying.

  • EdB

    Are you willing to pay the “correct” fare when the agent makes a mistake but doesn’t catch it until right before the trip and the new “correct” fare is a lot more than it would have been if the agent hadn’t made the error?

  • EdB

    I don’t know why these people go to all this trouble “hiring” disabled people when all they need to do is rent a wheelchair or electric convenience vehicle and basically get the GAC.

  • TonyA_says

    So Mike, how do you handle your errors?

  • EdB

    Raven, cupcake is right. You are way out of your league. You are so much further above her.

  • TonyA_says

    I am my own agent! I pay up.

  • Michael__K

    I’ve priced lap infant seats to Europe before, and I just checked united.com for a few itineraries. And the base fare + taxes for a lap child consistently run somewhere between 10% and 18% of the lowest available adult fare.

  • EdB

    So you’re saying that the agent should then eat the cost of their own mistake? Or if you made that mistake for one of your customers, you would expect them to pay for your mistake?

  • Grant Ritchie

    I gotta tell ya, Joe, this is one of those days when we moderators also wonder “Why have moderators?” If we take action, we get beat up and/or overruled. If we fail to take action, we hear about that, too. Why have moderators, indeed.

  • MarkieA

    I read somewhere, many years ago, that a military man was “accused” of being a potential rapist by some female congresswoman, and his response was that, if that’s the case, then I get all women are potential prostitutes, too.

  • TonyA_says

    OK so you found out the even if you pay 10% Y plus full tax/fees it would still be cheaper than the lowest Fare Basis (the child could have bought by itself) on the IAD-STR-IAD route the OP most probably took.
    Unless you can get 2 more sectors of the same award tickets then the mistake fare was obviously cheaper if you can get away with it.

  • TonyA_says

    You are assuming I made a mistake :)
    I’m too old to be trapped by silly games you play. Sorry.

  • Michael__K

    I apologize and I try to make it right.

    I can’t imagine any of my employers, past or present, blaming a customer or making them pay extra for something they did relying on my expertise or a colleague’s expertise.

  • EdB

    Well if the moderators would take the proper action against blatant violations instead of posting general reprimands against the people attacked, they wouldn’t catch so much flack.

  • EdB

    My silly game? You are the one refusing to answer a legitimate question by playing games.

    So answer the question. Do you think the customer should have to pay for a mistake an agent makes that should have been caught at the time of booking by paying the higher walk-on fare or should the agent have to pay the difference so the customer doesn’t pay more than they would have if the mistake had not been made? No silly game. A legitimate question. Don’t play your silly game trying to deflect the question and not answering it.

  • TonyA_says

    The passenger MUST pay the correct fare. How about that? :)

  • EdB

    The does not answer the question. Yes, it is expected the customer to pay the correct fare. But if the agent makes a mistake and when the mistake is discovered, there is a cost difference between the “correct” fare at the time of booking to the time of discovery, who should pay that difference? The agent who made the mistake or the client?

    I feel really sorry for your clients if you make it this hard for them to get a straight answer from you.

  • Deborah Orth

    My point exactly, long flight that kids probably won’t enjoy to do things they probably won’ like either

  • TonyA_says

    Great I don’t need clients like you :)

  • EdB

    Who said I would ever be one of your clients? And who’s the one playing games? Why can’t you answer the question? Client or Agent? Who should pay the “correct” fare difference between time of booking and the time the mistake is made?

  • Michael__K

    Huh? I’m not sure I follow your complaint.

    Are you complaining that she didn’t have to spend more miles because you assume (spitefully) that she couldn’t have found a one-way Saver award many months in advance?

    Right now, I see saver award availability for STR-IAD for FOUR PASSENGERS for the end of August and for virtually all weekdays days in September and beyond. And the co-pays for those flights are ~$100, (not $200). And that’s before factoring in what the OP for her original lap infant tickets.

    Who thinks details are not important?

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’m not getting involved in the you, Michael, EdB love triangle. ;) But I do have a question.

    If my travel agent gave me incorrect information (And I’m not saying that happened here as I wasn’t there), resulting in the original quoted fare being erroneous and the correct fare being substantial higher..

    What is the proper recourse? I’m wondering suppose the passenger had neither the miles nor cash to afford the additional costs of the correct fare?

    Is the passenger just SOL? Or is there a potential resolution such as cancelling the tickets.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I understand it can seem like a no-win. And I truly never have understood how this system works. I’ve kind of picked up on the fact that you’re volunteers, correct? Maybe that explains why there are multiples of you? Because there just doesn’t seem to be all that much traffic where a whole team of mods is warranted. In fact, it appears there are times when all the moderators aren’t on the same page and that would cease to be an issue if there were just one of you.

    And, out of curiosity, why is it that some moderators are denoted as such by their login name while others are not? Fly Icarus is denoted up above, while your name here doesn’t say anything.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I read that line all the time but I still never really understand the point. The airlines have decided to reward people for things other than flying. End of story. That’s still loyalty because it entails getting their special card, patronizing partner businesses, and what all else they feel like giving points for. Get so many points and you’re entitled to whatever their rules say you get. Doesn’t matter if every single point came from flying or zero points came that way.

  • Michael__K

    I call BS. I just searched united.com for 4 one-way award tickets for STR-IAD. Right now, I see Economy Saver Award availability for virtually all weekdays (and even some weekends) on or after Aug 28. The only exceptions are Labor Day, Sep 27, Sep 30, and Oct 1-11 (presumably Oktoberfest).

    And the OP booked months in advance.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    I’ve had seat confirmation upon most of my intra-Europe travels. Not when I booked a codeshare online though. In those cases I called the airline a couple days later to get a seat.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    you don’t have to patronise partner businesses. Most people earn points/miles just by using their credit card anywhere. Most cards in Australia will give you points with some airline. In Australia, we now only have 2 major domestic airlines, Qantas Group & Virgin Group.

  • Raven_Altosk

    You guys are supposed to EMAIL us if you are going to delete. Who deleted mine without the email?

    That’s a violation of the rules that were set forth earlier.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Dude, I just bought an 18 year Oban and I am sitting down with it tonight. Hell yeah.

    …that and a little Saints Row III.

  • bodega3

    Many intraEurope flights in coach do not allow advance seat assignments and they are obtained at the airport.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I wouldn’t have moved. Seriously, that’s giving up great seats for kind of okay seats.

  • bodega3

    On our end, we can’t issue a ticket without the information and same on UA.com. Not sure if this can be overridden on UA”s end.
    More times than not, I have had the carrier lose an infants secured information. It even happened to me on our last trip. I put it, ran the tickets, but when going online for boarding passes, UA.com said there no such information. It happens too often according to other agents I talk with.

  • bodega3

    Yes, secured information is required of every passenger onboard, even infants.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Why is that?
    I flew LHR to CDG in coach twice. Besides that, I was business/first. Then I discovered the Eurostar and used that instead.

  • bodega3

    I don’t know why. We had seats in biz class, but not in coach until we checked in for our flights. As for Eurostar, yes, that can be so much less and from city center to city center. I am about to do ticket in my GDS for $66 per person and on a rail site it is over double that price and air is pricing well over double.

  • TonyA_says

    Darn, I wish my wife worked for Diageo so I can taste those. They’re here close to where I live and they say the employees get samples.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    So much cheaper. At the time, walk up first class on Eurostar was 170 Euros. Business on BA was $595

  • NB

    My favorite experience was flying with a 5 week old, who had a seat, and being told that my child was being bumped to a lap child, despite the paid ticket. When I refused to board the plane unless the child had a seat, I was told I was a lazy mother. Ironically, that was the most turbulent flight my kids ever rode.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi Joe,
    Thanks for understanding. Yeah, we’re volunteers. Originally, there were ten of us, but I think a few have gotten discouraged and stepped back. I know I have. That’s why you seldom see the “Moderator” tag attached to my name when I post. My answer to you a couple of hours ago was posted with my moderator tag (I can see it on my screen), because I was posting as a moderator. My posts to Raven earlier today were posted without the tag because I was just asking him a question as me, Grant Ritchie. One or two of the other mods post all of their comments, moderator-related and otherwise, with their moderator tag attached. You’d have to ask them why they do that.
    And you’re right, quite often the moderators aren’t in agreement, and when that happens, it’s majority rule, with Chris having the final say. Sometimes, when Chris is out of touch, the moderators will implement a particular action, then when Chris reviews it, he reverses our decision. That’s what happened earlier today.
    Just know that we never set out to deliberately piss anybody off. We love this site as much as you do; that’s why we volunteered. But sometimes we come up short; we’re human. I just wish the few people who tear into us so aggressively and insultingly would step up and volunteer to serve alongside us as moderators. A change of viewpoint can be a wonderful thing. :-)

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    The U.S. banking system is pretty dodgy/3rd world. Look who caused the GFC !!!

  • TonyA_says

    Every problem is different Carver. This problem is NOT about TAs. Not sure what role we play with Infants with parents traveling on award tickets. The OP dealt with the airline directly. All I can say is make sure you have a correct ticket or you don’t fly. I’d leave it to you guys to sue the airline. I can best help by explaining to people HOW TO PREVENT problems because fixing them is usually very expensive and irritating.

    PS, About the OP, don’t know what she wants CE to do. She got the problem solved. Now what?

  • MarkKelling

    The GAC is the sound my cat makes when coughing up a hairball. :-)

  • Raven_Altosk

    I asked a question above and still haven’t received a response, yet you replied to a post that was made after mine. Could you address my question, please?

  • Raven_Altosk

    A wheelchair doesn’t guarantee unlimited fast pass line access. Fiancee said what you need to do is:
    1. Go to Guest Services.
    2. Bring the child/adult
    3. State that you have a “special need” that would be best served by “a quieter, less crowded place to wait.”

    That last line there are the “magic words” or “secret handshake.”

    Di$ney cannot ask for proof, so there you go. There’s your golden ticket which will allow the person whose name is on it plus 5 other people to use FP all day without collecting fast passes.

  • bodega3

    If you paid for a ticket, then I am glad you stood your ground.

  • Raven_Altosk

    She needs a boyfriend or a hobby and I don’t care which. But, given her personality, I’m guessing quilting is looking pretty good.

  • TonyA_says

    I think you post is very revealing. They asked you if the infant will be under 2 years of age the whole trip and not the DOB. That means they did not need the DOB to manually price a ticket because they are the airline. TAs cannot do that. We need to key in the infant’s DOB and name associate the infant with the parent in order for the infant fare to be valid.

    What would happen if you said my son will turn 2 while on the trip? The airline agent will probably price you son using the CHILD fare.

    I think the reason they sent you an email was because they could not send the complete TSA Secure Flight Data (at least 72 hours prior departure) which needs DOB. And then they realize that something might not be right with the ticket because the DOB compared with the latest flight departure date will indicate the infant is 2 years old :(
    So answering the question correctly was very important.

  • Michael__K

    Does GDS have validation to block TA’s from ticketing a lap infant who turns 2 during the itinerary? If not, then a TA can absolutely make the same error the United rewards agent did.

    If there is automatic validation for that, even in GDS for TA’s, then that makes United’s error all the more breathtaking.

    PS- When the OP contacted CE, United wanted $2,800 to fix their error. I guess you believe that was a fair demand.

  • Guest

    I call BS on your BS I just tried the same search. When I search for 1 person, I see what you have in your screen shots. When I search for 2 adults and 1 child (As I said 3 in my post), I get almost no availability. Also, my statement was based on getting a ticket 10 days out, but even 2 month out I see very little.
    I now remember why I stopped talking to you on here. When I defend the airlines. you say I am wrong, when I bash the airlines, you say I am wrong. When I show you where a link is, you say you don’t see it. Now when I say there is no saver ability, you say I am wrong again. I think you just like to argue. I don’t come here to argue, I come here for interesting discussions. so I will go back to ignoring you.

  • emanon256

    lol

  • emanon256

    I call BS on your BS I just tried the same search. When I search for 1 person, I see what you have in your screen shots. When I search for 2 adults and 1 child (As I said 3 in my post), I get almost no availability. Also, my statement was based on getting a ticket 10 days out, but even 2 month out I see very little.

    I now remember why I stopped talking to you on here. When I defend the airlines, you say I am wrong, when I bash the airlines, you say I am wrong. When I show you where a link is, you say you don’t see it. Now when I say there is no saver ability, you say I am wrong again. I think you just like to argue. I don’t come here to argue, I come here for interesting discussions. so I will go back to ignoring you until you get less argumentative.

  • Michael__K

    Check the screenshots more closely. You missed the part where it says:

    Traveler Total: 4

    United Saver rewards are for 21+ days advance booking. The OP ticketed her flights well over 21 days in advance. United waited until 10 days before departure to alert her to the problem.

    I’m not here to argue, but someone needs to call it out when people dishonestly mock and disparage OP’s. (“Finding 3 international saver awards on the same flight is almost impossible” <— that's a demonstrably false assertion ).

  • emanon256

    It was when we were boarding, the machine beeped and they handed us new boarding passes. I usually only see that with an upgrade. Then the person said they had to move us to accommodate a family and I was baffled. Wife said to let it go, so I had no choice :)
    The family in our old seats had 1 toddler and one lap child. Maybe they need the bulkhead? Maybe it was an oxygen mask issue (I just thought of that). The toddler kept entertaining our infant between the seats and it was actually a fun flight. So far our son has been on 10 flights and all have been great, he does very well. Better than when he is home. How has it been with your baby?

  • EdB

    And I’m going to guess the down vote you got on your question was by the moderator who deleted the posts without messaging you.

  • emanon256

    Oh wow Oban is my favorite and I just ran out a few weeks ago. Now I need to go see if they have the 18 year. Have you tried Springbank? A close second favorite for mine. Very unique flavor.

  • Michael__K

    I see availability for FOUR PASSENGERS

    For every weekday on or after Aug 28 except Labor Day, Sep 27, Sep 30, and Oct 1-11 — as I already stated.

    Don’t argue — just show us which dates I’m wrong about.

  • EdB

    Sorry if you thought I was implying you got access to fastpass line with it. You don’t. You only get access through the exit on rides who queues are not ADA compliant. In California Adventures, I believe the only ride not ADA compliant is California Screamin’. But for those rides you do have the special access, an ECV will get you to the front just as fast as a GAC card. And even with the GAC card, you can be subject to long waits.

  • EdB

    She rescues retired greyhounds if I remember correctly.

  • AH

    i had to google “GAC acronym disney” to get it, Grant. don’t feel bad. (and i always have to google some of the “insider” travel agent acronyms. (not all of the readers here are travel pros, some of us are civilians. (cough, cough, TonyA…lol))

  • emanon256

    See my screen shot.

  • Michael__K

    Uncheck “United Airlines flights only” on your initial search, and you’ll get lots of itineraries opening up that include Lufthansa metal.

  • TonyA_says

    I decided to stop talking to 2 people here, too.
    I should have listened to you a long time ago :)

  • Michael__K

    Details don’t matter anymore when the details don’t match the picture you paint?

  • Grant Ritchie

    Ha!
    My (^;^)~’s make a “huk… huk… huk… GAC…” sound.

  • bodega3

    I have done this with WN, but not in the GDS. When you book a reservation in the GDS that is roundtrip with a roundtrip fare and add an infant, you can’t divide the infant out as it is tagged with one of the adults in the PNR. The adult is traveling roundtrip, then the infant shows that, too. So what has to happen, unless Tony or Linda have a way around this, is do one way tickets in each direction or buy a roundtrip ticket for the infant, which becomes a child on the return. Any child under two is considered an infant in the GDS.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi Raven,

    You’re right. According to our comments policy…
    “If your comment is flagged, the group will do its best to explain what was objectionable and to give you an opportunity to resubmit the comment. The moderation team tries to handle these corrections privately, but on occasion you will see a moderator make a public comment about a post. We reserve the right to do that.”

    I wasn’t involved in the deletion of comments today, but if it was done without the poster(s) being contacted (which it appears that it was), then yes, we dropped the ball. If Chris doesn’t beat me to it, I’ll say something on the Moderators’ forum. I’m sorry it happened, but for what it’s worth, we’re just people. When we’re referred to as “guard dogs chewing through (our) leashes again,” that hurts. We don’t deserve it. I’ll try to make sure that what happened to you doesn’t happen again.

  • Michael__K

    Just to verify I understood correctly: GDS forces you to enter the DOB and it won’t allow lap ticketing for the roundtrip if the infant turns 2 in between the segments(?)

  • MarkKelling

    UA shows different availability depending on if you are signed in to your mileage account and what level you are. So if you are a higher level elite, you probably see more than the casual visitor to the site who is not elite or not a high level elite.

  • Grant Ritchie

    I think it’s just that some people seem to be recreational arguers, and that gets tiresome.

  • Michael__K

    Actually anybody can verify what I’m seeing, so there’s no need to take my word for anything. You don’t even need to sign in to see award availability without booking. Just go to united.com, select MileagePlus -> Book with Award Miles.

    Choose From: STR To: IAD , One Way, Flexible Dates, 4 passengers, and *don’t* check “Nonstops Flights Only” or “United Airlines Flight Only”

  • pkipnis

    They have to the point of not being able to pay their executives their obscenely high bonus. unless they squeeze every nickle out of each passenger they can. Except Southwest, but they’ve been profitable every quarter but two and don’t fly outside the US…. yet

  • jpp42

    How did they know the child was young enough to be a lap child? If you paid for a normal seat why do they have the child’s DOB?

  • Michael__K

    When I notice that OP’s are unfairly or dishonestly ridiculed, I’m offended by that as a reader and I think someone ought to call it out. I’d love if more posters scrutinize the claims of the attackers and notice and beat me to it and I wrote fewer such posts.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I would’ve handled this a little differently. I would’ve started screaming that this woman attempted to steal my baby. I really wouldn’t care how much time she spent trying to explain her horrible self to the airport police…

  • Raven_Altosk

    She’s probably one of those people who travel with their “therapy dogs.” Y’know, because she’s such a headcase that she can’t leave the house without Fido.

  • Raven_Altosk

    She’s been on two, and we’re doing another one in October. The first one, she slept the entire way. The one last month, she was more active, but she didn’t cry. She did, however, change the air in the cabin during descent and of course we couldn’t get up to deal with it…

    Fortunately, no one said anything…

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yeah, I had one of those guys want me to move so I wasn’t sitting next to one of his daughters. I refused.

    You want to be all weird in your enclave, be weird in your enclave. You venture into the world, put on your 21st century panties and grow up.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Ridiculous. I would’ve told the kid to grow up if she’s going to be flying alone.

  • emanon256

    LOL. I haven’t been unfortunate enough to have that happen yet. Though I was concerned on the 7 hour flight, but he made it stink free.

  • Hanope

    This is why, when flying internationally, I try to use a non-american airline. In fact, my recent purchase of airline tickets through Jet Airways even got me discounts on the kids’ tickets, albiet, only 10%, but hey, every little bit counts, especially on international airline tickets.

  • Mickay

    the policy is to pay 10% of the ticket price, for a lap infant going over sea – there is NO WAY $2,800 is 10% of the fee

  • Lindabator

    That is why we carry Errors & Omissions insurance – for those once in a doomsday events. (Been an agent 20 years, and have NEVER needed to use it).

  • Lindabator

    True – but you can get the rate desk to store the correct fare ladder for the one way if necessary. Can honestly say its only happened once, and can definately be a PITA! :)

  • bodega3

    Michael, when an infant is traveling the entry in my system is:
    I/Smith/Mary Frances Miss (Miss is optional). Then I would normally have to do a pricing entry for the adult and the infant. The secure data information is done separately and the two don’t work together for pricing, just for ticketing which are different for issuing of tickets.
    Linda said the airline’s rate desk would have to actually price the itinerary, which means we queue it over to them and that take up to 72 hours to get a message back before a ticket can be issued. I still can figure out how this is done in my mind with the linear, but if Linda has done it, then it can be done. I can see how it would be a PITA and someone at the carrier caught their agent’s mistake as they would mine if I did it wrong.
    BTW, the agent you talk to on the phone doesn’t do the ticketing. I have had carriers handle something for clients over the phone and it took days before the ticket was issued. I couldn’t do that, but they can.

  • Molly

    I agree with JPP42. Chris, I love ya’, but this isn’t about kids. It’s about poor, very poor, customer service and their agents giving wrong information to people. Hesha had no reason to think something was amiss when making her reservation.
    We all have the right to expect that a business representative is giving us correct information when we call and buy a service – and using FF miles IS buying. The rep screwed up and didn’t know the rules.
    The outcome should have been an “oops, we goofed, here’s how we’ll make it up to you”.
    What she got in the end was what she would have paid (30K + $200.) had she been connected with a knowledgeable agent at the beginning. Hesha was lucky that she had another 30,000 miles to use for the child. What would have happened if she didn’t?

  • Linda

    “Should the airlines be allowed to make money from ?” Is a question that, barring safety and basic humanitarian factors, we pretty much have to answer yes. Because an airline is a business for profit, and they can make money, legally and morally, from anything that customers are willing to pay for. Do we have to like it ? No. But I don’t see where kids are any different than anyone else as far as what airlines charge. I actually don’t think the “lap kids” policy is very safe, for any child that is able to stand and walk. Most of the toddlers I see on planes spend their time running up and down the aisles, minimally supervised.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I fell in love with flying when I was 8. The wait at the gate looking at the planes come in, boarding and people watching, ascent, watching the clouds, the uniforms, asking the Stewardess questions, and the in-flight movie. The time went by before I knew it.

    Oh, wait, that’s how I still am today.

  • Deborah Orth

    2 year old is very different from 8 year old. Pressure changes hurt their ears and they get fidgety. Also many children get bored on long flights especially now when airlines want you in your seat as much as possible. Personally I really don’t like flying at all and much prefer travel in a Amtrak sleeper car with a private roomette. Nothing could be finer dinner in the diner.

  • JewelEyed

    The airline will work something out? Like forcing other people out of their seats? Yeah, great solution. And driving isn’t “the alternative”. The other alternative is what I said. Deciding not to take the cheap way out and pressuring airlines to provide a way to allow otherwise “lap children” to ride safely in their own seat by providing flight safe seats for children that can be temporarily installed…that’s another alternative. If people want to cheap out on their child’s safety, I guess that’s their business. What I do know is that if there’s anything that is easy to twist a company’s arm about in this day and age, it’s the safety of children. A change could be made if parents collectively refuse to think with their wallets.

  • JewelEyed

    A 14 year old who called her mother “Mommy” and then started crying when she couldn’t move? Seriously? Maybe she was younger than she looked, because I can’t believe a kid in high school or about to start high school would act like a 7 year old.

  • JewelEyed

    That should never happen anyway. If you can’t get a seat next to who you want to sit next to on the flight you plan to take, you really need to select another flight unless it is an absolute, last minute, screaming emergency. But yeah, that’s definitely not a viable option if it DOES happen.

  • JewelEyed

    I’m childfree. The sound of screaming children sets my nerves on edge and goes right through me. The idea of sitting on a plane with a screaming child is like the idea of being locked in a room with a shrieking banshee. But I would never have the temerity to tell other people to leave their kids home or never go on a nice vacation. Would I love a childfree airline? Hell yes. But we are all cattle, no better or worse than each other, when we’re under the control of an airline. If I suddenly became sick on a flight (not that I have), people would deal with it. Why? Because we’re all in the same miserable boat. Flying is no longer a luxury, a pleasure, it’s now almost as bad as riding a bus. The fact that you don’t have or want children is probably less of a choice and more how you’re wired. I wouldn’t pat myself on the back for having green eyes or being heterosexual, you shouldn’t pat yourself on the back because you don’t want kids. I sure don’t.

  • JewelEyed

    You can’t assume she’s young, single, or a yuppie. The minute you start doing that, you’re no better than she is. But you’re spot on with entitled.

  • JewelEyed

    I am young, single, and childfree. Do me a favor, don’t lump me in with her.

  • JewelEyed

    You’re already paying for everything, don’t you know that already?

  • JewelEyed

    I understand assigning easier to pronounce nicknames to people with long, difficult to pronounce names (like maybe Aisha instead of Aishwarya), but assigning a totally different name for work is stupid. The only thing I wonder about is…I know often young people in China choose English language nicknames, especially when they come to the US as exchange students. I knew a girl named Qing who preferred we call her “Katherine”. Is this a thing in India at all? I don’t know.

  • EdB

    I didn’t say *all* younger, single travelers. Only that when I have had problems, more often than not, it has been younger, single travelers. I have still had problems with families with kids, but not as often. It also means that I have not had problems with younger, single travelers.

    The only person lumping you in with that group of problem makers is yourself.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I agree Deborah. A 2 year old is a lot harder to carry on a plane especially as a “lap” child. Heck, the 6 month olds are a challenge for me to hold at home!

    That said, parents can prepare. For the pressure changes, try a warm bottle at the ready, make sure they’re plenty exercised before the flight (tire ’em out), etc. I have sat next to parents with infants who did commonsense measures such as this and the children were well behaved.

    Now about the train… Try Eastern Europe. You can get a full day’s travel for about $50 in a sleeper car with 3 other people (I usually travel with my wife and in-laws). Restaurant car is about $5 per person but I love buying snacks from the platform. Saint Petersberg to Beijing, 7 time zones or so, about 4 to 5 hundred. Along the way, Lake Baikal, deepest lake in the world (ok, it’s a side excursion but worth it.) Amtrak is ok, but overpriced for me. I prefer jetblue for about 1/3 the price and they’re pretty comfortable.

  • Deborah Orth

    Spend airfare to fly to Europe to take a train when I get great discounts on Amtrak using their rewards program (example: recently took Amtrak round trip in a roomette with my husband Chicago to Flagstaff returning from Kingman Arizona total cost $250.00) and my $$$ stays here in the U.S.A. I think I’ll take a pass on that.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Bravo. That’s a pretty good deal although I don’t know the background as to how you earned those rewards (business travel or lots of personal train travel?) Airfare to Europe isn’t that bad if you shop in advance: about $850 RT in a decent season. And intercontinental travel is more luxurious than domestic: baggage, meals, alcohol, and IFE’s all included.
    Yes, your money won’t stay local if you take the train abroad but oh, what memories. The Swiss trains almost glide on butter they’re so well made and maintained. They have notched rails because the climbs are so steep and you fear you’ll fall off the side of the mountain (but the train is so steady, you know it won’t.) The Ukrainian sleeper cars have coal fired heaters in winter. The scenery is unique and breathtaking.

    Not to say that Chicago to Arizona is bad. I’d love to see the desert from rail having watched it from my car driving the route.

  • Deborah Orth

    We get points for travel on Amtrak. We both have the Chase rewards Master card which gives us points for things we would buy anyway food gas etc. Our Electric provider is also tied to Amtrak points We also get partner offers from Amtrak offering 2x 3x and sometimes even 4xs points on things like hotel rooms rental cars flowers etc. They also have special discounts for seniors. All meals in the Dinning car are included in the sleeper car fare, and we feel that the food served is very good. Also on some routes The Empire Builder Chicago to Seattle they have a wine and cheese tasting in the dinning car for sleeper car passengers. It features select wines and cheeses from the Pacific Northwest and at the end of the tasting they have a trivia contest to win bottles of wine. Last but not least we bring adult beverages with us in our carryon bags to consume in our sleeper compartment. Try doing that on an airplane. Amtrak is not for everyone but if you have the time like we do (both of us are retired) it is a very pleasant way to travel.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    I dig that. I have Amex Blue and just love cold, hard cash. I get about a grand back per year.

    My father-in-law has a retired friend who took cheap train travel to an extreme: In Ukraine, retirees get free streetcar travel. So he took the streetcar all the way across the country. It was a LONG trip!

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Thanks for all the info, Grant. Keep up the good fight.

    I will say that 10 moderators on this site seems totally nuts given the amount of traffic. That completely invites cases of where somebody thinks somebody else is going to act on something. And, honestly, Chris overruling somebody more than maybe once or twice should seemingly be the end of that person as a moderator. There should be a pretty well-defined sense of what crosses the line and if an individual frequently isn’t in tune with Chris on where that is, he/she is doing more harm than good.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Thanks, Joe.
    Yeah, you’re right… ten mods can be a bit much. Sometimes it seems as if we’re tripping over each other. But having just one wouldn’t work either. We get comments coming in at all hours of the day and night, and Chris likes to always have somebody on duty to keep an eye on them.
    You might think that there would be a well-defined sense of what crosses the line and what doesn’t, but there really isn’t. Moderating this site is a fairly recent development, and our default position is to always give our posters the maximum possible latitude. As a rule, no moderator ever makes a decision unilaterally; there are almost always a minimum of three of us voting on an action. So, when Chris reverses a decision, he’s really overruling a small group of moderators, not just one. It doesn’t happen often, and we look at it as a chance to learn and fine-tune our policies.
    We’re a work in progress. I know it can sometimes be frustrating to the folks who post on and support this site, but please believe me… our hearts are in the right place.

  • JewelEyed

    Not blaming you, just making a point that there are plenty of us who don’t share her view.

  • BMG4ME

    BA has a policy that if the child is a lap child on the way out, then they qualify on the way back even if the child turns two during the trip. If United has a different policy that is fine however they should have communicated this during the booking. To realize they made a mistake and expect the customer to pay so much is wrong. The policy itself is not wrong.