Had to pay full fare for baby but received confirmation that nothing was necessary for lap child...

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Jan 24, 2015
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#1
My friend bought RT tickets from Shanghai to Newark, NJ. Prior to the outbound flight to Newark she called UA to add baby as a lap child, and paid a fee for lap child (10% of base fare). Prior to the return trip she called in to see if she needed to pay for the baby since now the baby was older than two. The phone agent said baby was already on the return ticket and that she didn’t need to do anything else. She got the confirmation email with the baby’s name on the roundtrip (return leg) ticket but when they got to the check-in gate at Newark, the agent said the baby wasn’t paid for. The gate agent said they had to a pay full fare for the baby, even though previously the phone agent had said nothing additional needed to be done. The gate agent said they had to pay the realtime full fare at that minute (thousands of dollars) for the baby otherwise the baby (who had just turned two) couldn’t get on. After some haggling, the gate agent said they could pay the amount of $859 and just request a refund later. So they paid $859 for the child and then boarded the flight and both flew back. After the flight, my friend requested a refund online and UA said they couldn’t honor the request because it’s already been used. So the airport agent wouldn’t honor the email confirmation and the online agent wouldn’t honor the refund request. What can we do?​
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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#3
Whoever told her the round trip ticket was already purchased was wrong. If the child turns 2 on the trip, they are supposed to have their own seat.
But airlines can make exceptions and give the child a seat at no charge.

From United’s website:

A ticket will have to be purchased for any flight on which the infant will be over 2 years old and the child must occupy their own seat.

This is from the FAA:

As such, airlines must, by regualtion require that any child who has reached or exceeded two years of age be seated in a cabin seat and may travel under "lap child" status.

Which means the airline has the discretion to allow the child a seat but not charge and let her travel as a lap child.

Your friend should use our company contacts and write to United to see who was correct- the agent that told her it’s not required or the one who charged.

We have a post on how to write:

https://forum.elliott.org/threads/resolving-consumer-complaints-and-developing-a-paper-trail.8903/
 
Jan 24, 2015
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#4
Whoever told her the round trip ticket was already purchased was wrong. If the child turns 2 on the trip, they have to pay the fare.

From United’s website:

A ticket will have to be purchased for any flight on which the infant will be over 2 years old and the child must occupy their own seat.
The RT ticket was purchased before baby was two. Child was younger than 2 on outbound leg, and older than 2 on return leg. But the original ticket was purchased before second birthday. Then when she called, prior to the return trip, she received confirmation email that it wasn't necessary to pay additional. Only when she got to the airport did the gate agent say it was not acceptable. The gate agent is saying their own confirmation email is not acceptable? That doesn't seem right.
 
Likes: VoR61

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
18,799
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www.promalvacations.com
#6
The RT ticket was purchased before baby was two. Child was younger than 2 on outbound leg, and older than 2 on return leg. But the original ticket was purchased before second birthday. Then when she called, prior to the return trip, she received confirmation email that it wasn't necessary to pay additional. Only when she got to the airport did the gate agent say it was not acceptable. The gate agent is saying their own confirmation email is not acceptable? That doesn't seem right.
It depends on the airlines policy. One of them wasn’t correct. I would again tell her to write to United and get the information directly from them.

The child was required to have a seat according to the FAA but the airline doesn’t have to charge for it when the child turns 2 mid trip.

Have her use our information and write to United- hopefully she may be able to get a refund and they can properly train staff if she didn’t need to pay.
 
May 16, 2018
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#8
I know I'm gonna get screamed at.....but I think ALL children should be in their own seats, including infants. They should be in their own seat in a carseat. We always purchased seats for the kids--and we aren't wealthy by any stretch.

When they were young, they did get significantly discounted fares in their own seats, and the seats were so worth it. The kids were safe and comfortable. The parents and everyone around them was safe and comfortable. And....the kids started racking up frequent flyer miles and getting their own free tickets very quickly.

The last time I flew and was next to a mom with a lap baby, the baby--and I do not think a child "under 2" that can walk around counts as a baby--was squirming and escaping and couldn't really fit in the space.

I'm sure that people will argue, but the flight attendants told me they have seen horrible accidents in turbulence, and insist that it is unsafe for the baby.

I guess I should duck and run now!
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
18,799
17,000
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#9
I know I'm gonna get screamed at.....but I think ALL children should be in their own seats, including infants. They should be in their own seat in a carseat. We always purchased seats for the kids--and we aren't wealthy by any stretch.

When they were young, they did get significantly discounted fares in their own seats, and the seats were so worth it. The kids were safe and comfortable. The parents and everyone around them was safe and comfortable. And....the kids started racking up frequent flyer miles and getting their own free tickets very quickly.

The last time I flew and was next to a mom with a lap baby, the baby--and I do not think a child "under 2" that can walk around counts as a baby--was squirming and escaping and couldn't really fit in the space.

I'm sure that people will argue, but the flight attendants told me they have seen horrible accidents in turbulence, and insist that it is unsafe for the baby.

I guess I should duck and run now!
Don’t duck- I agree with you 100%.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
18,799
17,000
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#10
Good find, Barry- I had to search the link but United clearly states the child needs to pay for a seat:

Children who have reached their second birthday are required to purchase a seat and occupy a seat with a separate seat belt. Infants reaching their second birthday after outbound flights will be required to purchase a Ticket and occupy a seat for continuing/return flights only.

It seems the gate agent was correct. I would still tell your friend to write because if she had been given the correct information when she booked, the fee for the seat might have been much less than she paid.

And if she has it in writing from someone at UA that she didn’t need to buy the return seat she has even more of a reason to show the agent wasn’t properly trained.
 
Likes: jsn55
Jul 13, 2016
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#12
It really depends on what that confirmation email said. If it just lists the baby's name, and no ticket number, then baby was still being considered a lap child. I suspect the email was just a re-send of the original confirmation where the child was a legal lap child.
 
Jun 24, 2019
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#13
I would think this issue depends upon what the airline knew and when it knew it. Surely when the passengers showed up in Shanghai for the outbound trip and provided the baby's passport, United knew old how the baby would be on the already reserved return.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
18,799
17,000
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#15
I would think this issue depends upon what the airline knew and when it knew it. Surely when the passengers showed up in Shanghai for the outbound trip and provided the baby's passport, United knew old how the baby would be on the already reserved return.
But they aren’t looking at whether they have a seat on the return. They are only interested in what applied to that flight, not the return.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#16
My friend bought RT tickets from Shanghai to Newark, NJ. Prior to the outbound flight to Newark she called UA to add baby as a lap child, and paid a fee for lap child (10% of base fare). Prior to the return trip she called in to see if she needed to pay for the baby since now the baby was older than two. The phone agent said baby was already on the return ticket and that she didn’t need to do anything else. She got the confirmation email with the baby’s name on the roundtrip (return leg) ticket but when they got to the check-in gate at Newark, the agent said the baby wasn’t paid for. The gate agent said they had to a pay full fare for the baby, even though previously the phone agent had said nothing additional needed to be done. The gate agent said they had to pay the realtime full fare at that minute (thousands of dollars) for the baby otherwise the baby (who had just turned two) couldn’t get on. After some haggling, the gate agent said they could pay the amount of $859 and just request a refund later. So they paid $859 for the child and then boarded the flight and both flew back. After the flight, my friend requested a refund online and UA said they couldn’t honor the request because it’s already been used. So the airport agent wouldn’t honor the email confirmation and the online agent wouldn’t honor the refund request. What can we do?​
What does the traveler expect to pay? What was the roundtrip ticket? It is unlikely that the child will be allowed to travel for free.

Could there have been a communication problem?
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#18
I went looking for the specifics and found this: https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/special-needs/infants.html

wherein it states . . .

"Infants who reach their second birthday after their outbound flight must have a purchased ticket and occupy a seat for their return flight(s)."​

So it seems that your friend may not have told UA "up front" about the child's age change between the outbound and return flights . . .
 
Jan 24, 2015
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#19
I went looking for the specifics and found this: https://www.united.com/ual/en/us/fly/travel/special-needs/infants.html

wherein it states . . .

"Infants who reach their second birthday after their outbound flight must have a purchased ticket and occupy a seat for their return flight(s)."​

So it seems that your friend may not have told UA "up front" about the child's age change between the outbound and return flights . . .
No, she did. And that's why she called to confirm before she flew the return leg. Why