American Airlines / astronomical "fuel surcharge" for infant in lap on american airlines
As an american airlines (aa) frequent flyer of 100k miles, I have to say aa just isn't what it used to be when it comes to customer relations, and they won't be getting another 100k miles out of my family.
While shopping on their website for flights, I tried to select "infant in lap" for our one year old son, but there was no option available, so I consulted the site on the subject and found a page "traveling with children and infants" page, which informed me the following:
"infants under 2 years of age who travel within the united states, canada, puerto rico and the u.S. Virgin islands may be held in an adult's lap at no charge. For transatlantic/transpacific travel or travel to/from latin america, children under two years of age are required to have a ticket in their name for 10% of the applicable adult fare for the international portion."
When I called reservations before booking the flight, they said their online system doesn't enable us to select "infant in lap", and I should just call in sometime after we make the reservation to notify aa of the infant in lap.
The fares for my wife and 4 yr old son were quoted at $996.90 each ($1, 993.80 total). When I called in later to notify of the infant in lap, I was told the extra charge is $553 ($154 fare + $399 in taxes). That is a far cry from the 10% of the applicable adult fare for the international portion.
I asked reservations agents to explain it, but they couldn't, so I wrote customer relations with their web-based form. Their email reply said to just call reservations again. Which I did again and again.
Finally, it was explained to me that the 10% of the fare ($154) was based on a higher rate due to lower inventory of seats available when I called back to inform them of the infant in lap. They couldn't explain why that matters if he is in his mom's lap and not taking up any seat, nor eating any of the airlines food. But that wasn't the part that bothered me. It was the $399 in fuel surcharge and miscellaneous other fees.
I understand air fares need to go up when fuel costs go up and I don't mind paying a "fuel tax" on my 14 lb. Infant. I'd even be happy to pay real taxes (especially if they were used to invest in alternative energy), or get charged some carbon offsets. The bigger issue is with the utter lack of information and support through the whole process of booking our flights:
1. No option to choose "infant in lap" when booking online.
2. No indication anywhere on their site about paying taxes and fees on top of the "10% of the applicable adult fare for the international portion".
3. No hints by agents that i'll be in for a big surprise after I book the flights for mom and big brother.
4. Nobody in reservations able to adequately explain how the fare is calculated, and why the "fuel surcharge" is nearly 3x the fare. They make it sound like the $399 is all going to uncle sam.
5. Response from customer relations was to simply call reservations again. No support from the people who supposedly care about their customers...
6. Several calls later, I got an explanation of the charges and how they calculated them, but no reasons why they can't warn their valued customers a little better before they book their non-refundable flights.
7. There is no way to reply to the customer relations email. The only way to contact them is through their online form or via snail mail.
Warning to parents with infants: if you plan to carry your infant in lap on an international flight with aa, make sure you find out how much they are going to charge you before you book your flight. If you can't do that, try another airlines that will cooperate with you better.
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