After as much travel as we have done, you'd think we'd have things nailed down. From getting to the airport well in advance so we don't miss a flight, to planning out all the important details for once we arrive, to packing efficiently, we have established a formula for travel that covers pretty much everything. Unless there is a huge communication error between you and the airline and you neglect to purchase a ticket for your infant when traveling internationally. Want to know how I know you need to actually purchase a ticket ahead of time and not at the airport? Because it happened to us on our most recent trip to Portugal. Here's the full scoop on something that unintentionally cost us a pretty penny, and almost made us miss our flight in the process.
Rewind to November, Delta was running a crazy awesome sale on fares to Europe for travel in the fist few months of this year. We jumped at the chance and snagged tickets to Portugal. Immediately after booking our own tickets, I called Delta to add Evelyn to our itinerary. They asked the basic questions: name, birth date, etc. They confirmed she was added and that was that.
Now, fast forward to February. The week before our trip, I called again to confirm that she was on our reservation. Yup, she was! I was even asked if we needed or wanted the bassinet seat for her. I declined since she's now too big for it and I'm weird and don't actually like bulkhead seating; the extra leg room is nice, but I don't like the arm rest fold out tables or the weird video screens that never seem to be at the right angle.
Our departure day had arrived. We were packed, loaded in the car, and on our way! We had tried the night before to check in online, but had trouble with the KLM website (the company actually operating the flight). No worries, we would just make sure we got to the airport in time to check in and drop our bags. And this is when it all happened. We tried to check in and the agent asked if we had a ticket for Evelyn. "No," I responded, "I called Delta last week and they confirmed she was on our itinerary."
"But she doesn't have a ticket?"
"You'll need to buy a ticket for her. Please step down to the ticketing desk and they will help you."
Yup, we had to buy her a ticket, right there, right then, or she couldn't fly with us. Leaving her behind was obviously not an acceptable option. On past international flights, we had just paid at the airport for her ticket, which cost us around $100. But, those were all flights that originated OUTSIDE of the US. For international flights that originate INSIDE the US, you need to purchase a ticket ahead of time (note that on domestic flights within the US kids under 2 really do travel for free). An infant in arms ticket is calculated as a portion of the adult fare for the same itinerary; however, this portion would be calculated not on the fare that we paid, but on the fare as if the itinerary had been purchased that same day. You know how expensive it is to purchase an international flight two hours before departure? Expensive. The first figure we were told was nearly $400, only slightly less than we had paid for our full tickets! And, despite the high price, she would not have a seat. Shock, dismay, slight anger, definite frustration - all of these raged simultaneously through my head. Aaron can keep a much cooler head than me so he worked with the ticketing agents.
We tried calling Delta from the airport to get it sorted and see if there was anyway to reduce the amount we would have to shell out. There wasn't, but the ticketing agent assisting us was able to get the price down to $279. It took nearly two hours to get everything squared away, and by that time we only had 20 minutes to get through security and to our flight. Naturally, the line at security was a nightmare, but some of the kindest travelers I've met allowed us to completely bypass them in line. We made it through, but the stroller triggered an alarm. I continued to the gate with Evelyn to let them know Aaron was on his way and to not leave without us, while Aaron stayed with the stroller. Extra screening, a pat down, and 10 minutes later, Aaron was finally at the gate. Thankfully, our flight was slightly delayed. First time ever I've been THANKFUL for a flight delay! We did make our flight, and the ticketing agent that sold us the ticket and checked us in did us a MAJOR favor and kept the middle seat between Aaron and I open. We had an extra seat!
When we returned home, I called Delta to discuss the incident with them and try to get some of our money refunded. I spoke with a couple of different customer service agents who were all incredibly helpful and kind. I explained to them the situation, and they could see that I had called about having Evelyn on our itinerary. The only thing we could surmise happened was the two agents I spoke with prior to our flight weren't aware that on international itineraries infants in arms, require a ticket. They offered us a voucher to make up for the hassle, which was very generous of them.
And while I was on the phone with them, I made sure to purchase a ticket for Evelyn for when we go to Germany in September! Despite the fact that she had previously been added to our reservation in January, she did not have a ticket (that agent also neglected to inform me of this when I called).
Learn from our mistake and buy your infant a ticket - actually call and ask to talk to an international agent - if you're traveling internationally. And make sure you get a receipt for your purchase just in case something happens. Thankfully everything worked out in the end, but it was definitely a stressful way to start a vacation!