Starting a family is a big commitment. Out pops a screaming mini-me and overnight, everything changes – bank account balances lose a few zeros, hours of sleep disappear, conversation topics vary between choice of diapers, milk powder and enrichment classes, and playgrounds and parks quickly become the entertainment on weekends.
Aaron never fails to remind me that I’m the least productive (or most productive, depending on how you look at it) guestwriter on this site but trust me, it is hard to write with children screaming around you. It goes without saying that priorities and plans for travel take a big hit as well.
When I first started out on this hobby, my wife and I had just gotten married and we had grand plans for all the things we’d do with miles and points – we had a list of all the First Class products we wanted to try, places we wanted to go and hotels we would stay in. I promised her then I’d get us there. Well, boys will be boys; I haven’t managed to keep the whole promise yet, but I did get her pregnant instead. Twice.
Since then, we’ve had to modulate a lot of our expectations. Instead of dreaming about the next time we’d be sleeping flat at 40,000 feet, we dream about the next time we’d be sleeping at all. That being said, I am a firm believer in the developmental and educational benefits that travel brings to child and adult alike, and my wife and I have had some amazing holidays in the past 3 to 4 years with our children. Without a doubt, we intend to keep maximizing miles and points for experiences we can enjoy and cherish as a family.
How, though? For those of you just starting out, accumulating the miles for that trip to Europe already seems a daunting task. That’s not even broaching the topic of finding award space. Finding long haul Business Saver for 2 passengers can already be difficult, what more for a family of 3, or more? First/Suite Saver awards are worse, and it is near impossible to find more than 2 on a flight.
Another reason (or excuse) for the procrastination on this post is because I know I’m not even close to having all the answers to ‘Award Travel for the Family’. Nevertheless, I aim to cover some of the basic information on the topic for the beginners among us, share a little of what I’ve done for my family thus far, and list some strategies I’m intending to employ for family travel in the near future. Hopefully, this article will serve as a platform for discussion and sharing among those similarly blessed (or afflicted, depending on the current behaviour of your child) in the Milelion community.
Flying with Infants on Singapore Airlines
In line with most other airlines, SQ has set the definition for infants at 0-23 months, 2-11 years for children, and >12 years for adults. Obviously, the travel and ticketing rules differ for each age bracket. In this post, we will only be covering travel with infants (0-23 months). Look out for future posts that deal with the other category!
First things first – no infant below the age of 7 days is allowed to fly. I will presume there is no need for me to elaborate why.
Infant passengers are issued what is termed an ‘Infant-in-Lap’ or ‘Lap Infant’ ticket. This ticket has to be tagged to a booking reference number of an adult (>18 years old) traveling on the same flight. An adult can only have one infant tagged to him/her. For travel on SQ, the rules for the ‘Infant-in-Lap’ ticket are the same, regardless of whether the adult is traveling on an award or revenue ticket.
Singapore Airlines charges a flat rate of 10% of the current best available revenue ticket price (some report being charged 10% of full fare, YMMV) on the route, plus some taxes.
Note that the adult fare consists of the ticket price (S$8,250) plus the various taxes. The infant ticket is priced at 10% of S$8,250, sans the taxes. However, certain taxes imposed by some airports will be charged to the infant as well. I know that LHR is definitely one of them.
Doing this when you’re purchasing a revenue ticket is simple enough; all you have to do is to input the number of adults and infants accordingly into the search engine, and the system will automatically generate the final fare for all the passengers. However, this get slightly more complicated when making an award booking.
If you are making your award redemption on the SQ website, you will not be able to buy an infant ticket at the same sitting online. You will notice that the drop down box under ‘Infant’ will be greyed out. Simply make your redemption booking as usual. Once you’re done and have a confirmed ticket, call up SQ KrisFlyer services, provide your booking reference number, and explain that you would like to add on an Infant-in-Lap ticket to your booking. The CSO will walk you through the process.
It is good habit to check how much you should be expecting to pay for the Infant-in-Lap ticket before even making your award redemption. You can do so by making a dummy booking for a return ticket to your planned destination for 1 Adult and 1 Infant, and looking at the cost breakdown. Make sure the price the CSO quotes is not too far off from what you’ve gotten on the website. Personally, there have been several times where the CSO came back to me with a ridiculously high fare which was erroneously calculated.
Another reason you should do this because while it is ‘only 10%’, when flying Business, First, or on a complicated routing involving multiple stopovers or one-way legs, the revenue fare can be quite high and 10% can get to be quite steep. After all, all you’re paying for is the right to hold your baby in your arms!
Taking the above example again, a SIN MEL return ticket in Suites for your little prince / princess will set you back S$825. Now this is certainly not cheap, albeit being on Suites class. If this is an issue for you, fares in Business class will be significantly easier to stomach. Retail Business Class tickets go for about $3-4k to Australia and $6k to Europe, you’re looking at forking out about S$300-600 for the infant ticket.
Once that is done, you will be issued a separate e-Ticket for your infant, which should look something like this. As you can see, your infant is also entitled his/her own baggage allowance. For SQ, this is usually only 10kg, but if you’re travelling in/out from the United States, the baggage allowance is even more generous and goes up to 23kg (for economy/premium economy) and 32kg (for business and first).
Tips and Caveats
Now that we’ve gotten the boring, admin part out of the way, here are some tips and things to watch out for when flying with an infant on SQ.
Guaranteed Bulkhead / Double Bed
One of the great benefits of flying with an infant is that it essentially guarantees you the coveted bulkhead seat (in business class) or double bed (in suites).
As the more observant of you would have realized, the bassinet seats (denoted by the little bassinet above) are almost always blocked from selection. These seats are routinely put on hold for all flights to cater for passengers flying with infants. While it could be possible that all those seats are actually occupied with an adult+infant, it is far more likely that at least some of them are still empty.
If you recall Aaron’s detailed tutorial on the various SQ Business Class seats, a key point is that the bulkhead seats offer way more leg room than the standard ones.
The non-bassinet bulkhead seats available for selection are usually the first to go, so unless you’re reserving your tickets right at the opening of the booking window, chances are they’d already be gone. No such issue if you have an infant in tow – after you’ve bought the infant ticket with the Ticketing Call Center, just ask them to assist in assigning you a bassinet seat, and there you have it.
It is a similar situation on (the old) Suites Class. If you’re travelling with a partner, it is obvious far more preferable to obtain one of the 2 double beds (2C/D and 3C/D). As 2C/D are bassinet seats, 3C/D is the only double bed available for selection for regular bookings, and it tends to be snapped up quickly as well. Flying with an infant almost guarantees you the double bed in 2C/D if you call to get the relevant seats assigned.
While the bassinet seats are usually available (especially on Business / First), you should never assume so – reserve them as soon as you can!
Reduce Carry-on Load by using on-board Baby Amenities
SQ also carries a whole bunch of baby amenities on board, including diapers, infant food (those glass bottle kind), baby wipes, disposable bibs and feeding bottles, and these are available on request. If you’re not picky when it comes to these things, this service is helpful as it saves you from boarding the plane looking like you’re carrying an FBO*.
*FBO – Full Battle Order
In fact, you can call up to choose between infant food, a baby meal, or a child meal for your infant. Not exactly Book the Cook, but hey, more of that Lobster Thermidor for yourself! Your kid gets stuck eating something healthy and wholesome and salt-less like this. Yum.
Lounge access (especially in airports other than SIN) is a godsend – at the very least you get a quiet place to change diapers. At Changi the SilverKris lounge has decent food and adequate baby changing / nursing facilities.
However, when outstation, do take note of the check-in counter and lounge opening times. Being used to the 24/7 hustle and bustle at Changi, one may take that for-granted. I made that mistake once and was stranded with an over-tired baby and irritated wife waiting for check-in to open – I will not make that amateur mistake again!
Do not pay 2 x One Way Infant-in-Lap Tickets
You may come across this scenario if you have booked your award flights as 2 separate One Way tickets, and/or you are flying on separate tickets because you’re in the middle of a pendulum using the US$100 Stopover Trick. As everyone knows, buying a one way ticket is almost always more expensive than return.
While this concern does not apply on award flight redemptions on SQ as the miles listed refer to a one way redemption anyway, the Infant-in-Lap tickets are a percentage of the revenue fare, thus it will also be priced higher accordingly. When making an award redemption, I generally prefer to book it as 2 separate one way tickets rather than a single return ticket as it offers me more flexibility especially if one leg is on waitlist. Also, whenever you can, you should be taking advantage of the stopover trick, so that’s where the importance of this point comes in.
For example, on my recent family holiday to Perth, I am flying on the middle bit of 2 separate tickets, MNL-SIN-PER and PER-SIN-TPE. However, I’m only bringing my infant on the SIN-PER-SIN return legs. Some CSOs will price this infant ticket as 2 x One Way tickets; SIN-PER and PER-SIN, and this will obviously be more expensive (I was quoted S$590). However, it is possible for the CSO to issue a SIN-PER-SIN return ticket to your infant first, then tag it to both booking references. This can easily save you a few hundred bucks (paid S$308 as in the above screenshot). If the CSO you’re with refuses to do this, thank him/her, put down and call again.
Again, this also emphasizes the need to run a dummy booking on the intended route of travel to check the price of the Infant-in-Lap ticket – do not pay more than you should!
No Frequent Flyer Status for your Infant
No, unfortunately you won’t be able to give you kid a head start in the miles and points game – while infant tickets are considered revenue tickets, infants under the age of 2 cannot register for a Krisflyer account, and thus will not be able to earn miles.
TLDR? Pay 10% of adult revenue fares to give your infant a glimpse of the high life.
In future posts, I hope to delve into some of the other airline FFPs and summarize those that might be interesting to look at in terms of sweet spots for travel with infants!
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