It is commonly thought that infants and babies under 2 years of age can fly free of charge. Although there is some truth to this, it is not always the case, as you may need to pay some taxes, fees, or a reduced fare rates, depending on the airline and route you are flying - however, there are also some instances where a baby under 2 years of age can fly free on your lap.
As a general rule, most airlines allow babies and infants under 2 years of age to fly for free as lap babies on Domestic flights. On international flights, you will generally need to purchase a reduced fare ticket for your lap baby, as well as pay any applicable taxes and fees for your baby, even if under 2 years of age. Read on to find out more about the rules for flying with your babies under 2 years of age.
On this page, we will cover the following topics:
- Babies Under 2 Years Old on Domestic Flights
- Babies Under 2 Years Old on International Flights
- Does My Baby Get a Baggage Allowance?
- What ID or Documentation Does My Baby Need to Fly?
- FAA Approved Child Car Seats for Airplane Travel
Most airlines allow babies under 2 years of age to fly free of charge on an adult's lap on Domestic Flights within the USA. This is often refered to as a Lap Baby or Infant-in-Arms - meaning your child will be on your lap for the duration of the flight, and will not be assigned their own seat.
If you would like your child to have their own assigned seat, you will need to purchase a seat for your baby. Some airlines offer a reduced fare to purchase a seat for children under the age of 2 years old, but this is not always the case on Domestic routes.
Regulations stipulate that only 1 lap baby is allowed per adult passenger, so if flying alone with 2 babies, one will be allowed to fly free of charge on your lap, but you will be required to purchase a seat for the 2nd child.
All children flying in their own seats (not Lap Babies) will need to be seated in an FAA-Approved Child Car Seat that you must bring on board with you. Most child car seats are approved for aircrafts as well, but be sure to take a look at the section regarding FAA Approved Child Car Seat to see whether your child car seat meets the FAA requirements for air travel.
If you prefer that your baby fly in their Child Car Seat, you will have to purchase a seat for your child. There are a few airlines that offer reduced Child Fares on domestic flights, but in most cases you will have to purchase a full Adult Fare in order for your baby in fly in a car seat.
If your baby is flying on your lap without an assigned seat, your child will likely not be able to sit in a Child Car Seat during the flight. If your flight isn't full, some airlines may allow you to bring your child's car seat onto the flight, but this is not always the case - contact your airlines directly to know what to expect. The only way to guarantee that your child will fly in a Car Seat is to purchase a separate ticket for your baby.
Babies and infants under 2 years of age can fly internationally, generally at a reduced rate, but not for free, even if flying on your lap without an assigned seat.
Most airlines offer discounted fares for Lap Babies / Infant in Arms for international flights, and you will almost always have to pay the taxes and fees on your baby's ticket, even if your child flying on your lap without an assigned seat.
If you prefer that your baby fly in their own seat with a Child Car Seat, you will have to purchase a separate ticket for your infant. The good news is that many airlines offer discounted Child Fares on international flights, even if they charge the full Adult Fare for a separate seat for your baby on domestic flights.
TIP: Baby Bassinets in Bulkhead Row Seats
Most airlines flying longer routes offer baby bassinets for your infant to sleep comfortably during your flight if flying without an assigned seat.
There is a limited number of baby bassinets available, and in most cases they available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Be sure to contact your airline reservations department as soon as possible to request a bassinet for your flight.
The safest way for your baby to fly is in their own assigned seat with a Child Car Seat or Child Restraint System approved for air travel.
Most, but not all, baby car seats are approved for Airplane Travel, but be sure to check for a tag that reads "This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft." Flight attendants are trained to look for this label, and if your car seat doesn't have it, this may cause an issue.
In most cases your baby's child seat will have to be placed in a window seat - it must not be placed in an aisle seat or exit-row seat, as it may be blocking an emergency escape path.
Your baby's child seat will have to be installed in either the forward- or rear-facing position, according to the seat's instructions depending on the child's weight and size.
Booster seats and harness vests are not approved for airline travel. The ONLY FAA-Approved Child Harness Device is the AmSafe CARES Child Aviation Restraint System - no other brand of harness restraint vest is approved for airplane travel. It must read "FAA Approved in Accordance with 14 CFR 21.8(d), Approved for Aircraft Use Only" or "FAA Approved in Accordance with 14 CFR 21.305(d), Amd 21.50 6-9-1980, Approved for Aircraft Use Only".
Keep in mind that the CARES harness is only for children over 1 year of age, weighing between 22 and 44 lbs.
The rules for a baby's baggage allowance differ for every airline, and depend on whether your baby is flying as a Lap Baby or in their own assigned seat.
As a general rule of thumb, lap babies flying free of charge do not get their own checked baggage allowance, but most airlines will allow you to check-in a car seat and/or stroller free of charge, either at the check-in desk or gate-checked when boarding the aircraft, as well as bring an extra carry-on bag with your baby's items such as diapers, food, and clothing for the flight.
If your baby is flying in their own assigned seat as a regular ticketed passenger, in most cases the same standard Adult checked baggage allowance applies to your child, while also allowing you to check-in a stroller free of charge. Your baby's car seat will be brought into the aircraft to be used during the flight.
Once again, these are general rules, but differ slightly with each airline. Be sure to check the Infant, Baby, and Child Baggage Allowances for your specific airline.
If flying with a baby under 2 years of age as a Lap Baby, you may be asked to present Proof of Age that your baby is in-fact below 2 years of age. To do so, you can present your baby's passport or birth certificate.
On international flights, your baby will need their own passport, and cannot fly on a parent's passport. This is true even for infants just a couple of weeks old.
If flying with a child and only one of the parents, you will need to fly with a Child Travel Consent Form, or Letter of Permission to Travel, from the parent or legal guardian that is not present. This is especially important on international flights, as without it you may not be allowed to leave or enter a country. The Child Travel Consent Form should include:
- The Child's Contact Information
- Both Parent's Contact Information
- The Child's Travel Arrangement (with one parent, with no parents, with a group, etc.)
- The Child's Destination and Dates of Travel
The Child Travel Consent Form should be signed by both parents, and in some cases may need to be notarized or witnessed to be valid in some countries.
It is also recommended to fly with a Proof of Relationship. This is proof showing your relationship to the child, whether as a birth certificate, court order, or adoption decree.
If the parents are separated, you must bring a form that the child is traveling under the care of one parent. In this case, it is best to also bring a copy of the separation agreement outlining the custody arrangements.
Yes, your baby under 2 years old will need their own passport for international travel.
The age restriction for babies to fly is set by the airline. Most airlines allow infants to fly once they are 2 weeks old (14 days). Some airlines allow infants as young as 7 days old to fly.
In some special circumstances such as family emergencies, an airline may make an exception and allow a baby younger than 7 days to fly - you will have to contact your airline directly.