Child Flight Ticket Price: How Young Does a Child have to be to Fly Free?

Air travel is often expensive, with many airlines charging fees for checked baggage, meals and extra legroom. Does a child have to pay full price for an airline ticket? In some instances, travelers with children are able to catch a break on airfare fees by qualifying for a reduced fare child's ticket or even receiving a free ticket for a lap baby.

Does a Two-Year-Old (or Younger Child) Need a Plane Ticket?

Airlines typically offer parents of children under 2 years of age the opportunity to hold the child on their lap in their own seat.‌ Tickets for lap babies are generally free or require payment of airline fees and taxes only on domestic flights, though a small ticket fee is commonly included on international flights. In addition, some airlines, such as Southwest, give a ticket discount to infants traveling in an FAA-approved child restraint, such as a car seat, while other airlines, such as United offer complementary bassinets for use on international flights with an infant under 6 months of age to accommodate accessibility. Consult the ticketing agent at the check-in counter for questions about child fare.

Children on Domestic Flights

Parents of children over the age of 2 are typically required to pay the full adult fare for their kids.‌ Whereas kids fly free with an accompanying adult if they are sitting on the adult’s lap and are under 2, they would then be considered a lap infant. Select airlines offer reduced fares for little ones, such as Southwest airlines, though the discount offers vary by flight. Though a few discounts are available for children flying domestically, most airlines allow a stroller and a car seat to be included in a child's baggage allowance for no cost. For example, United Airlines allows customers to carry a diaper bag, breast pump and government approved child seat in addition to the maximum carry on allowance.

Children on International Flights

While discounted fares instead of a full adult ticket price are available for children flying internationally, the discounts vary from airline to airline and are not offered on all flights. Reduced-price fares are typically limited to children under the age of 11 and not all fares are advertised online, so if you’re looking for an airline with discounted child fares, it’s best to call and ask yourself. The BabyCenter and discount den websites notes that it is often best to contact the airline directly to ask about any current discounts for children on international flights.

What Airlines Offer Special Discounts and the Best Discounted Child Fares?

Major airline rewards programs such as those by American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, or Southwest Airlines may offer points for child fare seats, check policies before swiping a credit card at a ticket counter or purchasing a boarding pass online.

Other travel tips

Remember that all airlines require children, especially those traveling on a discounted ticket, to present proof of children age when checking in for a flight.‌ A birth certificate or passport are commonly accepted forms of age verification. Airlines often limit baggage allowances for children traveling on a discounted fare. For example, lap children traveling on a free flight or free promotion on Delta flights do not have their own baggage allowance though children traveling on a fare that is at least 50 percent of the full adult fare receive the full baggage allowance. Additionally, those flying with multiple children and only one adult also lose the ability to ‘purchase’ a lap seat.