No, I didn’t actually forget to bring the baby to the airport! But, I did forget one important detail that took over an hour to remedy! I didn’t add Claire to our tickets! So according to American Airlines, there is no record of our little traveler for this flight. BIG PROBLEM!
On aa.com’s website there isn’t a section to add an infant to your ticket. We are flying with a “lap child” (a traveler under the age of 2), which means that the baby flies free within the continental U.S., but has to sit on your lap during the flight. I bought our tickets on Travelocity.com, and on the page where you fill out traveler information there is a section that asks if you are flying with an infant. But, there is no place to add your little traveler’s information. It does say to call Travelocity to add your little one to your itinerary. Of course, in that moment of booking a ticket with a 3 week old at home, I shrugged it off and said to myself, “I’ll get to it later.” Well, later never happened. Wouldn’t it be simpler to add her name and age online? Curious, why this isn’t possible in a culture where talking on the phone has become so 1990’s.
We checked our luggage and Claire’s Co-Sleeper crib curbside and we stumbled through the automated doors with the rest of our gear. I felt good. We had shed several pieces of luggage at the curb and now to go through security. The line to check bags inside was indeed ‘spring break madness.’ The roped off line to the counter was like the 405 at 5pm on a Thursday – complete gridlock. Ha! The travel gods are on our side, because we used the carpool lane! Our first flight with baby was smooth sailing. I spoke way too soon. At that very moment of internal gloating, the American Airlines employee who checked and printed our boarding passes said, “Wait, one more thing! You need to wait in line at the counter and have one of the agents add your baby to your boarding pass.”
“Why can’t we add her out here?” I asked.
“You don’t have seat assignments, so you need to get your seats and the infant ticket inside.”
We entered the onramp to the 405. And, stop.
Although the line was tremendous, our wait was 32 minutes. The agent quickly added Little Traveler to our tickets. All she asked for was her name and age. No birth certificate or identification required. She didn’t even ask to see her. Little Traveler was covered with a blanket over her car seat. So we could have had an English Bulldog in the stroller, and she wouldn’t have known! She handed me our newly printed tickets with INFANT added to the bottom. “Once you arrive to your gate, check in to the counter and the agent will assign your seats.”
We entered the onramp to the 405, also known as the security line. In talking with several friends before our trip, some mentioned that there is a family line at security. American Airlines didn’t have one. We made it to the TSA agent and Agent Jones, took our tickets and IDs. “You don’t have seats,” she said.
“The agent at the curb said to get them inside and the agent inside said to get them upstairs at the gate,” I said.
“Sorry, I can’t let you through without seats,” she said so matter-of-factly. “You need to go back downstairs.
The three of us stumbled under the ropes of security and got in the elevator back downstairs. Instead of waiting in that line again, I went straight to a manager. I told him our sob story. He helped us right away. “Unfortunately, your flight has no seats together,” he said.
Before I could roll a woah-as-me speech off my tongue, you know the, “I’ve never flown with a baby before. I can’t do this by myself. There is NO WAY I AM SITTING ALONE WITH A BABY.” He handed us our newly printed tickets and sent us on our way.
Crap. Back upstairs.
We entered the onramp to the 405 once again, and halt. I looked at Agent Jones (the TSA who sent us back downstairs). She eyed me. She nodded. She opened the ropes for our family of three to skip the gridlock security line that we had already experienced. Stamp, stamp. We were in.
Shoes off, jackets, laptops, iPads and liquids all on the conveyor belt. We were stripped down and ready to walk through. I knew that I wouldn’t have to take Claire into the new body scanners. But what I didn’t know, is that I had to pull my sleeping baby out of her stroller and carry her myself through security. There went Little Traveler’s nap.
Tip: The whole liquid rule is very bendable for family’s traveling with babies. I had one 4 ounce bottle of milk in the diaper bag that I brought. The TSA agent didn’t even ask to see the bottle. I also learned from a friend that you can bring water through security if its to use for the baby….for formula, etc.
After redressing and repacking Little Traveler in her stroller, now wide awake, we made it to Gate 47B. I looked at the gate screen. A long upgrade wait list and an even longer standby list. Ugg. There is no way our family is sitting together. My first flight with a baby and I was sitting three rows in front of my husband.
We tried to switch seats at the gate. Fail. The last option, to hope the person next to me, feels either sorry for me or has no desire to sit next to a baby, and would be willing to switch seats three rows back. Come on, Claire, cry just a little when we get on the plane, ok?
We broke down our stroller and car seat packing them in these protector GATE CHECK bags from Buy Buy Baby. You simply drop off strollers and car seats at the base of the boarding ramp just before you enter the plane.
Of course there are so many nice people out there, and we had no problem playing a little seat roulette. Seats 9B, ,9C and our ‘lap child’ were buckled in and ready for take off.
Lesson Learned: When it says online to call to add an infant to your ticket, make sure you don’t snuff it off for a later date. Waiting a few minutes on hold on the phone, sure beats playing musical chairs at the airport trying to find someone who knows what they are doing. Also, when you call to add the infant, request seats together. I booked the cheapest rate during a Travelocity sale (our tickets were only $240 roundtrip to Dulles), so our seats weren’t assigned at booking. Why do they do that anyway? And since the gate agent didn’t ask to see a birth certificate or even to see the actual baby, why can’t you add your infant information online? Just curious.
Our plane taxied to the runway. Little Traveler was on my lap starring with fascination up at the seat reading lights. “Please turn off all portable electronic devices.” “Flight attendants prepare for take-off.”