When American Airlines makes something very simple very difficult: not giving my infant a ticket number

When we have booked international travel on non-U.S. based airlines, it’s been straightforward to ensure that not only both our tickets are issued with ticket numbers, but to also assign Pookster a ticket number, too. While an infant (a child under the age of 2 years) can travel “in lap” with an adult, this is at no extra charge flying domestically, or at 10% of the fare internationally, plus potentially adding taxes in. This entire process, like most modern, normal companies, can be done fully online with competent airlines. But American Airlines has to make this process difficult for the sake of being difficult because if you try to add your infant’s details online, you will be served a message to call AA and have an agent do this for you. This not only defeats the purpose of even having online booking available, but it also reveals the fact that AA just doesn’t have it together when it comes to accommodating babies and traveling families in general. In two instances of booking international travel, American’s incompetent agents, on the phone, have somehow managed to add Kaia to my ticket, but WITHOUT A TICKET NUMBER. When you are flying internationally, every human who gets on a plane needs a ticket number; you may not even be aware of that unless you have flown internationally with an infant. But once you have, you will realize how imperative this is, and what a truly royal fuck-up it is when the infant does NOT have their own ticket number.

This happened on an AA flight to Cancun in May, and again, on both the outbound and inbound flights on Qatar Airways, booked on AA’s site, to South Asia. In the case of the AA flight to Cancun, the agents AT THE AIRPORT made ME call AA on the phone and wait for over 40 minutes before helping me (did they have any realization in their brains that this was time sensitive because we had to board a flight?!). In the case of the Qatar flights, Qatar fully blamed AA on this and redirected us to the AA counter (while it may have originally been AA’s fault, Qatar’s lack of empathy and effort to help was pretty pathetic. When people talk about Qatar’s amazing service, they are specifically referring to in-flight services, NOT to their ticketing counters, clearly). I was terrified we’d miss both our flights to and from. The fear is far greater to miss a flight when you have a baby than if you were child-free. We were delayed 1.5 hours just waiting for AA to resolve this when we arrived at JFK in June for our Kochi flight, and over 2 hours (and barely just made the time before international check-in fully closed) for our flight back to New York. It was frustrating, embarrassing, and a true testament to how incompetent AA continues to be with managing and welcoming families on their flights. They realize this is a known issue, but no one has managed to resolve this. What joy!

So when we booked another international flight last night, I flat out said to the person on the phone (after waiting over 22 minutes for them to call me back, which seemed quite short, relatively speaking, as pathetic as it sounds. Since the pandemic, the phone wait times for AA, even when you have executive platinum status, are just egregiously long): “I’d like to complete the booking I have on hold on my account and add my infant-in-lap and ensure she has a ticket number… because the last two times I have booked international travel with you, my baby was never issued a ticket number, which resulted in almost missing both flights. So I want to avoid this same cluster from happening again.”

It took over 30 minutes for them to get this done. This agent had to put me on hold three times and get two other agents involved to get this fully completed and get a confirmation email sent to me, with all three ticket numbers. And, again, this was after being put on hold for a call back for over 22 minutes. So all in all, this process took nearly an hour, which is nuts. This was a waste of time and a complete embarrassment for AA. American Airlines needs to get their act together and actually be in the 21st century. If all these other airlines can figure it out, why can’t they?

Edit/note: In the end, AA added 15,000 miles to my account as an apology, and $150 flight credit each to Chris and Pookster for the inconvenience. Is it a lot? No. But it IS something.

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