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"Is your child really TWO?"

Airlines require children over the age of two sit in a purchased seat.  Even though, some of us have opted to purchase a seat for our children even if they were younger than two.  Have you ever knowingly evaded those airline age limits, and called your over-two-year-old a "lap baby"?  Have you had to prove your child's age?  Sue is faced with the dilemma:

My family is heading to the East coast for the Holidays and using air miles to fly. My youngest is turning 2 on Dec 11 and I am wondering if anyone has flown when their child was slightly over the age limit for buying a ticket. She is a big kid and talks a lot so I am worried about being questioned about it. Has anyone ever been asked to prove their child’s age when not buying a ticket? The issue is compounded by the fact that we are flying first class at least one leg and do not want to buy a ticket at that price. We only have enough air miles for three tickets. I was thinking of just buying a regular ticket for her but sitting separately (one of the adults of course). I just hate buying a ticket when she will probably sit and nurse the whole time in my seat. Any experience would be helpful.


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We've flown a lot with our kids and started being asked (sporadically) for proof of age for our daughter when she was about 16 months old. The first time it happened we were in Chicago and didn't have a birth certificate with us. The airline employee gave us a really hard time about having to buy her a ticket before we finally were able to convince her that she was legit. From then on we travelled with her birth certificate. I suppose you could chance it and if you get snagged at the ticket counter, plead for forgiveness. However, with a 2 year old (and a big one at that) and a cross country trip, I'd HIGHLY recommend getting her her own seat. Kids tickets are usually discounted significantly, but you have to call the airline to get the discounted fare.

I never expected it, but we were asked to verify our daughter's age for a flight. She was not quite 2 yet (about 2 weeks from her 2nd birthday) so she was flying legitimately as a lap baby. The airline, Southwest, asked for verification because they said she looked so close to being 2 that they usually check. They said they needed an official document showing her age, something from the doctor's office with her name and birthdate on it or something from her birth...
So luckily, it was a weekday and during business working hours and we were able to call her doctor's office and they faxed a page to the airline desk to prove her age. (we were flying home from Reno at the time, not like we were here at the portland airport even) I don't know what we would have done if it had been late at night or something!
I can totally sympathize with having to pay those additional prices though, a seat is so darn expensive!

We have also been asked to show proof of age. It really is worth it to bring along a birth certificate. My neighbor had to buy a ticket for her daughter at the gate once...it was Labor Day weekend and she paid a fortune!

We have been asked to show proof the last five times we have flown...and, our son just turned one, so it wasn't because he looked older than two! Check with the airlines, they will tell you if you have to provide proof at check-in. Maybe it was just Southwest and United...

chez: I wasnt aware that kids tickets were discounted. I have always paid full price when buying for my toddler. If you call them directly do they give you a "kids" fare?

We had this happen when our son was about 18 months old, and it almost turned out to be an easier flight for me...they asked for proof of age, and since I'd never been asked for it, and he was well within the limit, I'd never even thought to bring his birth certificate. The lady at the counter said I'd have to purchase a ticket for him, and then I'd have to mail my receipt with the proof of age and they would refund my money...at first I was irritated, but then I realized it could mean a free ticket and I wouldnt have to hold him the whole flight! I agreed to buy the ticket and then she said they could call our insurance company to verify his age which she did and everything was back to plan A. I think it was a pretty full flight and they obviously would rather not give a free seat away if they dont have to.

In my eight years of parenting, I've been asked to show proof of age and identity only once: when my son was five weeks old. (Did they think we'd kidnapped him or something?)

So I think it's luck of the draw and/or the airline.

I hesitate to say this. But it could be that the reason that so many people get hassled for proof is that other people have lied. Society is better off when there is a level of deserved trust.

We never bought a seat till 2 and always were asked. I am far too risk averse and generally law abiding to have even considered it. My sister-in-law lied with her almost 3-year old and the 3-YO knew it and I was unimpressed. Also, it has seemed to me that at about 2 it does become pretty tough to reasonable contain them on your lap.

I've found that the policy on kid's fares varies from airline to airline. I've gotten discount fares on Southwest, American and I think Delta too. However, the only times I've gotten discounts for kids is when I have called the airline directly...never online. Sometimes the kids fare is based on the 'walk up' price, in which case it may not be the lowest fare available, but other times it can definitely save you $$.

Yeah, I got asked one time when Asher was just under two. I had no verification and they made me buy a ticket at the counter. It was a cheap ticket on Southwest, but it was still a bummer. And they did say I could write in with a copy of his BC for a refund, which I of course never got around to.

We have flown a great deal with our 2 little ones. I have always bought a seat for the older than 2. And I have considered buying one for the less than 2 on those longer flights. I have never been asked to prove my child's age, but I have been warned to bring her birth certificate/passport.

I surely don't know your child, but I can say that, if you have not flown in a while, I would highly doubt that she will sit still and nurse the whole time. My children did when they were about 0-6 months. Once they were walkers, exploring the plane always seems like a more interesting activity!

We have flown a great deal with our 2 little ones. I have always bought a seat for the older than 2. And I have considered buying one for the less than 2 on those longer flights. I have never been asked to prove my child's age, but I have been warned to bring her birth certificate/passport.

I surely don't know your child, but I can say that, if you have not flown in a while, I would highly doubt that she will sit still and nurse the whole time. My children did when they were about 0-6 months. Once they were walkers, exploring the plane always seems like a more interesting activity!

Wow, you would "hate buying a ticket" for her. Really, because all the rest of us with 2 year olds love spending money on the tickets. I'm sure when she's 3, you can try to pass her off as 2, so she still gets in to movies for free. Then when she's 12, you can say she's 11, so she can still order from kid's menus. If you just keep up the lies, you'll save a ton of money. It'll even work out for your daughter, because when she turns 30/40/50, she can just say she's whatever age she feels like being.

My girl just turned 1 and we have flown around 8 times. Only twice have they not verified her age but still asked if I had proof of age with me. They usually check for proof of age when checking in/checking baggage. Not when you purchase your ticket. I had them request proof of age when she was 2 months, so I think the airlines are cracking down on the employees about checking.
I flew cross country last week for a funeral with my girl in my lap and it just about killed me. She is entirely too mobile. I wish I could have gotten her a seat. I can't imagine flying w/ a 2yo as a lap child. It's probably not what you want to hear, but I think your child needs a seat.

Clearly you are feeling "guilty" about the situation, so free your guilt by buying her a ticket. It will make you feel good about the situation, less stressed, make the line at the airport go faster, and your child happy having her own seat. You said that you are flying to the East Coast (I assume you live here in PDX), do you really think that your 2 year old is going to want to nurse for 6 hours, straight? Highly doubt that. Buy her a ticket.
We've been asked only 1 time to show proof of ID. Genuinely, we did not have proof because our son was only 8 months old and didn't think we needed it. Luckily, the flight was NOT full so we were able to take up a whole row. This was great, because our son was able to lay down and sleep on one of the chairs (head on my lap and legs sprawled out). Good luck.

Although I don't like the tone of anon's comment, she/he does highlight that this is an ethical question, not a practical one.

At the risk of being preachy, I think this decision should be rooted in your personal values and belief of what is "right" in this case rather than your fear of detection.

I have to agree with Stephanie. Most two year olds really need their own seat and I think it's actually a little unethical (stealing?) to not pay for a seat when that is against their policy. At least part of the reason two year olds need their own seat is because they are big enough that it is hard to fit on your lap, they kick seats in front of them, etc. I hate paying for expensive things too - but that's still not a valid justification for not paying. We most recently traveled with our 21 month old and bought her a seat for a five-hour flight and she definitely needed it.

Yes, they will check. Count on it.

Back hen I was a single mama of a young one, I carried her on my back through the snow, with a team of huskies through Alaska subsisting only on beef jerky and occasional sips of water. . . .j/k

I would sometimes buy a seat before my daughter even turned two, because I didn't feel that safety is something I wanted to take a chance on. If I'm buckled in, shouldn't my precious baby be also? Especially cross-country. And we were B-R-O-K-E as a joke, as my daughter says. I could rationalize her being a lap baby on shorter flights for awhile, but even that started to make me nervous.

Years ago,(95/96) the airline policy was that if there was an open seat on the plane, they were supposed to give it to a lap baby if you requested it. So I would bring the baby and her plane seat and ask for the open seat. If there wasn't one, we'd stow the seat up front. As airlines, got tighter they wouldn't let us rbing the car seat on at all. I even got hassled when I purchased a ticket for my toddler about the seat.

We recently flew on Southwest to Oakland and were asked for proof of my son's age...he was only 16 months old at the time. When we couldn't produce any documents for him, she gave us a very stern warning that scared us into always bringing documentation. She said if there was a federal aviation person on the flight and we couldn't prove our son's age, we would be issued a $10,000 fine. They will check, I would count on it.

I will out myself here, and - based on some comments already appearing above - I will be judged. We didn't start regularly buying tickets for the kids until they were over 3. Because our family is bi-coastal, we took many trips. In probably 20 trips between our two daughters when they were each under 3, we probably bought seats 3 or 4 times.

Each girl nursed until almost 3. And even during the cross-country flights, they were nursing most all the time. The times when we did buy seats during the period between 24 and 36 months old, they didn't sit in it. In all the times we've flown, we've not been asked for proof of age and I'm not sure why, since so many others here have been asked! My daughters are on the petite side and they were always so nursey that they never wanted to sit in their own seat until after 3.

My aunt is 44 and 4'10" and still pays kid fares when going to the zoo or amusement park. So, I guess this is just our familial MO.

We just flew to Mexico with our son a few weeks before his second birthday. We contemplated buying him a seat, but Alaska doesn't offer kids fares anymore. And the tickets were expensive. So we sucked it up and put him on our laps for one last time before we have to buy tickets.

But boy, did I wish we'd have paid for a seat! He was squirmy, cranky and really hard to contain. It seemed that the fasten seatbelt light was on most of the flight and we couldn't keep him contained. The flight attendants told us several times that we needed to keep him on our laps.
He might have actually slept part of the time had he had his own seat with the carseat. And the extra space would have been nice.
We're buying tickets from now on!

Maybe this should be a different thread -- but it's about travelling with a 2 year old: does anyone have experience renting a carseat along with the car rental? It sure would be nice to not deal with checking and claiming the carseat. But can you be confident that Budget Rent A Car has a safe seat?

JJPK: please check out a previous conversation on car rentals & carseats: http://www.urbanmamas.com/urbanmamas/2007/07/car-rentals-car.html

For those of you who have purchased a ticket for your 2-3 year olds on a plane, did you have them in a carseat or just sitting down on the seat? What's the age cutoff for bringing the carseat on the plane with you?

It all depends on your child, will she be ok sitting on your lap? I know mine does. We just took a day long- airplane trip and he just wanted to be in my lap and nurse YES most of the time. Buy the ticket if you think she will be fine sitting in her own seat. Don't buy it you won't be using it. My two cents.

Allison--we took several flights from NY to PDX last summer with our boys, one of whom was about 2 1/2 at the time. The first time, we brought (lugged) his car seat on the plane--my thinking was that as he was accustomed to sitting/being buckled in his car seat, it might help him adjust to flying (it was his first flight since infant-hood).

Really, though, it just became a pain-in-the-rear for DH and I to lug it around, on top of the carry-ons, etc. The next time we flew, we checked the car seat. This way we had it for the rides to/from the airports, and we didn't have to deal with renting/using an unfamiliar car seat.

i just wanted to acknowledge that kids are really different. we flew on a four hour flight to mexico when my daughter was a a year and a half and she's off the charts big for her age. we didn't buy an extra ticket and i'm glad we didn't. she was still nursing at the time and she was fine on our laps and nursing a lot. i think even if we had bought an extra seat, she wouldn't have used it. although i don't have a strong opinion about buying/not buying a ticket for kids 2 and over, i did want to validate that some kids have the right temperment for hangin on mom or dad's lap even for a longer flight.

Buy the seat, and bring your carseat. Not only is it safer, but it is easier. We just flew from Las Vegas with my 2 year old. He was comfortable in his carseat, because he is familiar with it. It was so nice. We also flew with him when he was 20 months old and were required to show proof of age, he is really tall. Even though we scheduled all of the flights during nap times (when possible), when he didn't have his own seat, he did not nap....The one hour flight to Boise seemed like 10 hours.

I will say that my daughter was not very interested in nursing on planes. So the idea of her quietly nursing is foreign to me. She wanted to visit and talk/babble to people and see what the flight attendants were doing.


Thanks everyone for your comments. The primary reason for posting was to convince my husband we needed to buy the ticket and he is now convinced.

Just as an FYI check your carrier's website when planning a trip with an under 2yo. For example: Southwest's website clearly states that they require proof of age for all lap babies! Given that they just got hit with a $10M fine they may be even more persnickety about checking these things.

Buy the seat. This is not just an ethical issue (don't kid yourself, call it what is - it's stealing & lying) but a safety issue.

I'm a "retired" flight attendant who's family lives cross country, my baby has ALWAYS flown in his own seat (18 months old now & at least 6 cross country flights pdx to east coast & some shorter ones)

Yes it cost a little more, but would you DRIVE w/o a carseat???? Read the satisics people!! Turbulance injury is not a joke (death, spinal injury)not to mention that any lap baby will be tossed from your lap (or crushed by you) during a ground collision -which is where most accidents occur.

BTW we're flying again over mother day & baby has his own seat, no they wouldn't offer a discount for baby (depends on the airline-most don't right now) His seat cost same as mommy's - $375.


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