Update: As of 6/1/2013, I checked Alitalia’s website (which looks updated), and it looks like you’re allowed to buy a seat for an infant now. That’s great news for those who want to do so. You still HAVE to buy a seat for long-haul business class, so that’s not so good news. I’m still sour on the entire program, but if you need to fly Alitalia, at least their policies more or less reflect 21st century thinking. They still aren’t super infant-friendly but they no longer contradict themselves!
My wife and I are trying to take a trip with our (then) 6 month infant this summer. I detailed our use of Delta Skymiles to book two business class award tickets here. I also paid for and received a paper ticket for our infant, since you need to pay for one for infant travel internationally.I thought everything was all set, until I called Alitalia to select our seats. Turns out they have a new infant policy. I’ll detail it here, then detail the frustrations and headaches it’s caused for us.
Alitalia’s New Policies
Here is verbatim what the Alitalia website says about infants under the age of two (emphasis mine):
An infant who has not reached his or her 2nd birthday may not occupy a seat and must be accompanied by either a parent, or an adult over 18 (the parent can be under 18, as long as he or she has legal responsibility for the child).**
** For safety reasons on all long haul flights – B777, A331 and A332 – in Magnifica infants will be allowed to travel only using an approved car seat, as per the procedure already in place.
I also found a short post on this in a Dan’s Deals forum here.
So, to translate, if you are under the age of two, you are NOT allowed to have a seat. I’ve read forum posts (though there is very little out there on Alitalia) of parents complaining because they bought their child a seat because it was safer, only to be told that their child could NOT occupy that seat. OK, so Alitalia only wants lap infants. Many would disagree about the safety is that, but I guess I understand. Except…
On longhaul flights in B777 and Airbus 331/332s, infants under the age of two must travel in a carseat. And as any parent knows, that means they must occupy a seat! Isn’t that contradictory? Yup.
It boils down to this. Your infant is not allowed to be in a seat EVER in coach, nor are they allowed to be in a seat in business class intra-Europe (shorthaul flights). But if you are booked in Magnifica (business class) on longhaul flights, either between Europe and the US or Europe and Asia, your infant needs to sit in a carseat and thus you must buy them a business class ticket.
Obviously, Alitalia wants to make business class more comfortable for non families. I understand that – nobody who is flying for business wants to be disturbed by babies. What bugs me is that they are obviously making it almost prohibitively expensive for families to fly in business by forcing them to buy their infants a seat. This is further compounded by not allowing infants in seats on short haul flights! It all seems shady and backhanded to me.
Imagine this: you, your partner, and your 1 year old want to fly to Italy in business class. Say you are going from JFK-Rome, and then intra Italy from Rome to Milan, then back to Rome, and then back to JFK. Well, according to Alitalia’s rules, you need to buy 3 business class tickets. Fine, I guess. Except…between Rome and Milan, your child will not be allowed to sit in the seat you bought them. Anyway, you can probably tell from my tone that I think this is a bad policy. Kid-unfriendly policies I can deal with. For example, Malaysian Airlines doesn’t allow infants in first class. I don’t agree, but I respect that. They are just saying they want to cater to adults. That’s fine. But Alitalia’s policy is like – oh, kids are allowed, but only if you pay thousands of dollars for them, in fact, we made a special exception so that you can pay thousands of dollars for them! And it’s safer for them! Well, Alitalia, if it’s safer, why can’t I buy a seat for my infant in coach or on shorthaul flights?
Anyway, these are the new policies. So how did it affect our flights?
Changing our Skymiles Award
As I noted, we originally were going to fly direct from BOS-FCO on Alitalia in business. Since I wasn’t going to pay thousands of dollars for baby M, I called Delta and informed them of Alitalia’s change in policy (the policy just changed in March). Delta had actually already issued a paper ticket for baby M, so obviously Alitalia hadn’t let them know of the policy change. Skyteam communication at its best.
Anyway, the Delta rep was very helpful and very competent – she changed our routing on the outbound – now we are going to fly through JFK and on Delta metal the whole way. Of course, the JFK-FCO flight is in business but only on an angled lie flat product, so we don’t even get as nice of a flight. I considered cancelling the whole thing and rebooking on AA or United, but decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. The rep got the change fees waived and also didn’t charge us extra miles (the new itinerary would have booked as a high level award). She was awesome and I was really impressed with her work, even though it took about an hour.
Reissuing baby M’s paper ticket
Well, Delta did have one slight problem. They said I needed to go to the airport ticket counter to reissue baby M’s infant paper ticket. (They really need to switch to electronic infant tickets like AA and United). Now, if you look at our original itinerary, we had a short flight from Florence to Amsterdam on Alitalia in business class. This remained the same after our ticket change. (For the record, business class intra Europe is like coach with the middle seat blocked out in the row).
Anyway, I spoke to a nice Delta agent, she called Delta Global, who of course had to call Alitalia to help get the ticket issued. While on hold for half an hour, we had a nice conversation about being parents and I secured some tips. After being on hold, guess what Alitalia said? Due to their new infant policy, baby M would have to buy her own seat in business class on the FLR-AMS flight to the tune of $1000.
Now, if you’ve been reading carefully, you know that Alitalia person was wrong, because a) it’s a shorthaul flight, and b) it’s not on a 777 or Airbus 331/2. OK, you might not know B, but it’s an Airbus 319. SO, what to do. Well, I refused to buy that ticket, because I know that Alitalia was wrong. I went home, having wasted an hour, without a new ticket for baby M. Now, if I was the one calling, I’d just hang up and try a different agent. But since I can’t call Alitalia to issue the ticket (Delta has to), I had to “hang up” by leaving and coming back to try another day.
When I got home, I called Alitalia, and asked about whether my infant would be forced to buy a ticket on business class between FLR and AMS. The agent unequivocally said no and said that whoever Delta was talking to screwed up.
So, back I went to the airport, armed with this new information. Yada yada yada…Alitalia still told Delta Global to tell the Delta agent I needed to buy baby M a ticket (though for some reason now it was $700). I asked if they could just reissue the tickets for the Delta segments. She did that, and then I declined to get a reissue for the Alitalia segment. My plan is to just use the old paper ticket (the one I received originally) to try to get onto that Alitalia flight.
Well, a few reasons. First, paper tickets don’t even have barcodes, and they might not even look that closely, so hopefully we can get on with that. Second, if I’m at the airport in Florence, they (hopefully) will know the rules, and at worst will make me pay 10% of the fare (not buy baby M an entire ticket). Third, even if they try to make me buy a business class seat for baby M, I’ll just tell them to sit us in coach, where she won’t even be allowed to have a seat. It’s a calculated gamble, but I’ve wasted enough time on this at this point.
I hate to say this, but I think Alitalia is just not infant friendly. I had read as much online, but decided to give them a chance and I regret it. Their new infant policy is complicated and makes things very difficult if you want to travel in business class. Delta was great about accommodating us, so that’s a positive sign. But they need to work on their infant ticketing. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in Italy, but I’m pretty confident that it will work out when we’re at the airport. My biggest concern is that there will be no Delta agents in Florence, but I still think I should be able to work something out with the agents there. If not…ciao!