Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Stella Shon
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United Airlines flies to more than 300 destinations every day and is part of Star Alliance, the world’s largest airline alliance. With thousands of flights daily, you may find United has the most convenient itinerary for your family. But before you book, you should know what to expect onboard and at the airport.
Here is everything you need to know about flying with kids on United.
United has several hubs in large and convenient airports, including Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN), Guam (GUM), Houston (IAH), Los Angeles (LAX), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), and Washington, D.C. (IAD)
Flying from a United hub airport increases the likelihood of there being a lounge to relax in before your flight. Lounge access is exclusive to those flying in certain classes; however, you may have lounge access from a credit card you carry.
For destinations and airports United doesn’t fly to directly, you can take advantage of its network of 35 partner airlines, including those within Star Alliance. You can book codeshare flights with United miles or cash directly on United’s website.
United’s loyalty program, MileagePlus, is free to join and makes it easy to redeem miles for free flights.
There are several ways to earn MileagePlus miles, including by flying with the airline or one of its partners. However, the best way to earn a lot of miles at one time is to open a United co-branded credit card (more on that below). Alternatively, if you have a Chase Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, you can transfer points directly to MileagePlus to redeem for flights on United.
Other travel-related ways to earn MileagePlus miles include linking your Marriott Bonvoy and IHG One Rewards loyalty accounts to your MileagePlus account to earn miles each time you stay at either of those hotel brands. You can also earn miles on car rental reservations with Avis or Budget and cruises booked with United Cruises.Hot Tip:
Make sure to create a MileagePlus account for your child so that they can also earn miles and status!
United has 4 elite status tiers: Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, and Premier 1K.
Elite status is earned by flying at least 4 flight segments on United or United Express, as well as completing a certain number of premier qualifying flights (PQF) and earning a certain number of premier qualifying points (PQP). PQPs are earned by making qualifying purchases on United, United Express, Star Alliance partner airlines, and more.
Elite status benefits vary based on status level, with the top 2 tiers granting members coveted PlusPoints. PlusPoints are a benefit awarded to Premier Platinum and Premier 1K members that can be redeemed for a seat upgrade.Hot Tip:
When flying on the same itinerary with someone with United status, there are certain perks. For example, those with Premier Platinum status receive complimentary access to Economy Plus for themselves and up to 8 companions.
You can book flights with United and its codeshare partners, such as Singapore Airlines or Air Canada, directly through United.com. For families booking flights with children, you can add them to your reservation when searching for your flights. Alternatively, you can call the airline and have a lap infant added to your reservation.
For award flights with MileagePlus miles, you’ll choose the Book with miles option when searching for tickets.
United Airlines has made positive strides toward making flying more enjoyable for families. Just in the last year, United has introduced a new family seating tool, kids’ amenity kits, and brought back kids’ meals. With that in mind, it’s easy to see why you would choose to fly United with kids.
When searching for flights, you can add a lap infant to your booking directly on the United website. When adding passenger information, you must include your child’s full name as it appears on their ID (which could be their birth certificate or passport), date of birth, gender, nationality, and country of residence.
After booking, you can add your lap infant to your reservation by calling 800-864-8331. United does not require a lap infant to have a ticket when flying domestically.
A child is considered a lap infant when they are younger than 2 years old. For your child to qualify as a lap infant, they must be under 2 years old for the entirety of your trip. If your child turns 2 during your trip, you will be required to purchase your child a return ticket.
While your child can sit on your lap up to 2 years old, the FAA recommends that your baby fly in an FAA-approved car seat.
Bassinets are free in United Polaris business class and on select international flights in economy. You’ll want to call United directly to confirm that a bassinet is available on the plane scheduled for your itinerary.
Children younger than 7 days old cannot fly on United.
United has priority boarding for families traveling with children younger than 2 years old. Unaccompanied minors can also board during preboarding along with active military members, customers with disabilities, and select elite status holders.
United has family seating policy for those traveling with children under 12 years old to sit together for free. The airline’s seat map finds adjacent seats for you when booking, even for basic economy passengers. The seat map will even offer Preferred Seats if necessary.Hot Tip:
Did you know that airline rows only have 1 more oxygen mask than there are seats in the row? That means a 3-seat row can only accommodate 4 people, meaning you can only have 1 lap infant per row. If you’re flying with more than 1 child under 2 years old, you’ll have to purchase a seat for at least 1 of them or split the adults traveling across rows.
United recently partnered with Sesame Street, offering a children’s travel kit with activities such as an activity book, crayons, and a puzzle to keep your little one busy during the flight.
Kids’ meals are also available on the following United flights for preorder:
For those traveling with breast milk, United will provide ice to keep milk and formula cool and allow breast pumps on board at no additional cost.Hot Tip:
Nursing pods and lactation rooms are a comfortable and secure way to pump or breastfeed when on the go. Check out our guide to Mamava pods before your next trip.
There are 2 options for inflight entertainment when you and your family fly on United.
Depending on which aircraft you’re flying on, there may be a seatback screen on the seat in front of you. In this case, you can watch TV shows and movies on DIRECTV or play games without needing your own device.
If no seatback entertainment is available, you can watch TV and movies for free on the United app with free inflight Wi-Fi on your own device.
Wi-Fi is available on most United flights, starting at $8 or 800 miles for MileagePlus members and $10 for all other passengers. Wi-Fi day passes and subscriptions are also available. T-Mobile customers get free Wi-Fi on United.
Children aged 5 to 14 who travel without an adult must participate in United’s unaccompanied minor service. This service is optional for travelers between the ages of 15 and 17 traveling alone.
You can book your unaccompanied minor a ticket directly on United’s website. During the booking process, you’ll be required to share the name and contact information of the person dropping off and picking up your unaccompanied minor from the airport.
The unaccompanied minor program fee varies based on the number of children traveling. The fee is $150 one-way for 1 or 2 children, $300 one-way for 3 or 4 children, and $450 for 5 or 6 children. The fee doubles for round-trip flights.
Lounges are a great way to settle down between the excitement of getting through security and the rush of getting seated on the plane. When traveling with little ones, it’s good to take those moments of calm when you can, no matter how infrequent they may seem on travel days.
When flying on United, you can choose between 2 lounges depending on your airline status or the cabin you’re flying in: United Club and United Polaris lounge. The latter is only available to those traveling in United Polaris class.
United Club is available to travelers flying in the following classes:
Star Alliance Gold status holders and those with United Club memberships or one-time pass holders also have access to United Clubs.Hot Tip:
Chase offers 4 personal and 2 business co-branded United credit cards. The following cards are listed in order from no annual fee to premium and from personal to business cards:
You can transfer flexible rewards to your United MileagePlus account, including Chase Ultimate Rewards and Bilt Rewards points at a 1:1 ratio. Or transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio with a 10,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred.
United is one of the 3 big legacy carriers in the U.S., a member of the Star Alliance, and an increasingly family-friendly airline. In the past year, the airline has brought back kids’ meals, partnered with Sesame Street, and made it easier for families to sit together on the plane. With several hub airports and direct or partner flights to destinations worldwide, United is definitely worth considering for your family’s future travels.
The information regarding the United Club℠ Business Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
Travelers under 18 years old are not required to have any additional identification when flying on United as long as they are flying with an adult. Only the responsible adult must present ID when a child is flying as an unaccompanied minor.
United’s seating policy guarantees that families traveling with children under 12 will be seated together. This is the case no matter the class of service, even if you’ve booked Basic Economy seats.
No, a car seat does not count as a carry-on. A car seat and stroller can be brought on the plane at no additional cost as long as they can be placed in the overhead bin or used in the seat. Otherwise, you can gate-check your car seat or stroller before boarding the plane.
Families do not get to board first on United. However, they get priority boarding along with elite status members and those on active military duty.
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