Ask Shelly: Best way to fly to Paris with baby using American Airlines miles?

Toddler flying in British Airways Britax seat - TravelswithBaby.com

AA miles can be put to very good use indeed when you know your family-friendly airlines.

Having just recently flown from San Francisco to Paris with 4 out of 5 of us using AA miles, I had to smile when I saw this email waiting for me:

Hi Shelly,

I am planning a trip to see my grandmere in France with my husband and toddler.  Chase will be 15 months when we plan to travel in April.  We have AA points we would like to use.  Unfortunately AA does not fly direct to Paris.  We usually have a layover in NY when my husband and I have traveled in the past.  I was wondering if you have any thoughts about how we should do this.  BTW, our baby has not traveled on a plane yet, this will be his first experience.  We will likely rent a car in France.  Here are our options:
  • 1.  Round trip direct flight from SFO to LHR, then train to France, rent a car in France.
  • 2.  Flight from SFO to CDG with layover in JFK.  Rent car in France to go to grandmere’s house 2 hours away.
I thought a direct flight (leaving in the evening) would be best.  But, then we have to make additional plans to get from London to France.  Or, am I over thinking this and should we just do the layover in NY like usual?  If we go to London we would visit a day or two, then continue on.
Also, I am seriously thinking about purchasing a seat for Chase (extra $1,000 with 75% off for infant – ugh) and taking his rear facing car seat (he’s a small baby).
Thanks!
Madeleine

While space remains (at the award level you need) on these flights, you can actually use AA award travel to fly SFO to Paris CDG on American Airline’s codeshare partner: British Airways. To see these BA flight options, go to the AAdvantage booking page at https://www.aa.com/reservation/awardFlightSearchAccess.do and search in your date range for flights from SFO to CDG. When you get your search results, de-select the boxes by American and Alaska Airlines to only leave British Airways flights showing in your results. These outbound flights are not available every day of the week, but hopefully with a little flexibility in your planning you can make one of the flights work for you.

I would highly recommend going this route with BA if possible for your family, for two main reasons:

  1. The overseas flight is timed very well for travelers with small children, leaving around 5 p.m. from SFO, which may be helpful for your family as it was four ours. I am a big fan of the overnight flight going to Europe because we A) Do not lose an entire night of sleep thinking about an early morning departure, B) get to the airport before crunch traffic, C) Have a chance to settle into the new and (for the little ones) very stimulating environment of the airplane before having dinner, then a movie…, and  D) Sleep! And in an airplane that is kept dark for all passengers to do the same, and on a longer flight than you’ll get landing in Chicago or New York. By the time we get to our European destination, we are short on sleep but everyone’s ready for bed when it’s actually evening local time.
  2. I would especially recommend taking the British Airways overseas flight for your family for this reason: Britax toddler seats for lap-held toddlers, such as yours! Take a look at the one we used above, and get more details in the blog post One very good reason to fly British Airways with your lap-held toddler. This means you can have an actual place to put your lap child (up to 24 months) during the cruise portion of your flight, sitting up or reclined in his adjustable seat with a 5-point safety harness.

IMPORTANT: The trick is, you need to reserve seats along the bulkhead row where these are mounted, and because you will book your award flight(s) through AA, you will not be able to select these seats yourself.  So when you call your AA reservations agent, as you’ll need to in order to notify them about your lap child and pay his 10% fee and taxes based on the “retail” ticket price, be sure to get the BA record locator number from the agent before you hang up (it’s different from the AA number). Then you’ll be able to call BA and have them assign your family appropriate seats–and also link your seats together in case you have purchased one in a separate transaction (not with miles).

Hope this all makes sense! Please feel free to comment back if you have any other questions or learn anything new you can share with the rest of us. Thanks for a great question and best of luck with your adventure!

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Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby

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2 Comments

  1. Maddie

    When making our reservations with an agent of AA, we ended up with a flight to LAX; then took a direct flight to CDG with their partner airline Air Tahiti Nui. ATN was great. We purchased a seat for the SFO/LAX flight, but our DS was a lap infant for the LAX/CDG flights. Fortunately there were extra seats and we were able to use the Cosco Scenera on both long flights. The taxes were significantly lower on the ATN flight (as opposed to the British Airways flight), so it was not hard to choose. Thanks for all your helpful hints. We had a great trip!

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