Are new airline fees anti-family?

Kids, to the end of the line! / Photo by nivek hmng - Flickr
If you didn’t know any better, you might think that the airline industry crossed yet another line just before the Memorial Day holiday, the traditional start of the busy summer travel season.

Several media outlets reported that airlines are reserving more window and aisle seats for passengers willing to pay between $25 and $59 extra, which means that family members who don’t cough up the money might not be able to sit together. At the peak of the summer travel season, the reports breathlessly suggested, flying as a family might be nearly impossible.

The revelations drew a predictable response from consumer groups and at least one legislator. The Consumer Travel Alliance, an organization that I helped found and continue to serve as a volunteer advocate, issued a press release asking whether airlines “hate” families.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on the airline industry to stop charging families seat reservation fees. “Children need access to their parents, and parents need access to their children,” the senator said in a prepared statement. “Unnecessary airline fees shouldn’t serve as a literal barrier between mother and child.”

I’ve been following this issue with some concern for several years, ever since many airlines started charging separately for confirmed seat reservations as a way to boost revenue when fuel prices were hitting record highs. As the father of three young children, I take a keen personal interest in the issue. Although being separated from my kids on a long flight appeals to me on one level, I am sensitive to the fact that it could be another passenger’s worst nightmare. So are air carriers.

“Airlines have always worked cooperatively with their customers to seat parties, including those traveling with children, together,” says Steve Lott, a spokesman for the airline trade group Airlines for America. “That has not changed.”

At the same time, Lott defended the industry’s current practices, which vary widely. Some carriers, such as Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways, allow families to board early but charge extra for more desirable economy-class seats. Others, such as US Airways, permit elite-level passengers to board first and give priority to families but also charge for certain economy-class seat reservations. And other air carriers don’t allow families to board early unless they’re elite-level frequent fliers or are willing to pay for the privilege. Among them: American Airlines and United.

“In a market as intensely competitive as the airline industry, the customer wins, having ultimate ability to vote with their spending on varying products that are priced differently,” Lott adds. As a practical matter, airlines say, they do everything they can to keep families together while they’re on board.

“Our agents at the airport often scan the group that is in the lounge, waiting to see if any among them may need extra time or assistance,” says Tim Smith, a spokesman for American Airlines. Having a family isn’t enough to get you on the plane early, but it can help, he adds. Patricia Mankin, an Escondido, Calif.-based travel agent, says that in her two decades of booking air travel on behalf of families with young children, she has never seen one split up. “Airlines that don’t offer advanced seating have always seated children with their parents if they are made aware in advance of the child’s age,” she told me.

I reviewed my own records, and although I saw a fair number of complaints from passengers who were unhappy with seat reservation fees — including several traveling with children — a search for parents who had actually been separated from their kids on board turned up nothing. But my colleague Eileen Ogintz, who writes a nationally syndicated column about family travel called Taking the Kids, says that this is a “huge” issue. “I hear from parents all the time, complaining,” she says. “And they have a right to complain. This is ridiculous!”

Parents want assurances that they will be able to sit with their children. Ogintz recently worked with Schumer’s office to help one of his constituents ensure that she could fly beside her autistic twins, for example. Airlines shouldn’t need to bend a rule to make that possible. They ought to do it because their policy, federal regulation or the law requires it, Ogintz and other travel advocates say.

The easiest fix — and maybe the most logical one — is responsible parenting. There are a few proven ways parents can make sure that their families sit together, such as working with a travel agent with preferred access to seats or letting an airline know in advance that they’re traveling with young children. Even if a family is broken up, a group can show up at the airport a little early and ask a gate agent to seat them together. Agents know from experience that toddlers and strangers don’t make good seatmates. They make every effort to shuffle seat assignments.

Another possible remedy is to ask the Transportation Department to issue new guidance for airlines on the matter of separating children from their parents, something Schumer suggested in a letter last week to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. If that’s not possible, the issue might get taken up by Congress, although the airline industry probably would fight any resulting legislation.

Creating a new law could create new problems, as Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, points out. Lawmakers would have to define what they mean by “family” and “children” and even “seated together.” Politically, that could be a slippery slope. “Trying to legislate family-friendly behavior by airlines would be as easy as trying to keep 3- and 4-year-olds from fighting,” Leocha says.

He adds that no, he doesn’t believe that airlines “hate” families, but he thinks that they could do a much better job of assuring worried parents that they will be able to sit with their children. Airlines aren’t holding the seats hostage, he says; they’re playing a game of “chicken” with passengers.

And they’re hoping that you’ll blink first.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook - LinkedIn - Google Plus

  • $16635417

    Even before airlines charged extra for seat assignments, there was no guarantee that a family could pre-assign seats together, especially if they booked late. This is nothing new, yet seeing the seats you need available…for an extra charge…can certainly be frustrating.

    Yet, the other question is, did those seats get passed over by someone else as well. If I am traveling with my wife and I choose not to pay for seats in advance, those seats are available for airport assignment to anyone. Imagine if there are 4 seats left on the plane…2 together and 2 singles in different parts of the plane. My wife and I don’t have seat assignments and a parent and toddler don’t either…99.9% of gate agents will assign those 2 adjacent seats to the parent and child. Now, if I had been allowed to reserve those seats without a fee, and did so prior to the parent and toddler booked them, they could end up in the single seats. 

  • Oussama

    I am sure the person who came up with the new fees never thought of family seating or the implications from a safety or peace of mind aspect . It was just added revenue. As usual sorting out the consequences were left to front line personnel, check in and gate agents and FAs.
    At the rate fees are dreamt up, I am sure we will soon be paying an IT fee to cope with complexity of the booking software.

  • Jennifer Minchau

    Long time reader, first time poster…We recently traveled to Jamaica with our 2 year old daughter. We begrudgingly payed in order to be seated together.  Before we did this, they had our 2 year old by herself in the back of the plane. Yes, I’m sure we could have gone to the airport and the situation would have probably been remedied, but we did not want to risk it on a full flight.

    What I don’t understand is, if children under the age of 5 aren’t allowed to fly alone, why are they even seated alone?

  • Christopher Elliott

    Good question. I’m almost 100 percent certain they wouldn’t have had your two-year-old sitting alone in the back of the plane. And I agree — the policy seems inconsistent. I think airlines need to articulate their policy better, though.

  • Raven_Altosk

    So, I believe that kids should sit next to their parents. Airlines should look at the ages of people on reservations (now that we must provide them for SecureFlight) and make sure kids are seated next to their parents. 

    My caveat to this is, it should NEVER be up to an already overworked FA to try and get someone to move. That’s where people lose money (folks who pay for “extra leg room”) and patience. Not to mention a huge inconvience on the other pax.

    Case and point:I book aisle seats. Since I’m “elite” I get to board early. I also travel alone or with a business companion. That means, I’m easy pickins for a FA trying to move me to a middle in the back so a parent/child combo can sit next to each other. I generally refuse. 

    Also, they need to define what a “family” constitutes. Kid and 1 parent, okay. Kid and 2 parents. Fine. It does not need to be the entire family of 7, plus grandma, Auntie Rose, and the like. I actually witnessed an idiot going to MCO (of course) whining that his family of 9 had to remain together. The gate agent was trying to explain that the plane sat 6 across. The man (more accurately, the PEST) said, “Well how can I get 9 across?” Gate Agent replied, “Fly a Triple 7.”

    And, at what age is too old to have to sit next to mommy and daddy? A girl of about 16 was seated next to me in the exit row. Mommy didn’t want her away from her and told the FA that I had to be moved away from her daughter because “all men are potential molesters.” Yeah. No, she just wanted my exit row aisle seat. FA told her she could reseat the daughter since most people want the exit row. Mom didn’t want the daughter to move, obviously because she wanted my good seat. Mom told me to move but I just said, “No. I’m sitting here.”

    Finally, what “exceptions” would be made to the age policy? Flying to MCO I get to hear the parents in the gate area trying all kinds of tricks. “My 14 yr old is ADHD. My 23 year old has autism. My 12 year suffers from anxiety…”  Are these real or internet diagnoses? Hearing it so often at MCO makes me wonder…

    (And that reminds me of a story from Di$ney/MCO this week, but I’ll put it in a different post. It’s actually a story that made this snarky bastard’s heart grow five sizes. Yeah. I’m surprised, too)

  • technomage1

    I’m by no means anti-family either…but if people want the seat, and that’s the cost of the seat…they need to pay it.  I fly by myself as well, book early to get an aisle seat to accommodate a bad shoulder, and an exit row seat
    when I can because I’m tall.  Like you, I generally refuse to move unless I get an equivalent seat elsewhere, which usually doesn’t happen.

    What stinks is, somehow in all this, we become the bad guys because we planned ahead, played by the rules, and paid our fare – only to be expected to move when someone else fails to do so.

  • MarkieA

    I love it! I would love to fly back and forth to Orlando just so I could witness some of this nonsense.

    There are just so many middle seats, right? One for every two “desirable” seats. So, what happens when the middle seats fill up – with folks who refuse to pay extra – they have to start putting non-paying folks in them, I guess.

  • Extraneededmail

    Seems quite simple to me – parents should not pay for the “privileged” seats and let the airlines separate them from their children. It won’t take too many flights before the entire traveling public will be clamoring for the airlines to change the rules. I can assure you that the first time I have to sit by someone else’s child on any flight I will raise cane because I’m done raising my children and refuse to sit by anyone else’s. Children, at times, are irritating enough when they are sitting with their parent much less when they aren’t.

  • $16635417

    Revisiting after my cup of coffee.

    Pre-assign only choice portion of the aircraft (for a fee or elites) and then keep the remainder for airport check in only. The reservation system can pre-assign the remaining seats a few hours before flight based on whatever criteria is programmed.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Well, MCO has one thing going for it over EWR. 
    It doesn’t smell like sweaty feet.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Like X1000.
    I’m tired of being painted as the “bad guy” when I decline to give up my seat.

  • fransealou

    We flew standby when my kids were young. We rarely got to sit together.  It’s no big deal if your kids are well-behaved.  My kids actually preferred to sit with random strangers over boring old mom & dad.  We were rarely more than a row or two away and we always sat behind the kids so we could keep an eye on them.

     Pay for the privilege of choosing your seats or sit down and shut up.  You and your little snowflake will survive a couple hours unattached at the hip.  If you or your kid can’t handle it, you have no business taking them outside your house.

  • Jennifer Black

    I am so glad my kid is now old enough (almost 11) to be sitting by herself when we travel if needed.

    Traveling with children is challenge enough.  But to think that I might have to beg another passenger nearby to switch seats so my small child isn’t sitting alone is awful.

    There may be very few actual cases of kids having to sit alone.  But there are lots and lots of cases of the flight attendant asking for volunteers to move around so a small child isn’t sitting alone – on almost every domestic flight I’ve taken in recent years.  I’ve both been the giver of a good seat so a child could sit with a parent, and the receiver.  I’m really sorry for the flight attendants who are stuck dealing with this.

    Not surprisingly, I see very little of this on the international flights that I take – I think there are fewer overbooks, fewer no-shows and generally fewer airlines playing this “you can pick a seat for an extra fee” game.

    Do I think tickets booked together should be seated together?  YES.  But I also think airlines shouldn’t be allowed to overbook and there is still a lot of that going on too.  

    All it’s going to take is one case of a kid getting molested by the stranger they were forced to sit next to and the legislation will be pushed through.

  • MarkKelling

    If I pay extra to sit in a specific seat, I am not moving from that seat for anyone.  If someone chooses not to pay extra for a specific seat next to their travel partner and they don’t get to sit together, too bad.  If you don’t want to pay extra for specific seats, fly Southwest.

    I have only seen a few instances where the parent wanted to move next to the child or vice versa (I don’t do the Mickey Mouse routes).  It is amazing that in every case, the person moving always wants the seat closer to the front of the plane or in the extra legroom section, never are they willing to move to the rear of the plane.  I bet they would get a lot more people willing to move if the person being asked to give up his seat would end up in the “better” seat.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    I too am easy pickins for people asking/telling me to move because I am a solo traveler.  The reason why I have that aisle seat is because I spent my money and actually flew 50,000 miles on United/Lufthansa last year. 
    If families want to sit together, cough up the dough.
    Solo travelers are viewed as chopped liver or the red-headed stepchild by these “entitlement attitude” families.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I don’t find the fees “anti-family”.  I just find them a backdoors route to generate more revenue, applied to *all* travelers.  If a family wishes to travel together, they need to understand that the advertised fare really isn’t the true cost of flying together.  Why should families be excused from paying a fee that is imposed on all other travelers that wish to sit in a particular place or in a particular seating configuration?

    I really, really liked Chris Elliott invoking “responsible parenting”, especially after reading again in today’s paper (Froma Harrop – opinion piece) about the Yanchuk family on Alaska Air.  “Responsible parenting” – what a refreshing thought!

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Agree completely.
    I too have been portrayed as a bad guy because I refuse to move.
    Next time I will pretend not to speak English.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Somehow I doubt even that horrific scenario would bring forth any sort of legislation. The airlines have such a strong lobby, they will likely push back on the phrase “isolated incident.”

    The only way for the travel public to receive any sort of protection will be if members of Congress, the President, etc get on a commericial aircraft as a nobody and see how bad it really is for the common traveler.

    Hmm…sounds like a reality show that would be watchable…

  • Raven_Altosk

    Is there any way you could reach out to the political camps of the presidential candidates and pose questions about airline travel and TSA to them?

    That would make an interesting article.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I’m hoping the Yanchuk people have their article posted here. I would love to use that guy as a chewtoy. 

    The GM of Oyster Bay is getting boring and his troll ability is only like a 2. So, bring me some Fresh Meat!!!

  • technomage1

     Good idea!  I’ve even had people, in an effort to convince me to move, tell me I’m too young (late 30s, look younger) to have a bad shoulder, and basically accuse me of lying about it.  I shut them up right quick by pointing out that I obtained the bad shoulder while in Iraq.

  • cjr001

    I’m not voting in this poll because I don’t’ think it’s the right question.

    The airlines being anti-family is simply a side effect of the fact that they’re utterly anti-consumer.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    I am a disabled veteran also. 
    On my last flight from Frankfurt on United, the flight attendant kept telling me that I belonged in another seat.  I kept telling her my boarding pass read 21C.  Showed it to her, didn’t make a difference, so I just decided to ignore her.  My next step was going to ask to see the passenger manifest.
    Probably been banned on United but they are so disorganized since the merger, the letter hasn’t arrived yet.

  • cjr001

    “Mommy didn’t want her away from her and told the FA that I had to be moved away from her daughter because “all men are potential molesters.””

    Wow, I’d go off on anybody who I heard make an accusation like that.

    I’m not an elite flier. But my wife and I actually prefer the window & middle seats. Why? Because we almost never leave our seats during flights, so it means nobody is bothering us and making us get up out of our seats.

    It’s just galling though that they would make anybody pay for aisle or window seats. Most planes only have the 2 sets of aisle, middle, window seats, so it means that there may effectively be fees on 2/3rd of the seats.

    Couple that with the sections that have extra legroom, or are exit row, and you’re looking at the vast majority of the plane being some kind of extra fee seating, of which *somebody* is forced to pay whether they want to or not because there’s only so many seats.

    It’s just complete BS.

  • cjr001

    Aside from the setup of the security lines (which more than almost any other airport I’ve been to makes you feel like cattle), I haven’t had any real problems at MCO.

  • TonyA_says

    Quite Misleading

    I am not aware of any rule that requires airlines to sit families together.
    I am not aware of any promise made by the airlines that they would sit families together. I have read just about all major airlines’ COCs.
    I can understand why airlines want to sell aisle and window seats for a premium. There is no law prohibiting that.

    Families might want to sit together, but they are not entitled to.
    Airlines define their own policies regarding Child and Infant travel. There is no mention of family. If you read the child related travel policies, you will see something like these below. Notice the word is accompanied.

    Considering that the average American household size is only about 2.6 people and is not increasing, then why is this such a big issue in the USA? Oh I forgot, it’s election time.

    UA: Children under the age of five (5) must be accompanied by an Adult Passenger or the child‘s Parent/Legal Guardian on the. UA reserves the right to require and charge the applicable service fee for Unaccompanied Minor service when a child age five (5) to eleven (11) is traveling with a passenger who is not at least 18 years old or the child‘s Parent/Legal Guardian.
    UA UMNR: 5 to 11 must be accompanied by 18 yrs or older or parent/guardian

    DL: children under the age of 15 will not be accepted for
    transportation unless they are accompanied on the same flight in the same compartment by a parent, legal guardian, or other passenger at least 18 years of age.
    DL UMNR: 5 to 14 must be accompanied by 18 yrs or older or parent/guardian

    US: Children 2 years of age and under 15 years of age are accepted for transportation when accompanied on the same flight by a customer at least 15 years of age.
    US UMNR: 2-14 must be accompanied by 15 yrs old or older

    AA: Children 2 through 11 years of age will be accepted for transportation when accompanied by a passenger at least 16 years of age.
    AA UMNR: 2-11 must be accompanied by 16 yrs old or older

    WN: Carrier will not accept for Carriage any child less than five years old unless accompanied by a Passenger at least 12 years of age.
    Children five through 11 years old. Unaccompanied children ages five through 11 years old will be required to use Carrier’s unaccompanied minor service and will be accepted for Carriage  by Carrier provided the child has a confirmed reservation and the flight on which he or she travels does not require a change of aircraft or flight number.
    WN UMNR: 5-11 must be accompanied by 12 yrs old or older

    B6: carrier will not allow any child under the age of five (5) years to travel on any flight unless accompanied by a passenger fourteen (14) years of age or older. Passengers fourteen (14) years of age or older are considered adults [for the purposes of Section 7 – Unaccompanied Minors).
    B6 UMNR: 5-13 must be accompanied by 14 yrs old or older.

  • Lynda Lyle

    I agree, I doubt the airlines were considering families when they made this decision, just their bottom line. The problem with counting on asking people to change seats so a family can sit together is that people in window and isle seats paid extra for them and will be less likely to move to accommodate a family. It’s going t get ugly. United also just announced they will be charging $100 for a second piece of baggage. In my opinion, people will make their travel decisions on price. When these airlines realize they are losing revenue because people are flying other airlines they will have to make more decisions about all these ridiculous fees they have been imposing.

  • TonyA_says

    You said WE traveled with our 2 year old daughter and unless you paid then your daughter would have sat by herself on the back of the place. Ok, so who are the WE? Is the we your husband (or partner) — who is another adult? Are YOU and the other WE sitting together? Or are all of you separated? Also how far ahead of departure did you buy your tickets. Please be honest.

  • jerryatric

    1) Airlines not against family travel, they’re trying to make a buck anyway they can
    2) A Air might scout the waiting room for special needs passengers but NOT UNITED AIRLINES. My wife sat with her cane waiting 1 1/2 hrs. for a delayed flight & no one paid any attention until a last minute screwup on their part!

  • RHOmea

    People need to start accepting responsibility and the attendant liabilities for their choices. you want to have a family w/ kids? Great, either
    A) book well enough in advance to get seats together, like I had to do to get my seats
    B) pay for them to have elite seats and sit together, like I do by paying more to fly my FF airline instead of other cheaper alternatives so I get my elite status
    C) Pay for Speedy Boarding Cards / arrive early and stand on line that will ensure your choice of seats on non-advance seat choice flights.

    Having children does not give a family any more rights than it gives other travelers and I for one am damned sick and tired of their demand for preferential treatment because they made a life choice and now don’t want to be inconvenienced by the consequences, but expect others to be instead.

  • RHOmea

    I forgot:
    – Drive vacations like we did with my parents who could not afford to fly their family anywhere
    – take the train
    – stay home until your kids are older.
    But none of these choices fit the “New Age of Entitlement” Americans believe they have been born into.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yeah, I was definitely insulted, but the look of sheer embarrassment on the poor girl’s face kept me from starting a snark fest with the mother.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I haven’t had any problems there, but the clientele is definitely unique to that airport.

  • TonyA_says

    Agree. Airlines just maximizing revenues and not targeting families. Note that so many airlines still offer CHILD fares.

    No one forced us to have kids. We have 3 boys. We knew we would have to pay more for everything – medical bills, a bigger house and car, more (gas) trips to school and activities, more, more, more …
    But having 3 kids was our choice, so we have to plan ahead when making air travel itineraries. I choose the airlines that allows me to make free advanced seating reservations. If I can’t get them (e.g. Intra Europe and Asia) then I just make sure I get to the airport earlier than everyone else. It’s that simple. Can’t understand why this is an issue.

    Regarding the Yanchuk family, I have a feeling many people are actually cheering for Alaska Air. Also I don’t like the father calling the FA a stewardess.

  • TonyA_says

    Just don’t allow advanced seat reservations (like in Europe), period.
    Essentially, that’s what Southwest does. It is more efficient. You better get to the airport early if you want a choice seat or to sit together. The late ones cannot complain. Wow, what a simple concept.

  • TonyA_says

    You need to find an advocate who will fight for solo travelers’ rights. I can’t see why families have more rights than you or other solo travelers. I venture to make a guess that solo travelers (as a group) probably contribute more to airline revenues than any other kind of traveler.

  • Ricardo Perez

    Another cute comment on your part.

  • Sadie_Cee

    My endorsement – Like X 1 million!

  • frostysnowman

    The airlines hate everyone, not just families, as the continue to dream up new revenue sources to make up for their bad business models.  If they stop charging seat fees it should be for everyone, not just families, especially the airlines that have always allowed seat selection prior to flights.  To do anything other than that would be unfair. 

  • frostysnowman

    I would also like to see that happen!

  • frostysnowman

    I wouldn’t think of you as a bad guy.  I never moved either, when I traveled for business alone.  (But I just quit my job a couple of weeks ago and don’t have to do that anymore!  Hooray!)  And when I travel with my family, I make sure that we have seats together ahead of time.

  • MeanMeosh

    There are really 4 main causes of families (or anyone else trying to sit together, for that matter) from getting split up:

    1) Schedule changes;
    2) Equipment changes;
    3) Seat changes for “operational reasons”;
    4) Not booking far enough in advance to get seats together.

    If 1-3 apply to your situation and you get split up, guess what?  You’re screwed, whether you’re a family or not, and regardless of what asinine regulations the DOT can come up with.  It sucks, and it’s frustrating, but there are going to be LOTS of folks with messed up seat assignments.  Hate to break it to you, but you aren’t being picked on because you’re a family.

    As for #4, yes, there are reasons why a party traveling together can’t book in advance, and that’s where you just have to do your best and try to figure something out at the airport.  But in my experience, doing so takes care of most problems.  One of the myths being perpetrated by the folks who accuse the airlines of a “war on families” is that practically all the seats on the plane are preferred seats that require a fee.  I can’t speak for the other airlines, but I’ll use AA as an example to debunk this myth since I fly them frequently.  There are some flights with a high proportion of business travelers (DFW-ORD is an example) where it is true that a very high percentage of seats are preferred.  But on most leisure routes, this simply isn’t true.  I’m looking for a flight to Ft. Lauderdale in early December.  There are anywhere from 50 to 60 seats on each flight where you can book 2 or more seats together without a fee.  Even looking at the seat map for FLL for August 5th – less than 2 months from now – you have anywhere from 8 to 33 seats on each flight that you can book as a pair or better without a fee.  You might have to compromise some – you might have to pick a flight time that isn’t exactly what you want, or heaven forbid, you might have to sit further back in the plane than you want to and/or split your party into pairs, but if you plan ahead far enough, there’s no reason you can’t get seats together, even without paying a fee.


  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Thank you for saying exactly what I was thinking.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I am so looking forward to THAT!

  • sdir

    IMO this policy isn’t specifically anti-children, since it affects all travelers.  For example, I am a plus size traveler.  My father passed suddenly in January and so I booked a flight on less than 24 hours notice.  I paid for two seats, marking the 2nd reservation as instructed so that the airline would know both seats were for the same person.  Even so, I couldn’t get confirmation whether those two seats would be together unless I paid an extra $60 for each seat. I went to the airport early and fortunately was able to get them to put my seats together, because of course their reservation system booked my seats at opposite ends of the plane. 

    Why isn’t the airline’s system set up to recognize when 2 seats are booked for the same person and make sure the seats are together?  The seat reservation fee is another way to gouge the consumer.

  • Christopher Elliott

    I like that idea. I’ll see what I can do.

  • Sadie_Cee

    Should airlines begin passing on the real cost of travel to their customers we will hear less about airlines being anti-family. 
    If domestic fares are increased to reflect the true costs, some folks with large numbers of children will either stay at home or seek alternatives.  There will be resurgence in surface travel by car, rail and bus.  People who are willing to pay the realistic fares will be able to enjoy the old comforts once again.
    Since none of this is likely to happen, the airlines will continue to offer the immensely popular cheap fares, but will have to find various nitpicking ways to raise revenue in an attempt to remain financially viable.  For instance, though amusing to contemplate, we can allow our imaginations to run riot with a host of additional charges that could be imposed:
    *Clean pillow – $10, reused pillow – $5 
    *Window seat – $60, Middle seat – $30, Aisle seat – $80** 
    *Washroom pass – $40 for 2 visits per pax
    **An additional premium of between $20 and $50 to be charged according to section of the aircraft preferred.
    Other innovations:
    *Seats assigned at time of booking are non-transferable.
    *If the preferred seats are not available, reservation will be declined.
    Will individual airlines lose business with every new add-on?  I doubt it.  People will scream, they will pay and the anti-family accusations will continue.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I really wish they would do away with lap children. It’s just totally not safe.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Oh, but I’ve been on a SWA flight where a family with three little kids boarded last. The FA’s made announcements offering free booze for anyone willing to relocate.

    They had quite a few offers! 

  • Raven_Altosk

    Oh look, Princess has come out to play in a thread not about his sketchy hotel!

    Princess, I’ve stayed at Peter Island numerous times (that’s an amazing resort in the BVI) and never have been hit with an “energy fee” so don’t lie and claim it’s SOP for Caribbean resorts. Maybe for yours, but definitely not for the really nice ones.

  • katpet666

    This one requires a comment (which I don’t usually do.)  Last summer, I coughed up the extra fees on British Airways so our family of six could sit together on a flight to France for a family wedding.  Mommy, Daddy, Grandpa and Grandma (me) took turns watching the four-year-old twins (on their second flight.)  I didn’t want to gamble on last-minute seat assignments on a flight of ten hours.  (The kids were champs.  They misbehaved not once, believe it or not.)

    The year before, when my husband and I were flying back from France on Air Canada, we were treated to a toddler running up and down the aisles for most of the flight, while the mother did who-knows-what.  For all we knew, that child didn’t even have a seat.  Occasionally, the FA could be seen leaning over the mother’s seat, talking to her, and then the mother would leap up and look up and down the aisle for the toddler.  When she found her, she took her back to the seat, but that child was on the move again in under ten minutes every time.  The child did not sleep once, but some pax near us told me Mom was napping often.

    So what’s my point?  I guess paying the extra fees can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the vigilance of the adult, but I won’t gamble when it comes to the welfare of my little ones (and everyone around them.)

  • sherryk327

    After reading all these comments, I think we have a new reality show in the making!

  • Ann Lamoy

    What also bugged me was the fact that in one of the articles, he admitted the wife worked better at calming the three year old down. Why didn’t he ask one of the FA’s to go get his wife and have her switch with him so she could get the boy to calm down?

    And I have no doubt that he was lying down in his seat with the belt lying over his neck. A three year old is a squirmy little bundle of unhappiness and they are NOT going to be sitting upright like a teenager would be.

  • TonyA_says

     The carrot works!

  • texas88

    I have found that letting the airline know at check-in (if you check-in online, call the reservation center) that you have minors traveling with you. As each airline has their own definition for minor, be sure to understand the airline’s policy. Most airlines appreciate the headsup as they don’t want an unaccompanied 5-year-old next to their elite fliers. 
    Another option? Southwest. As there aren’t seat assignments, there isn’t the issue of the extra fee for window or aisle seating. Make sure to let the gate agent know as family pre-boarding occurs between Group A & B. If you are connecting, request that the gate agent notify the connecting flight crew. General policy is that FAs on the next flight will hold the back row open for connecting families.

  • Jim

    Just re-started it “On the Fly”  SW did Airline about 8 yrs ago, Sort of the same thing…

  • Jennifer Minchau

    We booked these tickets far in advance. The problem occurred when the first leg of our flight was cancelled and they bumped us to another flight. They reassigned us all in middle seats scattered throughout the plane. We definitely could have gotten away with only paying for 2 of us sitting together, but figured we would be less of a bother to people if we took up an entire row.

  • SoBeSparky

    The best customers board first generally.  They get room overhead for their carry-on luggage, and get to slide into their seats a little more easily.  Leisure travelers generally provide less revenue per person.  The airlines want, in this free capitalist system, to provide a better product or service to people who provide higher revenue and enable them to generate profits.

    It is well known that if everyone on an aircraft paid the same lowest available advanced-purchase discounted fare, every flight would lose money.  Certain travelers commit earlier and get lower fares.  An airline’s revenue management department tries to balance fares so the last minute customers, for whom a frequent dependable schedule is made available, pay more.  

    So who are the leisure travelers, who do not produce a profit at their deep discounted fares, to ask for early boarding, or seat accommodation, at the expense of the airline’s better customers?  I just do not get it.  All cannot be equal.  If the best aisle and window seats go to families, what do the higher paying customers get?  The dregs?  That is like suggesting the highest priced arena tickets are in the third balcony.  Nosebleed section.

    I am not certain why families deserve to board early.  Oh, I can hear the screams now about diapers and children who must be carried, about little ones needing more time, about harried mothers needing a more peaceful atmosphere to get the children settled, etc.  

    I cannot recall trains ever giving families early boarding, or buses for that matter.  Everyone just gets in a line and gets on.  Of course, some who are seriously handicapped get early boarding as they visually or physically cannot keep up with the normal boarding processes.  

    What sense of entitlement do “families” have?  Why are they more deserving of early boarding than an older but physically well passenger?  Why do families believe they should board before first class?  Or do they? Maybe travelers have their own sequences they feel is “fair.”  Of course, the category they fit into usually then will get on early.

    This is a big hornet’s nest.  Leave it alone.  This is one place where capitalism and simple common sense should prevail.  

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I don’t know I’d say their anti-family.  In fact, I’m sure the airlines LOVE families because it’s a revenue stream for them.  The more families flying, the more they earn in “preferred” seat revenue.

  • flutiefan

     i was on a full flight several years ago when a family of 3 or 4 or 5 boarded dead last, rushing on out of breath. the mom demanded the F/As find them seats together. as many times as the F/A asked, nobody would budge.  finally, as this was causing such a delay and a hassle, i said “FINE! I’LL MOVE!”  i had an aisle seat (an empty seat was next to me) and moved to a middle… ugh.  but as i did so, i said loudly to the woman, “NEXT TIME, GET HERE ON TIME.” the plane applauded and the F/A gave me a free drink ;)

    and not once did i feel everyone else was a “bad guy” for refusing! so please, stand your ground and don’t even give it a second thought! (which i know Raven doesn’t LOL)

  • flutiefan

     LOL i just posted a reply above with this very scenario! and it was SWA!

  • flutiefan
  • flutiefan

     stop being logical and making so much sense, Tony


  • flutiefan

     and Roomie gets people screaming when they have to pay $50 when one of their 2 FREE bags is over the weight limit.  SMH.

  • flutiefan

     i have flown many times with my cane and i do not remember feeling like anyone needed to pay any extra attention to me…

  • thromby

    What happens if the aircraft needs to be evacuated? Is a parent really going to jump down the slide while their child is still on board 12 rows from the exit? You gotta be near your kid(s) so you can drag ’em out the door.

    For those who don’t fly with kids, here’s a little motivation to stop your bleating… If you are on a flight that needs evacuating but a few parents have been seated away from their kids YOU won’t get out, because the doors will be jammed with parents refusing to get off without their kids, and pushing against the passenger flow. That’s what I’d do, and I’ll bet I’m not alone.

    Certification for airliners requires a demonstration that a full plane can be evacuated, using half the exits, in 90 seconds. You can bet your last corn chip that these tests do not include parents trying to stay go against the flow. The 90 seconds evac is ONLY possible if all passengers are equally motivated!

  • flutiefan

     bless you!  you actually understand and GET IT!!! can you please pass this on to every other passenger?! :)
    thank you!

  • flutiefan

     my own airline’s employee tried to get us to allow his TWO infants to sit on his lap a few weeks ago. i mean, really?!?!?!

  • flutiefan

     i think i love you.

  • sherryk327

     Thanks, I’ll have to check it out.  Course when my four were little we couldn’t afford airfare.  So, yes, we went by car everywhere.  Only WE had to put up with the screaming and bickering.  Our first opportunity to fly as a family came when they were in their teens and we flew across country to WDW.  I don’t think we sat together, but who cares.  We were going to WDW! Now I go crazy when
    there are parents who feel their little ones are entitled to act any way they want.  But I will always praise the parents who do a good job and I will always offer to help if it makes a difference.  Now if we could only get the loud talkers to be quiet on a redeye…

  • jerryatric

    Disqus generic email templateNOT A QUESTION OF SPECIAL ATTENTION. There would have been no problems had United known what type of plane they were flying, advising we were in an Emergency Exit row when in fact we weren’t. They were then going to place my wife, in a middle seat, knowing with her condition & a 4 1/2 hr. flight it would have been very painful. This is why we booked well in advance & advised she may need help in the form of a wheelchair for long walks through the airports. We sat for 1 1/2 hours waiting for a delayed flight & in that time they could have checked all the ticket holders NOT waiting till boarding time. It was so bad they double booked several seats, something that would have been straightened out early & without the angry passengers involved. This trip we flew 3 different airlines & the only problem? United!!! So I don’t know why you have a cane, nor do I care. My wife had chronic hip pain, & was waiting for surgery. Which she now has had.

  • senjisilly

    This issue really is not new, at least in my experience.  17 years ago I flew with my then 8 & 5 year old children from Germany to the US on NorthWest.  No problems until  we had to change to a connecting flight at NW’s hub to SFO.  I found that the 3 of us were scattered all over the plane and asked at the gate if I they could change our seat assignments.  I was told to ask a FA after boarding.  Since we boarded before other passengers I thought “sure, no problem”.  Wrong.  The FA told me it was not her job to ask passengers seated next to my children if they would consider changing seats with me.  So I asked the passengers seated with my children and they all said no.  The woman sat next to my 5 year old was quite rude about it.  Knowing my 5 year old and his non-stop questions, I decided to let things play out.  5 minutes later he and I were seated together.  The 8 year old was fine, two rows up from me.  No one was willing to trade with me then when they weren’t paying extra for a window seat.  Guess now someone would have to put up with listening to a 5 year old talk non-stop for 4-5 hours.

  • TonyA_says

    Like a Santa Claus pic with twins :-}

  • TonyA_says

     Don’t forget some fares are cheaper for 2-11 year olds. That also provides less revenue to airlines.

  • TonyA_says

    Flight Cancellations and Equipment Changes can create havoc to the best laid plans. Usually for reaccommodations, you will simply be reassigned to any available seat. Did you try to call customer service and ask them for adjacent seats, explaining you had a young daughter with you? Also, usually at the airport during check in, the agent should have some blocked seats that could help solve your problem. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees.

  • bodega3


  • MarkKelling

    Yep.  Not only unsafe but also even more uncomfortable for those seated around the lap child.

    I was on a CO flight where a family of 6 tried to get on with only 3 seats booked.  The other 3 children, all obviously older than 2 or 3 years, were to sit in the laps of the parents and the oldest child who looked about 10.  How they actually got past the boarding agent I don’t know, but the flight attendants would not let all 6 of them sit in a single row.  Long story short, they were eventually escorted off the plane by local police because the father was yelling and threatening every one from the flight attendant to the pilot that they were going to all sit together no matter what anyone said because he paid “real money” for the 3 seats.  And all the flight attendants really wanted is only one lap child per row.

  • MarkKelling

    And of course if you pay for a clean pillow but receive a used pillow because all the clean ones were taken before you got on the plane, well too bad — no refund!

  • technomage1

    Bleating?  Perhaps you don’t realize, but not all economy fares are the same.  The person seated next to you or in the exit row may have paid $200 to $400 more than the leisure traveler.  Fare codes, seat preference fees, etc add up.  Wouldn’t you be upset at being asked to move from a premium seat that you paid more for due to someone else’s poor planning?

    No one suggests that children, especially small children, should be separated from their parents.  As others have pointed out, parents are also responsible for taking measures to ensure that happens.  Showing up at the last minute and expecting someone to move is not the answer.

  • MarkKelling

    But, aren’t most of the seats together that don’t cost “extra” toward the rear of the plane?

    And of course families must sit together in the FRONT of the plane, so therefore there are NO seats available together in the view of most families.  ;-)

  • Raven_Altosk

    Like X1000

  • Raven_Altosk

    I had one change her (obviously older than 2) lapchild on the TRAY TABLE next to me!!!!

    At least now they have to put in birthdates so the lap children aren’t just starting kindergarten!


  • CarolinaLannes

    Me and my husband usually buy our tickets through orbitz. We’d love to buy directly from the company, but from here it’s impossible to do so online. Therefore, orbitz it is. We can only choose window or aisles seats, or no preference. It’s impossible to choose window + middle, side by side. Therefore, we always choose 2windows, then ask people seating in the middle seats if they’d like to change. So far, no problem. The thing is that we only offer to change seats when it’s for the better to the other people.

    When we could choose seats in a better way, we’d always get window + aisle on the same row. Then, hope that nobody chooses the middle seat. If that happens, great An entire row for us. If not, same thing: offer to change the aisle seat for the middle one.

    If we can’t get to go together. Well, We’ll survive a few hours apart!

  • Raven_Altosk

    True, but I’m willing to bet I pay (or rather my employer pays) more for my flexible, last minute, walk-up tickets than a family of four pays for all of theirs. (Non-refundable, web fares, booked 6 mo in advance)

  • ExplorationTravMag

    I’m sure you’re absolutely right, Raven.  But that’s income they could already count on.  

    This charging extra for “Preferred seats” is an additional revenue stream and, in spite of people saying they probably didn’t consider how it would affect families, I’d wager the initial meeting the individual airlines had about it included a discussion about how families would have to pay to stay together.

  • Jennifer Minchau

     Yes, our travel agent contacted them and was told we could work with the
    gate agent once we checked in. Rather than stress about it, we went
    ahead and paid for the seats and everything worked out fine. I just
    wanted to post why people flying with kids feel the need to purchase
    seats. If my husband and I would have been traveling alone it would have
    been no big deal.

    I’ve read the blog long enough to know that those who have paid
    for premium seats might be reluctant to give up their seat up for my special
    snowflake :)

  • Aaron Salvo

    Meh easy fix for this: let the kids sit alone. Sue the airlines if something happens to them. Or the passenger they junior is seated next too will certainly complain loudly for being seated next to a free range toddler. 

    I’ve found lately that the airlines just don’t give a shit.On a Delta flight recently we were told by the flight attendant as part of the safety briefing, “..and don’t ask us for pillows, blankets, drinks, or food. You won’t get it.” The FA’s basically spent the entire flight from Charlotte to Cleveland sitting. 

    They have union jobs. Can’t be fired unless they murder someone or the company files Chapter 11, and then the union would rather everyone lose their jobs rather than compromise. So why should they f’ing care about us poor slobs? I mean at this point they seem to want the planes to be empty, because they’re still gonna get paid.

    Tell me again why unions are so good for America?

  • thromby

    Of course, you paid the extra, why should you move? The problem is with the economic model that makes it cost prohibitive for a family to pay the extra to sit together… E.g. Family of four had 4 preferred seating fees… That starts to add up. Therefore you WILL have kids scattered through the plane. Therefore problems WILL occur in an evacuation.

    Who is going to help the kids put on their oxygen masks in a depressurisation? You? I’m sure you will, because you care enough to write here, but would any random stranger?

    Maybe the family-friendly strategy for airlines would be to apply ONE seat preference fee to a family, rather than one-per-person.

    Some airlines are more kid-friendly than others, of course…

  • TexanPatriot1

    This is about monetizing everything about air travel. It is why now I only fly Southwest, for now.

  • thromby

    At Thromby Air we have no problem with kids traveling alone, and will even entertain them after the flight putting them to work cleaning the plane. They are the perfect non-unionized workforce…

  • $16635417

    They usually board families after the “A” group…wonder how that happened!

  • $16635417

    But how would Raven get his exit aisle?? ;)

  • jet2x2

    They are not anti-family – they are pro-money.  If something makes a few bucks, the potential consequences to the traveling public are not important.  Threats from politicians and regulators?  Cry poverty and complain about government interference.  Am I cynical?  You bet – and judging from this blog, so are most of the experienced travelers in this group.

  • jet2x2

    Thank you!  I took one flight that illustrated this entitlement bs to the max.  They bumped me (single traveler) from my carefully selected seat to the bulkhead seat near the bathroom to accommodate a family.  No notice, they hand me a new boarding pass when I am getting on the plane and when I object they tell me I can take the next flight if I don’t like it.  Not one but two parents with babies stand near the front with their kids for most of the flight – and they constantly step on my feet going back and forth without apology or even seeming to notice. Then a little girl a few rows back has a screaming meltdown for an hour – which I would not have been subjected to if I had not been involuntarily moved.  The mother sits and reads a magazine while the kid screams.  I know sometimes you can’t do anything with a child in real distress – but at least try.  I live for the day when I can always afford to sit in first class without snagging an upgrade – which may be never but one can always aspire to something.

  • jet2x2

     It’s sad when they try to penalize you for trying to do the right thing by buying two seats.  It’s equally sad that this happened at the same time you had a death in the family. 

  • liz swanzon

    I generally agree with that sentiment, if you have the means to buy a certain seat that the airline deems more desirable, like window or aisle, then by all means do it. However, this is a slippery slope when kids are added to the mix. I have a 2yr old, when he flies he is required by law to be in his own seat (since he is over 2), and in a FAA approved restraint, (i.e.  car seat, since he doesn’t weigh 40lbs yet). The FAA also requires that car seat to be in a window seat. So, now theoretically I might have to pay extra for something that is required by law. That part doesn’t make sense.
    On the other hand, if many of the aisle and window seats are “extras” that come with a cost in miles or dollars, will that person be as likely to switch with me so that I can sit in the same row as my 2 yr old and 4 yr old when we travel? I ask this, because I am traveling in a week with my 2 kids, on reservations that we booked over 6 weeks ago. Even then, we couldn’t get better seats that middles scattered throughout the plane. I am sure we will be seated together in the end, but will someone be forced to give up their perks that they paid for so that my kids can sit where they are required to by the FAA…ie toddler in the window, and the 4 yr old with me since he can’t fly by himself? I bet that person will be writing to Chris asking to help get him a refund of their ticket since they couldn’t sit in the seat they paid extra for.

  • MajCarter

    Not necessarily anti family, but I do feel these days they’re anti passenger.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    If spending money is such a problem for families to sit together, maybe you should just stay home.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Why should families pay less? Your logic, she fails. In fact, the logic of the airlines fail in regards to lap children. The reason for “free” lap children? Airlines figured people would just pay to drive if they had to buy a seat for an infant.

    So, the rest of us now have to put up with these potential projectiles encroaching on our even tighter space. Worse, when an incompetent mother decides to change her little darling on the TRAY TABLE…just ewwww.

    But I digress.

    Flying is a priviledge, not a RIGHT. The entitled masses who board with the expectation that others will bow to their every whim is the problem. I get that sometimes equip changes or unavoidable last minute bookings happen, but why is it that the “distressed family” always wants the BETTER seats?

    If you’re going to ask me to move, don’t expect me to want to change to sit in the back in a middle.

  • Raven_Altosk

    With my charm, snark, and average looks, of course!

  • Raven_Altosk

    I think they were just late arriving to the gate. They had definitely been running.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Very interesting. I didn’t know that safety seats had to be in the windows. Hmm.

  • MarkieA

    Let me ask, Are you willing to pay that person the extra dollars for his/her seat?

  • TonyA_says

    There you go Jennifer, if we cannot stand the suspense (wait to get seats at airport) or do not want to risk getting separated; then we pay and BUY peace of mind. I’d do the same (pay) if it was that important to me. I think the UNFRIENDLINESS is due to the fact that some parents don’t want to pay (or are willing to steal seats that others paid for).

  • TonyA_says

    Or do think they are just selling almost everything they can to the highest bidder?

  • TonyA_says

    Reserve adjoining seats. A CRS must be placed in a window seat
    so it will not block the escape path
    in an emergency. A CRS may not
    be placed in an exit row. 

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Compare the costs of paying preferred seating fees for four to the cost of driving (both in terms of gas and time) those four instead.  (Contiguous 48 states, of course.)  Not sure that preferred seating fees are that “cost-prohibitive” in comparison.

  • technomage1

    They’re moving towards a pricing model like sports events or the theater – better seats for more money.  That’s a free market.  And just like sports or the theater, if you want that seat, you pay the price for it.  No one shows up and a sporting event having booked 2 tickets in the $20 seats and 2 tickets in the $150 seats and then demanding that 2 people in the $150 section move to the $20 seats so that their family can sit together.

  • Ellen

    Don’t be so certain. Even in the old days, it almost happened to me. In 1990, I flew to St. Louis with a six month old lap child and a three year old. We had advance seating but something happened and we were told when we arrived at the gate that we would need new boarding passes. The flight was full and they gave me a middle seat three rows behind the three year old. The gate agent asked for volunteers but it was almost entirely a business flight and she got no takers.  She said it could be fixed on the plane.

    On the plane, the flight attendant asked but she had no volunteers either.  Luckily, my three year old was a seasoned traveler so I did not make a fuss and counted on something else.  I settled her into her seat. I gave her some books and some crayons. I also told her where I would be and that the nice gentlemen next to her would help her if she needed the flight attendant or could not reach her backpack.

    “You’re not leaving her here,” the men beside her practically wailed.  I assured them that she was a good traveller (which was no lie as she was better than I have ever been) and that I had no choice because no one was willing to give up a seat. They huffed and puffed and I moved toward my own seat with the baby. In a few moments, one of them came back and traded seats. My three year old later explained that they had flipped a coin to decide which one had to change seats.

  • BMG4ME

    At least they give you an option to pay at all – unlike me, who cannot eat a meal in first class because they no longer offer special meals in first class domestic, even when a regular meal is offered to everyone else – even if you want to pay.

  • bodega3


  • Sadie_Cee

    I love you too.

  • Sadie_Cee

    Right on…it seems to me that people who cause others to have to give up their seats for them because they did not pay for pre-assigned seats are acutally having their travel costs subsidized by the displaced people.

  • flutiefan

     my company REQUIRES that we ask for proof of the age when they have a lap child. now, if the kid is clearly a few months old and the parent either forgot or claimed they were “never told”, we can use reasonable judgment and advise about the regulations in the future. if there’s any doubt… NOPE. either get the proof or pay for a ticket. none of this 2- and 3-year-olds sitting on laps business on our watch. [not that i’ve ever witnessed, anyway… even though EVERY SINGLE TIME a parent tries, they claim “they didn’t ask for it last time”. either (a) the last time you flew the kid was obviously an infant, (b) you flew another airline that doesn’t verify this stuff, which is not cool, or (c) you’re lying.]

  • flutiefan

     just for clarification, the FAA is who has made the regulation that children under 2 can fly on laps. airlines would MUCH rather have that revenue, too!
    but the FAA insists on the theory, as you said, that families would stop flying and drive.
    otherwise, in this entire debate, you are spot-on.

  • flutiefan

     just like TonyA, i need you to STOP MAKING SENSE!!!

  • Michael__K

    Yes, though they make an exception if the blocked passenger is a family member or caregiver.

    My wife and I have been allowed to put our car seat-strapped toddler in the middle seat so we could sit on either side of him.

  • Michael__K

    Part of the problem is that even paying for “premium” gives you no rights under the contracts of carriage.  Seating is still not guaranteed no matter what you paid for preferential seating.

    When I’m traveling with my under 5 year old kids, I want to sit with them regardless of where it is.  The non-reclining last row of the aircraft next to the restroom is fine and is far preferable to being in separate rows anywhere else.

  • Michael__K

    Passengers can “cough up the dough” but it guarantees them nothing.

    If you read the contract, you can still be denied the seats you paid for and you have no recourse when that happens.  You might not even be entitled to a refund of the dough you coughed up.

    If you want to talk about “entitlement attitudes” lets start with the authors of those contracts who think they can collect your money for empty promises.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Thanks for clarifying that for me. :)

  • Michael__K

    Why should families be excused from paying a fee that is imposed on all other travelers that wish to sit in a particular place or in a particular seating configuration

    Because families with very small children often aren’t concerned with sitting in one of those particular places that costs extra.  They just don’t want their toddler separated from them.

    If they are happy with the non-reclining row at the rear of the plane, or they are happy with 3-middle seats in the center portion of a 2-5-2 configuration, then why should they be forced to pay for a “premium” seat, that is not even contractually guaranteed anyway?

    What happens to families that have a lap child that find out the seat they purchased is precluded to lap children?  (I’ve discovered that 50+% of seats are precluded on some aircraft, and there are often no hard controls to prevent you from booking them).

  • Michael__K

    Also lap children are  often restricted to certain regions of the aircraft (sometimes less than half the seats on the plane are eligible) because of safety requirements such as extra oxygen masks.

    And yet you can book an ineligible seat if you don’t know better and not find out until you reach the airport.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Awesome! On one flight, the “lap child” behind me must’ve been in kindergarten! :/

  • Michael__K

    I thought the early boarding was designed to help assure that the plane departed on time, which affects the carriers’ bottom line.

    If a family has a kid or two who need to be carried, and a car seat or two, and a stroller or two, and toys, and baby food, and diapers that need to be handy, they will take slightly longer than the average single passenger to get properly buckled into their seats so the flight can depart.

    This isn’t an issue on trains and buses. 

    If you don’t mind your flight taking off a couple of minutes later, then by all means, have the families board last.

  • Michael__K

    Bad analogy.

    Theaters and sports teams don’t oversell their seating inventory and they generally force their customers to fill the available sections contiguously.  So they don’t wind up in a situation where the $20 section is 40% empty but yet it’s impossible to get 4 seats together.

    And your seats are actually guaranteed at most theaters, stadiums, and arenas.

  • TonyA_says

     I don’t think any airline will guarantee a specific seat (Row and seat #).

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    1) I don’t believe in lap children on planes.  I consider it tantamount to child abuse.  I don’t know of any state in the Union that allows children to ride on their parent’s lap in a car.  Similarly, the very occasional hazards of flying constitute a real danger to a child.  What’s a child’s life worth?  The price of an airline ticket?  For shame.
    2) I don’t consider the act of procreation a free pass to claiming seats for less money than others have to pay.  You want your toddler to sit next to you?  Your wife?  Your aged mother? Your disabled companion?  Whomever?  Pay up.  The advertised price is just a come-on.  That’s the real disgrace, right there.

    And before you start, I’ve raised two children to responsible adulthood. 

  • Michael__K

    Taking the stance that small kids — who need extra leg room the least — should  depend on the premium “extra leg room” rows in order to sit with their parents is not only family unfriendly, its even  unfriendly to anyone who actually wants to pay for extra leg room, but may not be able to if the families take the “responsibility” you want them to and gobble up those rows.

  • Michael__K


    That’s why  paying extra to sit together is not even a solution.

  • bodega3

    Yes, the system does recognize it as I have booked it for clients myself in the GDS.  I look at the seat map before hand to see that two seats together are available.  Never a problem.  Not sure why online it is, but then you are not looking at live inventory which is probably part of the problem.

  • Michael__K

    1) Mothers don’t nurse in a (moving) car either.  Some babies don’t take well to cars and are much happier in their parents arms then in a car seat.  It’s an apples and oranges comparison and one size does not fit all.

    And even when you do pay for a separate seat for your infant you still have a seating problem: As liz pointed out, you must have a window seat.  But if you don’t know, the carrier generally won’t prevent you from selecting (or paying extra) for something else, even though they know the infant’s DOB these days.

    2) How many people who sit in “premium” seats paid anything extra for them?  If we’re talking about aisle seats, those are at least 1/3rd of the seats on the aircraft, more on the large jets.  Do you really think  33+% of the passengers on a flight are going to pay $60 extra to sit in an aisle seat?  If not, who should sit in those aisle seats?

    And then what happens if you paid for “extra leg room” that you didn’t really care about just so you can sit together and you are split up anyway because of the carrier moving you either to meet one of various legal requirements or because of irregular operations or because of over-booking?  You aren’t necessarily even due a refund according to the contract.

  • TiaMa

    Agreed.  I may sound anti-family (I’m not), but while I empathize with their situation, if I’m making a reservation and decide to splurge and fork out the extra dough for my window seat, that’s my right, like it’s yours to book early and pay for your aisle seat.

    I understand the underlying issue of charging for premium seats for families traveling together, but to change those policies just for families and leave solo travelers paying for premium seats would not be right at all either.  But whoever said the airlines were right.  The best thing would be to eliminated the concept of “premium” seating altogether.  You have economy, business and first (or whatever vernacular they use) – leave it at that.

    I agree it becomes problematic if there’s a situation that requires a change of equipment and seat reservations get thrown out the window.

  • emanon256

    I don’t men to sound snarky, but if he is required by law to be 1. In his own seat, 2. In an FAA approved restraint (car seat), and 3. In a Window seat.  How is the argument valid that it does not make sense for you to have to pay extra for a window seat since it’s required by law?  You have to pay for the car seat, which is required by law, and you have to pay for the additional seat as well?  How does the line get drawn on paying for the window seat?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Proverbs 26:4. 

  • pauletteb

    I’ve never understood why parents feel they should get special treatment because they chose to have kids. (And, yes, I’m a parent.)

  • pauletteb

    I too usually fly solo.  I either book a window seat well in advance or pay the extra $10 each way for “early bird” seating to ensure an “A” boarding pass and a window on Southwest.  I also get to the airport at least an hour earlier than I have to. I AM NOT giving up my window seat to reward someone else’s parsimony or tardiness, especially not for the bimbo who asked me to switch to a middle seat because her little darling wanted to look at the clouds.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    Great story. Splitting up families, particularly when there are small kids involved, doesn’t benefit anybody. I’ve seen people decline to swap seats and it rarely works out great for them because there’s always some toy or snack that needs to be passed over them, or the child needs to ask mommy or daddy something.

  • sershev

    If you travel with someone who requires assistance in case of emergency (a child or disable adult), airline will accommodate you. However, both parents may not necessary be seated next to a child on a flight. Since most travelers are usually trying to save on airfare, premium seating are usually have better availability. Therefore when you book your flight and you want all of your family members seat next to each other you may want to consider paying for extra for a specific seating option. I don’t see why United for instance should give away their economy plus seats (extra leg room), because technically they could squeeze more seats but they are giving us an option to pay for an extra comfort.

  • judyserienagy

    “Although being separated from my kids on a long flight appeals to me on one level, I am sensitive to the fact that it could be another passenger’s worst nightmare. So are air carriers.”  This is a REALLY FUNNY line!!

  • Lindabator

    Agree with you 10000%!!!  

  • Lindabator

    Again – that sense of “entitlement”

  • Lindabator

    And a call to the airline’s medical desk can clear up problems like that fairly quickly

  • Lindabator

    BS – just because they DO NOT WANT TO PAY, doesn’t give them more rights than the rest of us – you want those premium seats up front, instead of the freebies in back – PAY FOR THEM! 

  • Lindabator


  • Steve_in_WI

    Call me anti-family if you want, but when it comes to fees for aisle and window seats (something I’m not a fan of in general), either they should apply to everyone or to no one.

  • Frequentfliermom

    From now on I will book all my flights international flights on european airlines, and make sure I still get credit by using (in my case, United’s) partners. All american airlines (with the exception of SouthWest) have gone straight downhill when it comes to customer service. It is a disgrace, how the consumer is being treated in the skies!

  • Frequentfliermom

    I agree with most, except that flying is not a privilege. It is a service that we pay for. As consumers, we should have rights. Not to take away, what others have paid for, but fair treatment for all. Families with children have to pay what is cost to sit together, but even so I know that the airlines change seats last minute. My main concern with separating families, is that it would cause absolute mayhem in case of an emergency. You ask any mother, if they would get off the plane without their children!

  • Frequentfliermom

    No, airlines do not love families. They love business fliers. That is where they make their money, and business people are the ones “subsidizing” your economy fares!

  • Emo Babe

    We recently traveled on United Airlines and they expected my three-year old son to sit alone. We booked the flight 8 months ahead and paid extra to upgrade and secure seats together, but at the last minute they cancelled our flight and booked us on an overbooked flight. While you might think people will willing switch seats, that’s not always the case. We had to beg people to switch so my three-year old wouldn’t be forced to sit alone, get scared and cry so hard he would throw up on people… NOT so family friendly. The ticket agent just kept saying, “sorry, there is nothing we can do”.

  • dmcreif

    Boy. I’m sure that that family was blacklisted from future CO and UA flights.