Pay a seat reservation fee — or your kids don’t fly with you

Being separated from your family while you’re traveling is every child’s worst nightmare. Every parent’s, too.

But Daniel Fitzsimmons recently experienced a different kind of separation anxiety, thanks to US Airways.

Fitzsimmons is an attorney from Watkins Glen, NY, and he recently bought five roundtrip tickets between Syracuse, NY, and San Juan. Just a thing or two you need to know about Fitzsimmons: He’s an experienced air traveler who has booked many flights online. And he specializes in real estate and personal injury law, so there’s not much that fazes him.

But what he witnessed when he tried to book the US Airways tickets made him do a double-take.

“After buying the seats, I went back later to select seats on the two connecting flights to make sure I would be seated near my children,” he told me. “On the last leg, I entered my seat, then my wife’s, then saw that the only remaining seats were premium seats.”

Those “premium” seats — garden-variety economy class seats that cost extra to reserve, because they’re considered more desirable — would cost another $30 a piece. That’s an extra $90 to sit next to his kids.

And that’s not all.

Fitzsimmons reviewed the booking screens carefully. (Remember, he’s an attorney.) And he came to a troubling conclusion: “I thought that unless I bought the premium seats, my children would end up on a different flight.”

Why? The online seat selection chart shows a diagram of the aircraft. Each of the seats is numbered.

After selecting seats for himself and his wife, he noticed all of the seats except the premium ones were labeled as reserved and unavailable.

“So looking at the diagram, I concluded that those remaining seats would be taken by fliers willing to pay for the remaining seats and thus, having not been assigned a seat, the children would be put on a different flight,” he says.

I asked US Airways if his interpretation was correct. It didn’t respond to my inquiry, but it did reply to Fitzsimmons’.

By the way, before I get to the airline’s answer, I should say that I’ve never heard of parents and children being split up in the manner Fitzsimmons describes it. If it happened, I imagine the airline would have hell to pay for it.

US Airways’ Choice Seat program, it explained in an email, “gives customers more say in where they sit on the aircraft, by charging a small fee for these highly desirable seats.”

“We pre-assign approximately 75 percent of the seats on each of our flights,” it continued, “The other 25 percent are reserved for Preferred members and purchased choice seats. Once the pre-assigned seats are filled, any other seating arrangements may be made at the airport on day of departure.”

Of course, that’s a form letter that never addressed Fitzsimmons’ perception that his kids would fly on a different plane.

This isn’t really about being separated from your kids.

Fitzsimmons, whose kids are 13, 17 and 19, could easily fly solo. At those ages, I would probably pay the airline extra to not be on the same flight with my children — but I digress.

No, this is about misleading customers into thinking that if they don’t pay for the premium seats, they’ll be separated from a loved one traveling with them. And in my book, that’s a form of emotional blackmail.

It’s bad enough that you have to pay extra for seats in the back of the plane, where there are no comfortable seats, only various levels of uncomfortable. And it’s bad enough that companies like US Airways are parsing tickets and seat assignments. But to be threatened with separation if you don’t cough up the cash for a premium seat seems terribly wrong.

It works, though. Fitzsimmons couldn’t say “no” to the offer.

“Given that there were just a few seats remaining, I purchased the premium seats,” he told me, adding, “What would you have thought, when faced with that seat selection situation?”

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.

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  • TonyA_says

    These are the exact ages of my 3 sons – 13, 17 and 19. Do I care where they sit down in the airplane with me and my wife? NO. All I care about is that they are IN the airplane and SAFE.

    By the way, we regularly fly international (for extended family reunions). On many intra-European and intra-Asia segments, we cannot get advanced seat assignments. So what? It’s not the end of the world.

    Airline desk and gate agents as well as the cabin crew and fellow passengers are usually accommodating and will use common sense to solve the issue. Stop worrying and have a nice flight.

  • TonyA_says

    Am I forced to buy a ChoiceSeat if they’re the only seats left when I’m booking my flight?
    No. We will assign you a seat when you check in for your flight.

    OK, what is wrong with this? NOTHING.
    Save your money and show up at the airport early or use online check in (early) to get the blocked seats. Otherwise, be a neurotic and pay the airline.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I would not have paid.  I would have shown up early and expected them to fly us on the flight we’ve purchased tickets for, and been fine with whatever seat they put the kids in.  There are rules about bumping passengers, and I think even the greedy airlines would be reluctant to bump minors and leave them unaccompanied by a parent.  That would be a PR disaster.

    However, what if his kids’ ages were 3, 4 & 5?  What parent wouldn’t feel emotionally-blackmailed into paying premium to ensure they were seated near their children?  I sure wouldn’t want MY toddler stuck far away from me, sitting next to strangers! 

    Airlines should be obligated, at no extra charge, to ensure that small children are seated with their parents.  Not doing so is dangerous, and is child abuse.  

  • backprop

    I think the poll question is worded poorly (perhaps, dare I say…. emotionally?).  The answer to the poll question would probably elicit a majority if “Yes” answers, but it doesn’t have anything to do with this case. 

  • Raven_Altosk

    Hmm…this brings up my question from previous cases involving seat assignments:

    Why are airlines allowed to presell (at a premium) seats that must be reserved for handicap travelers? And then, when they can’t deliver on the day of the flight, the fliers who booked the seats are not refunded their money on the spot but directed to contact customer-no-service? That smells like fraud to me.

    I agree the seat selection purchasing nonsense is out of control. While the kids in this story are old enough to sit next alone, what if they weren’t? What would happen if USAir boarded the family with little kids and broke them up all over the airplane? That just puts more stress on the FAs to try and help the parents get people to switch seats.

  • lost_in_travel

    Hmmm… I suppose the next step after the airline splits up a family is to declare the kids sitting by themselves to be “unaccompanied minors” and charge that fee for them.  Maybe I shouldn’t give the airlines any new ideas !

    I have been thorugh a few of the “seat reassignment” games at the airport when my son was younger.  Always did get to seat one parent with him, but it does produce extra anxiety for me and for the passengers who think they might be sitting with someone else’s sweet, but very talkative two year old!

  • JessicaJ

     That’s what they have done and what they do. Just ask at the airport and they will sort it out.
    (If the flight is oversold they will apply the standard order for bumping passengers – those who checked in last, not those without seats)

  • JPainis

    The same sort of parent that worries about their 13, 17 and 19 (!) year old sitting next to them is the same sort that will worry and complain about every single thing not to their liking.

  • john4868

    Great yet another case where a parent failed to check seat availability before purchasing tickets and then complain when their perfect seats aren’t available.

    Sorry, I have 3 kids under 10. I always check availability before I purchase seats. If there aren’t 5 together, or at least 3 and 2, I move on to a different flight.

    Interestingly, I have never heard anyone complain about the airlines not seating them in the FC cabin for free but they will complain about premium economy seats  (or economy plus). Like FC, they are seats that the airline thinks people will pay more for.

    I’d love to see this board if a US airline implemented a European style system where you don’t get your seat assignment until check in unless you pay a fee.

  • Amy Bradley-Hole

    I wouldn’t be emotionally blackmailed into paying that. In that situation, you’d have the airlines by the balls, because no one wants very young children sitting apart from their parents. The situation would have to be rectified at the airport or on the plane. 

  • $16635417

    Prior to airlines charging for premium seat assignments, it was not uncommon to not see seats available for a party to sit together, or even get pre-assigned at all. Was there concern then?

    Sorry, I’m not following the logic that the kids will be on a different flight without a premium seat assignment.

  • Philippa_FRA

    Yes; imagine daddy’s wrath and six-figure claim for compensation if they had been forced to sit apart on that final, one-hour leg of their trip – say, to make room for a rebooked parent with a toddler.

  • sirwired

    I don’t read the seat chart as any kind of a veiled threat at all.  This was him misunderstanding how seat assignments work.  A reasonable misunderstanding if you don’t read enough about the program, but a misunderstanding nonetheless.  There are plenty of flights I’ve taken where the plane shows zero available seats, yet I’ve never been bumped.  (And I actually usually get a primo seat when this happens… even on airlines that don’t charge for them, the good seats are held for better customers than I am that may or may not buy tickets and/or show up.)

    I will add that the likelihood of being bumped on a flight is so close to zero, it might as well never happen. (Somebody virtually always takes the bribes the airline offers.) And the airline is NEVER going to split up a family when choosing passengers to involuntarily bump. I can’t imagine even Spirit pulling a stunt like that.

  • emanon256

    Where does it say anything remotely close to implying his kids won’t be on the same flight if he doesn’t pay for a premium seat?  I just went through the entire booking process to try and find it, and I can’t.
    Also, every flight I have booked on US Airways (including the one I just tried), unless its code share, has let me choose my seats before I’ve paid.  It’s part of the process.  How did he not pick his seats until after he paid?  He can look at each flight, the times, and view the seat map which shows free and paid seats available, and then he can pick the flights he wants, and the seats he wants, all before paying.
    I personally think charging for premium seats is a racket, but if I am traveling with family and the only flights that work for us require us to pay a little extra so we can sit by each other, than that’s just part of the cost of travel.  I can vote with my wallet and not pay it and press my luck, I can try another carrier, or I can always fly SouthWest.
    BTW, wasn’t there an almost identical story a few weeks ago?

  • Doug Marshak

    I don’t understand how an “experienced” traveler would assume an airline would put his kids on a different flight than the one he booked with them.  I’ve flown the “bargain” airlines (Southwest, Sun Country) with my 10 and 7-year old, not reserved seats, and never worried about not getting seats together.  

    I once flew with my older son when he was 3 and Delta (then Northwest) refused to arrange seats for us together (without looking to see how old he was at the time). I just shrugged and told them that if a 3-year old had a meltdown on the plane because his dad was on the opposite side of the plane, the flight attendants would have to take their wrath out on the gate crew that couldn’t get their act together.  Funny thing, they found us two seats together rather quickly.The airlines can’t “force-bump” your entire party of 5.  If they are selling you seats, granted that they can overbook a flight, but then they move your entire party plus usually provide some sort of compensation.This seems like a pretty frivolous request for help.

  • EvilEmpryss

    Wait, if I *don’t* pay the extra fee, I get the privilege of riding the entire flight while someone else listens to “Mom.  Mom.  Mom. Momma.  Momma.  Momma.”?

    Woo-hoo!  The airlines have finally done something right!  ;)

  • KathyJ

    He was not concerned that his children would be seated away from him on the flight. He was concerned that they would be put on a different (later) flight.

  • emanon256

    Good point, I actually miss the old days where they didn’t charge for premium seats, but rather blocked most of the seats and they were suddenly open for choosing at check-in, or sometimes they were still blocked and assigned at the gate.  I guess the new premium economy game adds a level of transparency.  I can now pick blocked seats, but I have to pay for it.

  • Bernard Rappoport

    US Airways under Doug Parker is chasing every dime it can get.  It is the ONLY carrier that charges for checked luggage to/from Mexico…AC/UA/AA/DL/AM allow 1 bag free.  They can’t even act uniformly with their *A “partners”…I will NOT be using them again on trave ex MEX.  AC = 1 free bag, free snack, IFE….US = FA, FA, FA on all 3 counts….but for the same fare or higher.  Thanks, Doug…

  • fordmann

    i disagree, I think it shows parent that care about their kids well-being, something many more parents should be doing.  Those that don’t care, have exactly those kids that you wouldn’t want to be sitting next to on a long flight. 

  • CherylAE

    So after most everyone answered yes, what can and will be done about it?  I think that is the real question! 

  • Crissy

    I little surprised that a lawyer who flies a lot does not know that the airlines do not release all available seats for pre-selection.

    Would this story be any different if the premium seats didn’t exist and there still weren’t enough free seats to choose?  He bought tickets, the airlines do not guarantee a particular seat, even if you pre-select a seat.    

  • GradUT

    I have to agree with Backprop about the poll question.  I have noticed that they are almost always worded to elict the response which, based on how the story is written, I assume that Chris wants.  That’s why I have stopped answering them. 

    Based on the quote from Mr. Fitzsimmons that ended the story, a much more interesting and informative poll questions would have been, “What would you have done?  A.  Pay for the premium seats or B.  Wait to get an assigned seat when you checked in.

  • TonyA_says

    I can’t see why that is a VALID concern. The Q&A never said that. See below post.

  • Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Amen. If by telling us he’s a lawyer, Chris is implying he has more critical thinking ability than the average person, it simply does not follow. Just because seats are unavailable for booking doesn’t imply that they’re filled. Who would think there’s a likelihood of the airline putting his kids on ANOTHER flight all together? Puh-lease.

    And believe me, no one wants to sit next to an unaccompanied minor. Chances are people are more than willing to switch seats. What are the chances all of them would be assigned undesirable middle seats that no one would want to switch for? (Hey! New idea for a poll – Which would you rather sit in/by — unaccompanied 5 year old or a middle seat? You’re welcome, Chris, for the idea…)

    Sounds like another overanxious whiner who regretted paying extra for confirmed seat selection rather than get to the airport reasonably early to get the exact same seats for nothing…

  • toniv

    Fazes. FAZES.

  • philpm

    Sorry, I have 3 kids under 10. I always check availability before I
    purchase seats. If there aren’t 5 together, or at least 3 and 2, I move
    on to a different flight.

    That’s easier said than done though, especially with a smaller airport like Syracuse, which has limited flight options, and those usually on smaller regional jets. 

  • Christopher Elliott

    At the risk of repeating myself, I’m a fan of tabloid headlines and polls that oversimplify the issue. No one has ever accused me of being nuanced.

  • Chasmosaur

    “He’s an experienced air traveler who has booked many flights online.”

    Since you say “experienced air traveler” but don’t attach any sort of frequent flyer designation (for example, my husband is Gold on Delta for his 50,000+ miles of annual travel), I’m guessing “experienced” means “he’s flown once or twice before.”

    There is no way the airline would boot his children off the flight.  Air travel may have increasingly crappier customer service, but that’s ridiculous.  And an experienced traveler would know that many seats are marked as filled until the day or hours before the flight.

    And if the 13 year olds I know are any indication of Mr. Fitzsimmons’ child, the child will be sitting with their ears plugged into some sort of mobile device the entire trip anyway. If he can’t trust his 17 and 19 year old children to sit by themselves for a few hours in a plane, then I am unsure why he’s traveling with them out of the Continental US at all.

    If there were two adjacent seats, he should have selected them for the 13 year old and either himself or his wife so the youngest child – who, if traveling alone, would be an unaccompanied minor – was attended.  Everyone else is more than old enough to fly on their own.  At 17 or 19, I’d have been happy to have an hour or so not sitting next to my parents ;)

  • Pegtoo

    Not true. 

    I will NOT have my teen daughters sitting between two male strangers. Not on a plane, not on a train, not in a boat, not on a goat…

  • Steve Bower

    Actually that’s not true.  They DO bump the people who do not have seat assignments first.  It’s happened to me – even once as a Platinum elite but that’s a different story.  If you can’t get a seat assignment when you book the ticket or at least when you check in, then you best get to the airport early and get one of the few seats they hold back for airport assignment.  Otherwise, unless they get volunteers you will be the one left standing at the gate.

  • sirwired

    Raven, it is not true that the handicap seats must be reserved for handicapped travelers.  If a handicapped person does not need the seat, it can be filled by a traveler that does not need its special accommodations.

    It is a problem that the refund cannot be provided if the seat IS needed, but given that the average plane has far more handicapped seats than handicapped travelers, I don’t see any reason why they’d exclude those seats from assignment.

  • jm71

    I’m not nearly as frequent a flyer as many, but I do know that virtually every airline holds back a few rows that can’t be assigned in advance (up to 30% of the plane, I’ve been told in the past, though I’m sure it varies greatly by airline).  In addition to watching the seat availability in the days before the flight (as people get upgraded/cancel/etc their flights), the best shot at those is checking in exactly 24 hours in advance (though remember that others with longer connecting flights before a given flight will get a chance to check in first).

    I’ve taken several flights with small children where we couldn’t get seats assigned together initially — always was able to work it out online beforehand.  And no, a 13, 17, and 19 year old really don’t need to sit next to their parents.

    If on the same PNR, I wouldn’t worry about being separated — it would be reasonable to demand that all of the group be treated (and compensated) the same. *That* would be a legitimate complaint (and valid lawsuit or chargeback) if they refused to do that.

  • TonyA_says

    From USAir’s Contract of Carriage

    Seats assigned in advance are not guaranteed and form no part of the Contract of Carriage. Seat assignments may be subject to change and/or may be released for reassignment.

    Then the ChoiceSeat program goes on and says …

    Are ChoiceSeats refundable
    If US Airways changes or cancels your flight, changes aircraft, causes you to miss a connection or you’re denied boarding on an oversold flight and we’re unable to provide your ChoiceSeats, we’ll provide you a refund. We’ll automatically process your refund if your reservation changed before you checked in. If your reservation changed after you checked in, please call 800-428-4322 to request a refund. ChoiceSeats are non-refundable if you change, cancel or miss your flight.

    Therefore if you paid for ChoiceSeats and your flight did not get cancelled or changed, or you did not miss a connection, or you were not denied boarding; (in other words it was a normal flight) AND the flight attendant asked you to move out of our PAID ChoiceSeat, then your are SOL. Sorry no refund.

    Why should I PAY for advance seat assignments and then put up with the possibility that a flight attendant will tell me to give my seat to a young kid or an oversized person and get no automatic refund? Would you?

  • Raven_Altosk

    Right, and that’s fine. My issue is that travelers have been removed from these seats after paying for the “extra legroom” without immediate compensation.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Don’t give them any ideas for any new “revenue streams.”

  • TonyA_says

    The rule is bump according to Status [Elite has more rights], and then according to order of check in [last in-first bumped].

    Since you get a seat assignment when you check in, then you think it’s the seat assignment that does not get you bumped. Well, in fact, it is the ORDER of check in that really matters.

  • y_p_w

    I remember the last time I flew, I got to choose my seat (not 100% guaranteed of course) at the time of purchase.  I didn’t pay for a “premium seat” and reserved a seat just in front on an emergency exit row.

    So I arrived, got into what I thought was my seat, and noticed there was nobody around me.  It was in fact the emergency exit row and had extra legroom.  It was a 737 with two emergency exit doors on each side around the wing area.  So there were 12 of these seats with extra legroom and only two passengers including at least one (moi) who didn’t pay the premium price.

    So what I’ve noticed is that few people will actually pay more for it unless there’s no other option.  In the end I just mistakenly got into the row, and none of the flight attendants even cared.  I’m sure they had a passenger manifest with seat assignments, but they’ve got more important things on their minds than to enforce the seating assignment policy for an otherwise unoccupied seat.

  • TonyA_says

    Then buy your tickets early or check-in very early if you have a CRJ, E90/E75, or something like that.

    Here is a sample of a seat map from SYR to PHL on an E75 (en route to SJU) 30 days in advance.

     SEAT MAP     3211 20APR SYR PHL
    Y   A C     D F   Y          F    8 Y    51
     04 P P     P P 04
     05 T T     T T 05
     06 V .     V V 06
     07 T T     T N 07
     08 V V W   V . 08
     09 . . W   . N 09
     10 . . W   . . 10
     11 . . W   . . 11
     12 . . W   . N 12
     13 N . W   . N 13
     14 . .     N N 14
     15 N N     N N 15
     16 N N     N N 16
     17 . N     N N 17
     18 N N     N N 18
     19 N N     N N 19
     20 N N     N N 20#
     21 N N     P P 21

      .  TAKEN                   W  WING
      B  BLOCKED                 A  ADVANCED
      U  UNUSABLE                H  HELD
      S  SMOKING                 P PERMANENT BLOCKED
      N  NON SMOKING             Q BULKHEAD
      E  EXIT                    T CHOICE SEAT

    What are you complaining about?
    There are a ton on “N” (empty and assignable non-smoking) seats for the 51 economy seating aircraft.

  • philpm

    I wasn’t “complaining” about anything.  I was simply pointing out that smaller airports have more limited options, that’s it.  No need to jump on me for something I didn’t say.  Plus, if you don’t have the luxury of buying 30 days out (happened to me a few weeks ago when getting flights into Syracuse), the options for seats are even more limited.  Every one of my flights for that trip, MCI-DTW-SYR, same airports on return, were oversold.

  • Helio

    I’ll fly Sao Paulo (Brazil) to Barcelona (Spain) next month, via Iberia. To be able to ASSIGN a seat, I need to pay extra US$25 for each leg.  Otherwise, I can only assing my seat online 24hrs prior the departure, or at the counter…

  • TonyA_says

    30 days from now I see 5 different USAir options from SYR to SJU. There are also a couple from JetBlue, Delta and United. Perhaps a little advanced planning works!

    I use JFK as my primary airport and LGA and HPN (Westchester) as my secondaries. If I have to fly out today or tomorrow, I will have your same problem (no or few seats) even if JFK and LGA are considered pretty big airports in New York.

  • flutiefan

    he thought the kids would be put on an entirely different airplane than him? that’s just not using your brain.  he bought tickets on THAT flight. does he think there are 2 planes with the same flight number, going the same route at the same time within the same airline? obviously not. as an “experienced traveler”, he would know that the kids would get their seat assignments at the airport.

    also…why would he choose the seats AFTER purchase? because he went to an outside website, NOT the USAirway page.

  • IGoEverywhere

    If you book and buy early, not around holiday weekends, and with the correct airlines, these problems never arise. If you want to have rows 15 and 16, then book 8 months in advance and stay away from Southwest that had not seat assignments. If you are booking high capacity flights a month in advance, then pay dealy, or accept what you get. I have never in 45 years working in this industry, heard of a family being separated on different flights; different areas of the plane – yes. Complaint by this attourney – invalid!

  • TonyA_says

    Hmm… I wonder how your teens will ever survive in a place like Manhattan or Paris? Subways and buses for the 99%.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Additionally, the choice seats will be assigned free at check-in.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Chris, here’s an amusing story about seats and check-in:

    There was an article in the Houston Chronicle about how our mayor and her kids were checking in at SFO. After a loooong wait, they finally made it to the front. The kids were checked in “before the cut off” but our mayor was not. The ticket agent told her the kids could fly but she couldn’t. The three of them ended up on the next flight 6 hrs laters.

    Irony is, UA is trying to strong arm our Mayor into not allowing SWA to run international flights. Of course UA published a response in the paper that wasn’t their “normal operating procedure” (or some such spin) and that they had “reached out to the Mayor.”

    So the question is, had she not been the Mayor…would they charge her a ticket change fee? Would they expect her kids to fly on the flight without her?

    Link to article:

  • TonyA_says

    Yup, the USAir contract of carriage literally tells you that you are SOL. :-)

    Read my post below.

  • Philippa_FRA

    Read again. It was the last one of “two connecting flights” so probably PHL-SYR or LGA-SYR. Both are about one hour. That’s not long. 

  • TonyA_says

     Well there’s a nanny service or app :-)  for that, too.

  • DavidYoung2

    I completely agree with you.

    We fly a considerable amount with our 6-year old.  Sometimes we are spread all over the cabin.  I have never, ever, had a problem (either at the gate or once on the plane) getting people to move to accommodate us.  One Air France flight, from Amsterdam to Nice, was a challenge but it all worked out after about six passengers played musical seats.Last flight – Atlanta to LAX two weeks ago, was no problem once on the plane because there were lots of  people who weren’t sitting together.  We just kind of all moved around.
    Besides, not many people want to sit solo next to my 6-year old  :-)

  • TonyA_says

    Some people want to be in total control of everything.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Dontcha know, Tony?
    All of us men are rapists and molesters and can’t be trusted to sit next to a teenage girl!

    Better get that chasty belt strapped on her before that flight!

  • TonyA_says

     Save it for the TSA.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Except that they don’t always rectify it.  I’m pretty sure there’s a story right here on Christopher’s blog somewhere about parents who were unable to get seated with their small child, the gate agents wouldn’t fix it, the flight attendants would take care of it, and even the passengers wouldn’t be so kind as to switch seats to allow the family to sit together, as nobody wanted to give up their “premium” seat.  And I’ve actually read of this type of situation several times in other places too.  So you can’t count on that happening.

    The first time a small child gets abused or molested by the stranger they got stuck next to, and gets sued up the ying-yang, that practice will stop.

  • Philippa_FRA

    Then why complicate matters with long, confusing stories that have little to do with neither the headline nor the poll question!? You run the risk that people will actually read your articles ;-)

  • Philippa_FRA

    Do you have a link to that case?

  • TonyA_says

    What is the OP complaining about?
    Take a look at a sample seat map of a USAir flight from PHL to SJU.
    This is likely the one he would take from SYR-PHL-SJU. Via Charlotte will be on a similar airplane – an Airbus A321.

     SEAT MAP     1071 18AUG PHL SJU
    Y   A B C     D E F   Y      F   16 Y   167
     05 P P P     P P P 05
     06 V N V     V N V 06
     07 V N V     T T T 07
     08 V V V     V N V 08
     09       W E E E   09
     10 E E E W E E E E 10
     11 N N N W   N N N 11
     13 T T T W   T T T 13
     14 N N N W   N N N 14
     15 N N N W   N N N 15
     16 N N N W   N N N 16
     17 N N N W   N N N 17
     18 N N N W   N N N 18
     19 N N N W   N N N 19
     20 N N N W   N N N 20
     21       W   N N N 21
     22 E E E W E E E E 22
     23 N N N     N N N 23
     24 N N N     N N N 24
     25 N N N     N N N 25
     26 N N N     N N N 26
     27 N N N     N N N 27
     28 N N N     N N N 28
     29 N N N     N N N 29
     30 N N N     N N N 30
     31 N N N     N N N 31
     32 N N N     N N N 32
     33 N N N     P P P 33

    .  TAKEN
    E  EXIT
    W  WING

    Of the 167 seats in Y/Economy; 9 are (P) Permanently Blocked, 11 are for Frequent Flyers or Elites (V), 14 are (E) Emergency Exit seats and only 9 are for ChoiceSeats.
    The rest are for everyone to grab without a fee.

    How can one accuse USAir of being a money-hungry airline if only 9 of 167 (or approximately 5%) seats are ChoiceSeats?

    I’m sorry but this poll is pretty pathetic. And the OP, well I don’t have any nice words left to use.

  • john4868

    I use both DAY and CVG but hardly ever fly DL. Multiple times I have made the choice to take different flights solely based on seat availablity.  It’s an adult choice. Hard but the one you need to make. What does it say if you don’t think your kids aren’t important enough to take a different flight.

  • Michael__K

    I’ve witnessed first-hand a tearful family (2 parents plus 3 or 4 children if memory serves) waiting at the gate to board an oversold flight being told that they would have to either split themselves up (some of them taking the next flight) or else subject themselves to change fees and fare differences.  This was in 2009 on a Delta flight.

    It’s possible that there was some important detail that I was missing, but what I observed disturbed me and seemed inappropriate.  Unless I’m missing something, the OP’s concern is not entirely misplaced.

  • TonyA_says

    OVERSOLD and they probably were the last to check in. Rules are Rules. Sorry.

    Again, I will repeat, even if you have an ADVANCED seat assignment, you can still be bumped based on the ORDER of check-in (and elite status).

    Remember, too, that this family will be COMPENSATED for the IDB.

  • Oxenpfeffer

     Sorry,  Tonya, as an airline employee that simply isn’t the case.  It’s seated pax get loaded, unseated pax in order of check-in time or sometimes elite status and check-in time (most elites check in early, so it’s rarely the case that an elite checks in at the last second) get remaining seats.  ALWAYS get a seat assignment or you are rolling the dice as to whether you will be boarded.

  • $16635417

    So…going back to my point earlier. What would have happened if they did not charge for choice seats? Is everyone assuming that those would have been available? If the airline did not charge for choice seats it is entirely possible that they could not have been pre-assigned together anyway. The point that the airline is charging for choice seating may not be relevant.

  • vmacd

    I would think if he booked everyone together under one reservation code they couldn’t bump just the kids to another flight, they’d have to rebook all 5 passengers.

  • Oxenpfeffer

     As someone who potentially paid an extra $30, I wouldn’t switch either. If I paid extra for the seat I wanted, I wouldn’t give it up because someone else was too cheap to ensure they got seated as a family. I think this charging for seats is RIDICULOUS and should be abolished. Your ticket should get you a seat assignment, period.  Airlines give up the ability to arbitrarily reassign people when they have charged extra for the seating arrangements.

    When I have to reassign seats, it’s a NIGHTMARE because you have to check the PNR to see who bought a seat and who got it free. Ugh.

  • Philippa_FRA

    Hmm. If they were checking in separately, they must have had separate tickets. If they had separate tickets, the children must have been old enough to travel unaccompanied. Or…?

  • TonyA_says

    Please read section 10.2 of USAir’s COC. Then, come back and argue if you like.

  • Michael__K

    You can do all of that, and if your flight is oversold, cancelled, or has an equipment change the airline can still choose to split your family up anyway.  

    And you don’t have much recourse other than to buy new last-minute-fare tickets.

    Edit: Also, the seat assignments you “reserve” when you make your reservations can be lost at any time without notice to you. And you are not entitled to any explanation or compensation or comparable re-accomodation if that occurs.

    If you are a stickler for rules and also believe that sitting next to your kids is a priority then maybe the adult choice is not to use commercial airlines.

  • Bob

     What airline do you work for? I’ve asked agents at several different airlines and that’s not how they do it.

  • E_Woman

    If you re-read the letter he was not worried about where they were sitting; he was worried they might be bumped from the entire flight without him. That said, I do think he over-reacted and could have easily solved this by calling the airline while he was on-line. I’ve done this for help during the booking process and not been charged the $10 phone fee.

  • TonyA_says

    Preassigned seats are NOT Relevant to getting BUMPED. No one is guaranteed a seat, period. You can get bumped because most airlines OVERBOOK (and they are allowed to do so).

    The only thing that is relevant is the BUMPING order.
    And, it has been posted by others above, that airlines do not target families to bump – meaning the airline will try to keep the family intact as one group.

    Notice where the ChoiceSeats are in the MAP. They are infront with the EliteStatus seats. It is the PLACEMENT in relation to the aircraft you are paying extra for. You are not paying for EXTRA BUMP PROTECTION.

  • Michael__K

    Rules are Rules.

    If you believe in applying those rules literally and rigorously, then if the minors checked in 5 seconds before the adults, then all the minors could be required to fly unaccompanied, no?

  • LeeAnneClark

    No I don’t, and I don’t have the time to go searching through old stories either.  I’m pretty sure it was on this blog, but it was a while ago – it’s possible it was on another one of the travel blogs I frequent.  I’m not making this up, though – it’s happened, and more than one similar story is out there.

  • Philippa_FRA

    According to the story, the seat issue was on the last leg on one of the two connecting flights. I guess that means PHL-SYR, LGA-SYR or something else domestic, i.e. it could have been a smaller aircraft. (Doesn’t make a huge difference, though). 

  • LeeAnneClark

    So you would remain seated next to a 3 year old who wasn’t yours?  Wow.  I sure wouldn’t.  But then I wouldn’t be faced with having to lose money in order to do the right thing – I wouldn’t have paid extra for my seat anyway. 

    I don’t pay extra for seats, period – that doesn’t make me cheap, it makes me somebody who refuses to get blackmailed into shelling out extra money for something to which I’m already entitled. Parents should never be forced to separate from their toddlers, and they shouldn’t have to pay extra to make sure that doesn’t happen.

    That’s the whole point of this story:  parents feel blackmailed into paying more than everyone else for their flights, because they are worried they’ll be split up from their young children if they don’t.  That should NEVER be a concern…the airlines should NEVER separate parents from small children.

  • TonyA_says

    Nope. A UMNR is a minor (defined in the USA as 2-17 years old) traveling WITHOUT an adult companion. A UMNR will very rarely get bumped because s/he is traveling with the crew.

  • $16635417

    I agree. What I am asking is would he complain if USAir did not have a choice seat program and was confronted with a seat map showing only 2 seats available to seat his party of five? I also do not understand his concern about being bumped at all.

  • bodega3

    No necessarily. 

  • bodega3

    Most carriers only allow a certain number of seats to be preassigned.  When an agent or a DIY’er books a reservation, BEFORE purchasing the tickets, you should be looking at the seat map.  Since I don’t book online, I can only speak to my experience using the GDS.  I did two tickets a couple of weeks ago that had no preassignable seats showing on one segment.  I did a generic entry and my clients, at no cost, were put in the premium economy seats by the carrier.  I was surprised and pleased! 

    While I am not a fan of these premium seats and paying for them, if they are at least available on a flight, you then have the option.  If you don’t like it, don’t buy the tickets.

  • Sadie_Cee

    Yes, it was on this blog.  I don’t have the time to search for it either but I remember it very well.  The posting was very controversial too.

  • Dave Lieberman

    That’s just ridiculous. Why didn’t he call the airline and ask? Why go straight to you with this?

    I’d say half the time I fly for business it’s last-minute and I never seem to get a choice in where I sit, but there’s nearly always a seat for me. Once you’re on the plane, you can play musical seats, with or without the assistance of the flight attendants.

  • bodega3

    It isn’t the airlines responsibility to seat the family together, unless they do an aircraft change.  If you are going to buy tickets, DON’T buy them unless you can seat yourself together if that is important to you.  Once you purchase your ticket, stay on top of it weekly. 

  • bodega3

    If he saw only two preassignable seats and still purchased the tickets for 5 passenger, then he shouldn’t be complaining to the carrier.

  • TonyA_says

     8 out 88 (or 9%) are ChoiceSeats. Yawn.

  • Asiansm Dan

    It’s a good occasion to teach them how to behave and manage on their own. Most of the times they behave better without the parents. I belong to a family of 6 children, 95% of the times we travel alone young. 3 guys at 13, 17 and 19. Hey, give me a break… don’t call the children. At 13 years old, I run my old shop.

  • Michael__K

    I don’t understand what you are trying to say.

    I don’t see anything in either the US Airways or Delta CoC’s that precludes forcing an accompanied minor to become an involuntarily unaccompanied minor.

    (Unless the minor is <5, in which case there appear to be contradictory provisions in the CoC that, when read literally without invoking any common sense, can't be reconciled)

    I would love to be mistaken and shown otherwise.

  • TonyA_says

    Good question, Mike. He probably will complain that he was sold 5 tickets but could only get 2 per-assigned seats.

  • Michael__K

    Buying seats together is no guarantee that you will actually sit together or even that your entire family will be on the same flight.

  • TonyA_says

    A form of emotional blackmail ???

    If the airline DYNAMICALLY changed the seat map to display much less seats since it knows you are traveling with (3) kids, then I would cry foul.  But the airline displays the same seat map for everyone to see. How can that be emotional at all?

  • 1pop

    …it’s a nice story, BUT…the “vote” is ONLY about (generic) airlines and the “money-grab” of “premium” seats in ECONOMY! They want more income? So create a new “class” of service…(I stopped flying first/business when I discovered the economy folk got there at the same time and I couldn’t sleep in any seat!)

  • LeeAnneClark

    Well, fortunately I don’t have to worry about it as my kids are now grown.  But I traveled with them quite a bit when they were younger, and it wasn’t always possible to pre-reserve seats together – on some flights you couldn’t pre-reserve seats at all, and were at the mercy of the airline.

    Fortunately I never got separated from my children – but I did have a situation once in which the gate agent wouldn’t do it for us, and I had to rely on the flight attendants to move people around so I could sit with my 4 & 5 year old.  And that is what they should do.  As I said before, no parent should ever be forcibly separated from their small child.  And I can’t believe that anyone would support this as okay.  Anyone who’s a parent, anyway.

  • Linda Jordan

    First, I NEVER go to the airport without a seat assignment! Just be cause you have a reservation does not mean there are seats available! Why do you always hear the gate attendant asking for people to give up their seat?  They overbook! Whenever I have been told to get my seat assignment (from booking online) at the airport, I call the airlines directly and get a seat assigned! Never had a problem doing it!

  • TonyA_says

    Mike, a long time ago passengers could not pre-select their own seats. Only after the airlines started showing interactive seat maps on the web, were passengers able to do their own seat selection. This brought about some misguided assumptions – i.e. if you don’t pre-assign a seat then you will get bumped. Where did that misguided presumption come from? Not the airlines. It probably came from misinformation in travel forums.

    A lot of people doing DIY, self service has no clue about the inner-workings of an airline system. They needless panic.

  • TonyA_says

    Checking in and traveling are not exactly the same.

  • bodega3

    Now with active seat maps, if you can’t get seats together when you are buying your ticket, don’t purchase them.  Don’t assume anyone will change with you and don’t expect it.

  • bodega3

    This doesn’t make sense Michael. 

  • bodega3

    I remember the story.  A person was flying at the last minute and as such, couldn’t get seats together and wanted others to move to accommodate them.

  • bodega3

    But he wasn’t sold anything. Nobody made him buy those tickets.  He made the purchase on a website and it was his responsibility to make sure he could seat assignments BEFORE buying the tickets. 

  • $16635417

    Agreed. I remember the days of not getting a seat assignment until I arrived at the gate. The agent had a diagram of the interior of the aircraft with little stickers over each seat. They peeled off the sticker and put it on your boarding pass. 

    The misguided presumption here is that you have to buy a choice seat to get on the plane. Since there were very few seats left, the likely purchased the ticket closer to departure than most others on the aircraft and were left with a limited selection.

    I flew on Monday. I purchased the ticket last minute and had no seat assignment on United. I ended up with an aisle in coach near the front in the Economy Plus section, (no surcharge) even though I have no status. Someone in that seat got an upgrade and I then got their seat. No sweat. Others were in the same position and frantically asking the agent for a seat and did not end up with something nearly as good as me. ;)

  • Sadie_Cee

    I have been trying very hard, but at the end I cannot see a justification for the OP’s complaint.  It could be that I am seeing this from merely a Canadian perspective (paying for prior seat selection has a longer tradition), but in my view anyone who has special needs where seating is concerned (and I include the need to have small children seated next to a parent in this), must be prepared to pay for advance seat selection. 
    The prices are affordable and I cannot see that $30 added to the cost of each ticket is exorbitant.  It is a small price to pay for the assurance of having one’s children close, not to mention the selection of a seat that will provide the added comfort one needs.  The additional cost can be built into the overall cost of the trip and in the same way that we have come to accept paying for luggage, we can learn to accept paying for advance seat selection.  
    A few airlines, notably Air Canada, offer complimentary advance seat selection on international flights.  On others, the fee could vary between $25 and $80 depending on the destination and the pax’s particular requirement.  Over the years, now that it is possible, I have learned that pre-selection of seating is the only way to go. 

    In one similar piece written by Chris some months ago, we read about people threatening and berating others who would not or could not give up their seats to parents who wanted their children next to them.  This type of behaviour is unfair and unacceptable.  Kudos to those who were able to and did give up their seats.

  • Michael__K

    Read the CoCs.

    I’ve seen a family split up (forced to either accept different flights / different dates or pay a fare difference) first-hand.

    I’ve also had my own advance seat assignments “disappear.”

  • Michael__K

    If there is one seat left when an adult and his/her accompanied minor checks in, what prevents the minor from becoming involuntarily unaccompanied?

  • TonyA_says

    Agree. I was just speculating how he would react IF after he clicked BUY (5 tickets) and then he had to go online to USAir later to get seats assignments and found only 2 seats.

    I realize that nowadays many people do not want to be responsible for a lot of things.

  • $16635417

    Micheal is correct. While I have not seen families split on different flights, the seat assignment is not guaranteed.

  • TonyA_says

    It is the responsibility of the ADULT to make sure OLCI will work for the all the PAX in his/her PNR.
    Most OLCI will present a seat map. If your party is larger than the available number of seats then CALL the airline and ask for help.

    Cmon Mike.

  • bodega3

    You do need to monitor your seats on a weekly basis. 

  • Meebo

    How about adding some relevant details, like the ages of the children?

  • bodega3

    I am well aware of the rules but in 3 decades I have NEVER had clients have a problem.  I monitor all PNR’s and have an agent line to call which is helpful. 

  • bodega3

    They would not do that.  A UMNR is different than a minor traveling with another passenger.

  • bodega3

    I knew you knew :-)  I agree with your last line!

  • Philippa_FRA

    13, 17 and 19. 

  • Michael__K

    Do I take your word over the CoC?

  • Michael__K

    It’s too late when you’re at the airport and your flight is oversold and the airline says you have to split your party.

  • Michael__K


  • Michael__K

    @bodega3:disqus Monitor your seats

    Ok, you monitor your seats and they’ve disappeared. Or you get bumped.  Airline has no obligation to help you sit together.  Then what.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Oh, since I have a few minutes, here’s a story from my travels in the past month or so…

    I was waiting at the gate and this family of 9 came up to the gate agent all in a huff. The kids ranged in age from teens to 5ish (I guess).

    The father demanded to know why they couldn’t sit all in one row. The gate agent said, “Sir, it’s an MD-88. Six across.”

    The guy replies, “So? I don’t want to be apart from my kids!”

    I really, really tried to not laugh as the GA explained with the patience of a saint that they were seated in groups of three throughout the cabin, and that they could put an adult and a teen with the smaller kids.

    That wasn’t enough for the guy. He wanted to know how he could get a row of nine.

    The gate agent answered, “Fly a triple 7.”

  • y_p_w

    There is the possibility of overbooking and getting bumped.

    However, it sounded to me more like an irrational fear due to the uncertainty of whether they’d be able to sit as a group.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Yeah, I’m one of them. I don’t give up my aisle for a middle. You want to trade aisle for aisle, fine. But for a middle? No. 

  • jim6555

    You’re such a hard__s. I guess that some people lack even the smallest bit of compassion and understanding of human needs. Your tone reminds me of Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek series. 

  • TonyA_says

    So, what would Mr. Compassion do for the OP?

    BTW, I/we ticket lots of people (with kids) who need to go home OVERSEAS because of a dying or dead relative. We do it with precision because of experience.

    If people want to LEARN how to increase their chances of NOT getting bumped or getting an Advanced Seat Reservation, then talk to a good TA. That’s what we are here for.

    Sometimes a hard__s can also tell Sh*t from Shinola.

  • TonyA_says


  • TonyA_says

    That’s what happens when fares are cheap and anyone can get a credit card.

  • Philippa_FRA

    Oh dear…

  • bodega3

    Use a travel consultant.  I have never lost a seat for a client in 3 decades! 

  • sdir

    Personally, I understand the LW’s concern.  My father passed quite suddenly and I raced to schedule airfare and fly out the next day.  As a plus size person, I wanted two seats side-by-side and I spoke with the airline to make sure I booked the second seat properly.  Imagine my alarm when, after booking, the airline’s website told me that all the regular seating was taken and I needed to pay an additional fee x 2 if I wanted to reserve my seats.  A quick call to the airline reassured me I’d have my two seats either way, but that I’d have to ask the airline to assign my seating at check-in. Airlines encourage plus size passengers to purchase two seats, yet their system isn’t equipped to automatically assign those seats together unless I’m willing to pay an extra fee. 

  • Sadie_Cee

    Now all can understand why Math teachers retire early!

  • Carchar

    He was concerned that his children might be put on a later flight if there were not enough seats on this one. 

  • Michael__K

     Use a travel consultant.  I have never lost a seat for a client in 3 decades!


    Are you proposing to guarantee that to your clients in writing? 

    What remedy would you offer when the odds catch up with you?

  • scapel

    If I booked my wife, myself and my 7 children on a flight and they had us separated on the airplane, they would be asking people to swap seats to keep the calm in the aircraft and let us sit togehter.

  • Extramail

    You cause ANY trouble on a flight you run the risk of, at the very least, being thrown off of the plane. Ask the family with the 2 year old who was crying how they were treated.

  • bodega3

    If only two preassignable seats are showing, call the airline BEFORE buying the tickets to see the status of the flight for other seats to be released.  By speaking with them, you can have notes placed in the PNR if you have a concern.  It saddens me that people don’t speak to others and think that your only option is doing everything online.  Once you book, you can go in and monitor the flight for additional seats opening up.  I have seen no seats in the morning and then a score of them be there in the afternoon.  Keep at your reservation.

  • bodega3

    I am not going to argue with you.  I think that in close to 30 years never having clients bumped due to lost seats is pretty good.  We do have contacts that you who are booking online do not.  Even the flights that show no advance seating I can often get seats for them.  We have ways Michael, we have ways!

  • andrelot

    I’ve been reading and commenting on Elliott website for 2 years, but the amount of comments of people who clearly didn’t bother reading the whole post before commenting is increasing dearly.

    I don’t see this as “emotional blackmailing”. It is just lack of understanding of how seat assignments work.

  • andrelot

    Sorry to disagree, but this sounds more like “kids should be the center of the universe and everything and everyone else should adapt to MY little princess/prince” attitude.

    If YOU are a caring parent, you’d pay extra to ensure you are seated together.

  • Bob

     But when these articles are on idiots who don’t know how seat assignments work, it’s hard to read through the whole thing.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow. And I view it as strictly basic safety…and discrimination that parents have to pay more in order to keep their kids safe.  But then I never cease to be amazed at how little concern for others I find out there in the general public.  Case in point right here.

  • y_p_w

    I don’t know.  Maybe take a full row near a wing and install three seats on the wing to make it a full row that’s nine across?

  • JPainis

     If they were young kids (say, under 10) then yes I’d see it as safety. But demanding that your older kids sit with you on a short flight is entitlement.

  • Michael__K

    @bodega3:disqus  Nobody gets bumped because of “lost seats”.  That’s not what we’re talking about.

    You really never had a family bumped or cancelled (or subject to an equipment change)?

    And you would  guarantee 24 hr service to give them comparable seating arrangements on the new flights (if they even manage to all get on the same new flights)?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Um…did you READ my posts?  I specifically stated I was talking only about very young children – 3, 4, 5.  NOT teenagers.  The teenagers can be on their own! I’m not the OP, if that’s what you’re thinking.

    I agree with you that demanding their older kid sit with them is silly…and I stated as much in an earlier comment.

  • Michael__K

    Again, paying extra — per every airlines’ contract — NEVER guarantees you seats.

    Are you arguing that a caring parent doesn’t fly commercial?

  • Miami510

    This topic has uncovered one of the unspoken but nasty practices of airlines.  They overbook.  Their rational in overbooking is to insure that most seats are filled and take the consequences. 
    Years ago, I remember the announcements asking for volunteers to relinquish their seats for payment of air miles, or a free flight, all with a guarantee that the volunteer would be on the next flight.
    The greedy airlines didn’t like giving away those free flights so they resorted to the present tactic of reserving a certain percent (I’ve heard 20%) of seat assignments for assignment at the airport, rather than assigning a seat when the reservation is made.
    They know full well that a combination of people with reservations but no assignment will exceed the unassigned seats, but they now do not have to pay compensation, because the customer never had a seat assignment.  Their answer to disappointed flyers is that they didn’t get to the airport early enough… even though they may have arrived long before the required check-in time.
    One can view this as Airline Musical Chairs.  The airline always wins, and unless there are some no-shows who had a seat assigned, the customer always looses.

  • JessicaJ

     That’s not true – if you have a reservation, even with no seat assignment, you are a confirmed passenger as much as someone with a seat assignment. You get the same compensation if you get bumped regardless of whether you have a seat or not.

  • Joe Farrell

    OK – I have said this before and will say it again –

    Kids over 13 years old can easily fend for themselves and actually probably would prefer to not have mommy or daddy sitting next to them. 

    Kids 8-12 can usually be moved around to be really close to their parents by flight attendants and will be in middle seats – if you cannot get seats together what you do is you get your kids an aisle or window seat – you get yourself and aisle or window seat and then offer the aisle or window to the person next to you in the middle seat – problem solved.

    Kids 2-8 are NEVER a problem  – who wants to sit next to a toddler or little kid?  This resolves itself on board an aircraft – parents need to take a deep breath and assume that this will work itself out onboard . . . .

    Why give the airlines another $250 a trip for a family of 4? 

  • Lindabator

    UMNR has to be pre-booked, paid for, and have a listed pickup person on the other end.  So NO – the scenario you dreamed up won’t happen.  They would move both.

  • Lindabator

    Learn to get there ERLY!!!

  • Lindabator

    SOrry, can’t respond below – I worked for United – the CoC does NOT state that they will make up an UMNR for ANY reason – he has no clue whatsoever!

  • Lindabator

    And they do NOT do that — of course, in this case, 19 would not be considered a minor, and 13 and 17 could be considered a stretch as well, but show up early – you’ll be seated. If they cannot get all 5 on a reservation seated on the same plane to to an oversold situation, they’ll loook for others to give up seats, or move everyone to another flight. 

  • Lindabator

    It can happen – but it doesn’t have to – you can see a seating chart BEFORE you book – the case you refer to was a last minute booking at Holiday time – DUH!!!  most people plan ahead – and as someone who has PAID for my premium seat, NO I do not feel the need to surrender it to you and sit in some lousy middle seat just because YOU didn’t plan ahead or suck it up and purchase seats.  (If you remember the story, she didn’t give herself enough checkin time, either)!

  • Lindabator

    Perhaps the PARENTS should take responsibility and check the seating chart FIRST – no seats – don’t book!

  • Lindabator

    When a flight is changed due to service/change of guage, it is not done the day of or the night before, so there is generally plenty of time for the re-accommodation.  And yes, agents have other avenues to explore to accommodate our clients.

  • Lindabator

    Then plan ahead – check the seating BEFORE buying the ticket – that is YOUR responsibility.  You could use the same argument for a person traveling with a parent with Alzheimer’s, or traveling with someone who has difficulty walking, is getting over surgery, etc.  It is the travelers’ responsibility to look for those seats together – not everyone else’s on the plane to accommodate you.

  • Lindabator

    Most times you can find soemone who will move for you, but also consider them in that – I agree small kids SHOULD be with their folks, but that person you want to move still has a right to say no – they may have an injury or paid specifically for that seat, and the only thing I hate is when it is ASSUMED by a parent that I should have to reaccommodate THEIR wishes – like I have no right to say no. 

  • Joe Farrell

     But the difference, Dear Jessica, is that if you have a seat assignment and boarding pass you simply get on the airplane when they announce boarding, if you lack a seat assignment you a) sit whereever they put you and b) are much easier to bump . . . .

  • Barry Graham

    You say that he is an experienced traveler but anyone that is an experienced flyer would know that just because there are not seats left for selection does not mean that the flight is going to require people to give up their seats, and that if they do, the airline will ask for volunteers first.  Furthermore with all their seats in the same reservation as well as, one would think, their ages, the airline knows they are together and won’t send children off alone in the unlikely event that the flight is oversold and they can’t get enough volunteers so they have to start involuntarily bumping people. Lastly, airline staff are human beings and they are not going to let children go alone, in fact if they did, they might even be breaking the law.

  • ajaynejr

    I am led to believe that if the family of five volunteered to be bumped as “all or none” then the chances of just some of them being involuntarily bumped would be zero. The airline might pass up another flyer with more status to accept the family’s volunteering, or it might bump someone else involuntarily if it did not need five (more) volunteers..

  • ajaynejr

    A plus sized passenger purchasing two seats is not obligated to pay for seat assignments. Because someone aggrieved by a plus sized passenger must be willing to accept any other empty seat on the plane, the plus sized passenger may raise the arm rest. The flight crew has first choice on how the seat swap is orchestrated so the plus sized passenger’s seats are together.

  • Frost

     Hmmm… because it was a family of 5?  Or that there were no more “regular” economy seats visible on the seat selector after he booked the first 2: so he assumed that if he didn’t upgrade, the other 3 (kids) would be moved onto a different flight?

    Do you read the articles?

  • Michael__K

    Just want to add a whopper I learned about very recently:

    If you are travelling with a lap child, on many planes (e.g. a Delta 747-400) many (most) of the seats are off limits because they do not have suitable safety equipment — like extra oxygen masks.

    Yet there’s nothing to prevent you from choosing such seats (and possibly paying extra for such unsuitable premium seats) at the time of purchase.  And even if you need to speak to a phone agent to consummate the lap-child-ticket purchase, I found (in my limited experience) that they generally overlook and fail to notice this problem.

    Then it becomes a problem at the airport….  and, if it’s a full flight, other passengers need to be moved….

  • Michael__K

    I’ve personally witnessed a couple and their small children (I believe it was a family of 5) split up between flights on separate days because 3 of them were involuntarily bumped.

  • TonyA_says

    I suppose you ought to check where the infant life jackets are located, too.

  • asterali

    Interesting posts. But I’d encourage folks to NOT assume that parents are booking last minute. It doesn’t matter how far in advance a family purchases tickets, because these days, the earlier you book, the more likely you are to be involuntarily rebooked. Example: My kids are 4yrs and 5yrs, so I booked five months in advance for a trip this summer. I stupidly paid more $$$$ for flights specifically for their flight times and seat availability (I should know better)…. and then the airline rebooked us three weeks before the trip. We were rebooked to flights on completely different days, transiting through different airports, with more flights to take, longer layovers, at times of day that are most difficult for small kids (very early takeoff, very late landing). And worse, the airline decided to place my youngest (they have the kids ages on the reservations) several rows away. I checked daily for seat openings with no avail.

    Had I chosen the final itinerary at the time of booking, I would have paid hundreds of dollars less and would have had a greater chance of sitting with my kids. It’s just an expensive gamble to fly with kids these days.

    Sidenote: what other industry can get away with selling you a product/service, switching it to an inferior product/service at the last second, and expecting you to take it with a smile? In every other business venture I can think of, you wouldn’t expect a client who purchased a Ferrari to be content with a Ford Focus!

  • 3LittleBirds

    We are flying with our 3 young girls (1 1/2, 4, and 6) for girls’ first time ever on a plane in just 2 days. When I booked this trip FIVE MONTHS AGO, I was able to pick everyone’s seat. I got online to check in, and guess what. Only two of us are together on a giant plane (the kind with two rows). I called to get it changed and the lady was very nice but said that she was not able to change the seats over the phone; we’d have to ask at the airport. She also mentioned that the remaining seats in our group of 7 were nowhere near each other. I let her know we are flying with a 1-year old, 4-year old, and 6-year old, and that this will be their first ever time flying. I am a nervous wreck about this. We are flying US Airways.