When flying with little kids, from time to time there are instances where it’s difficult to get seats together. If the ticket or gate agents can’t help, you’re often left to the kindness of strangers to switch seats with you. In most cases, that’s not an issue – if it’s not a full flight most people would happily switch to allow a parent to sit with their young child (if not out of a sense of goodwill than certainly because they’d rather not babysit someone else’s toddler). However, now that most airlines are charging a premium for “preferred economy” seats (usually a small additional fee for a window or aisle seat), a fellow passenger may not be willing to switch if they’ve paid extra for their seat.
I’ve often wondered how airlines can get away with it. Especially considering that, across the board, airlines will not allow children under the age of five to fly as unaccompanied minors – which is what I think a child should be considered if they are not under the immediate and direct supervision of their parent or guardian while on the flight. Over on the Huffington Post I wrote about this back in May, and mostly all the airlines responded by saying that, there is a certain amount of complimentary seat selection, (except for Spirit, of course, who flat out said that if families want to guarantee they are seated together, they must pay extra), and I summed up that with everything regarding travel with kids, preparation is key. And now that includes booking flights well in advance if you want to avoid extra fees. Which is sometimes doable, but mostly it’s just another inconvenience lumped on family travelers along with baggage fees and doing away with family pre-boarding.
At the time, Senator Charles Schumer requested Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issue a rule that would prevent airlines charging parents more to sit with their children. He is also asked Airlines for America, an industry trade group, to try to persuade carriers to voluntarily waive fees for families flying with young children. Senator Schumer was successful in his bid to get five major airlines to promise they would not start charging for overhead carry-on luggage after Spirit introduced their fee.
Well, now family travelers have another advocate in Washington. Congressman Jerrold Nadler has introduced legislation to help keep families seated together on commercial flights. The Families Flying Together Act of 2012 would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to direct each carrier to “establish a policy to ensure, to the extent practicable, that a family that purchases tickets for a flight with that air carrier is seated together during that flight; and (2) make the policy…available to the public on an appropriate Internet Web site of the air carrier.” The legislation would help to ensure that children are not separated from their families and seated alone on flights.
Congressman Nadler explained:
Air travel is complicated and expensive enough for families without adding new stresses. Families should not be stuck paying hidden fees, or buying ‘premium’ seats, simply because they wish to be seated together on crowded flights. It is positively absurd to expect a two or three-year-old to sit unattended, next to strangers, on an airplane. It is up to air carriers to make their seating policies clear and easily accessible to the public.
To voice your support for Congressman Nadler’s initiative, urge your Members of Congress to cosponsor the Families Flying Together Act of 2012. On Twitter, follow the hashtag, #FFTA