Imagine you and your kid are going to fly together on an airplane — but when you buy your ticket, you find out that it’s gonna cost $10 – $50 extra to pick your seats next to each other. In that situation, many parents have opted to sit in different parts of the plane rather than pay the seat selection fee.
That’s not a great scenario, especially if your child is on the younger side, and it’s not great for the random passenger who suddenly has a toddler in the center seat next to them.
To address this issue, the U.S. Department of Transportation has told airlines to stop charging parents that extra fee to sit by their kids. That’s great news, but there are some things you should know about picking seats when you fly together.
If there’s space available, it won’t cost extra to sit with your kids (13 and younger) when you fly together.
Typically, if you’re on a flight and want to sit with your kids, you’ll have to shell out an extra $10 – $50 per assigned seat. (Airlines like Delta charge as much as $100 for an aisle seat.)
The US Department of Transportation (DoT) is working on making traveling with your family safer and cheaper. They’ve issued an advisory encouraging airlines to let adults pick seats with their kids for free.
The child must be 13 or younger, and the adult has to be over 13 for the airline to make the accommodation.
TIP: Read our tips for scoring cheap flights to cut down some of those family travel costs.
You can only avoid seat selection fees if there’s room in your fare class — unless you’re flying United.
If the only available adjacent seats are in first class, don’t expect a seat upgrade.
If you paid for an economy seat, they’ll only look for seat accommodations for you and the child in economy class.
You’ll be out of luck if there’s no room in your fare class, unless you pay extra to move to a higher class (assuming there’s room).
THAT SAID, United Airlines family seating policy goes beyond the federal guidelines, guaranteeing families adjacent seats no matter what — even if the airline has to give a free seat upgrade.
There’s no telling when airlines will implement this (but they will eventually).
These are advisory guidelines from the Transportation Department for now, but they could become mandatory if airlines don’t change.
So far, we haven’t seen popular airlines like Delta, United, or American officially implement this rule. (On the contrary, one mom on Delta shared her concerns on Twitter just after these guidelines were issued.)
There’s no official info about how airlines will roll this out, but expect to add your child’s age early in the booking process, and you’ll get to pick two seats together at no extra charge during checkout.
TIP: Southwest Airlines technically allows for this already with their “family boarding” after the “A group” boarding — and first-come-first-serve seating.
Only one adult can sit with a child – not the whole family.
This change doesn’t mean you’ll get to sit with the whole family for free. Only one person who is over 13 can sit with the child who is under 13.
So the rest of the family may be split up on the flight, while only one adult sits next to one child. If multiple children are in the family, parents will have to either take one kid each (which could require separate bookings), or they’ll have to pay the extra fees to get everyone seated together.
TIP: You can still make the most of your trip by checking out our 15 travel hacks when flying with kids.