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Separated From Your Kids on a Flight? Protest Here

Separated From Your Kids on a Flight? Protest Here
Jennifer Billock

With the proliferation of basic economy seats and charges if you want to pick a specific seat on a plane, families are facing a big problem — if they can’t afford to pay for a seat choice up front (or the airline doesn’t offer the option), they can’t be sure they’ll be seated next to their children.

A petition is circulating online that any adult traveling with small children should consider signing. It was started by Consumer Reports’ advocacy arm and addresses a major problem in air travel these days: If you don’t pay extra for a seat assignment, you may be separated from your children. And that applies to children as young as two years old. The petition aims to stop airlines—particularly United, American, and Delta—from charging adults to sit with their children.

So far more than 137,000 signatures have been added to the petition, many attached to complaints about a personal experience. One woman, for example, was traveling with a two-year-old and an eight-month-old, and Delta attempted to separate them.

Related: Shame on Airlines for Separating Parents and Children

“We attempted to rectify the situation with both the gate agent and flight attendant and were rudely rebuffed,” the complaint says, reported by MSN. “Neither would switch our seats and the flight attendant even claimed that children can sit alone. I made a complaint to Delta directly and was contacted by them via phone where that policy was reiterated. It is deeply disturbing that an airline can have a policy where young children (under the age of 3) can sit by themselves with strangers.”

It’s a Safety Concern, Too

It’s not just a problem of being unable to watch your children on a plane. The issue also extends to other passengers and their safety.

“If you and your spouse are separated on the plane and there’s an emergency, you can both take care of yourselves,” Anna Laitin, director of financial policy for Consumer Reports’ advocacy arm, told MSN. “If there’s an emergency on the plane and my child is 10 rows away, I am going to disrupt the plane to get to my child.”

The Responses

Consumer Reports contacted the Department of Transportation (DOT) to encourage them to create a policy addressing this problem. But the DOT refused, saying there just aren’t enough complaints for them to take action.

Airlines, on the other hand, are trying to make things better. United automatically scans reservations, looking for parents and children traveling together and also looking for unassigned seats so they can proactively fix the problem. American does something similar, scanning reservations and seats, and then sitting the child with at least one parent. The airline blocks about a dozen seats on each flight for this purpose. Delta, though, has a lackluster response, noting only that they work on this issue on a case-by-case basis and to call with any concerns.

View Comments (5)


  1. jybrick

    March 6, 2020 at 6:21 am

    Don’t make a reservation without a seat assignment. Simple. Problem solved. Quit foisting your responsibilities on everyone else.

    If you are moved afterwards, then complain.

  2. polinka

    March 6, 2020 at 9:26 am

    If what is required to sit next to your child is to pay an extra $20, then do so. If you don’t like the policy, by all means, let the airline know, sign petitions, etc. But please don’t act like the airline is tearing your child from your arms when the truth is you didn’t want to pay for seat assignments. Like jybrick said above, it’s *your* responsibility.

  3. Richard Street

    March 8, 2020 at 6:34 pm

    The idea of leaving my child to be sat behind either @jybrick or @polinka for a 3 or 4 hr flight on his own is rofl, lol, lmfao funny.
    Without supervision, he’d have a great time putting the table up and down, kicking the seat to bits, smacking them on their heads and generally making their lives miserable. Neither has obviously any experience of talking to a non-verbal autistic 3 year old because if they did they would be pleading with the airline to seat him next to me irrespective of the cost.
    I would really enjoy them lose their shit with him which would ultimately result in him punching them in the head and him either having a complete melt down or just running riot.
    By contrast, I’d have a lovely 3/4 hr break. Pop in my noise-canceling headphones and enjoy the flight for a change. Because ultimately, if the airline wants to take responsibility for the behaviour of a 3 yr old for the duration of the flight I say good luck to them!…

  4. ja1

    March 9, 2020 at 8:34 pm


    That sounds like you really don’t care what happens to your child in that hypothetical scenario you’ve outlined because ifyou think a three year old hitting someone is not going to have consequences to the three year old ?

    That’s just sad. Funny to a third party who is going to put it on youtube but sad about you as a parent trying to use your 3y to make a point.

  5. Jerry Vandesic

    March 12, 2020 at 9:01 pm

    “If there’s an emergency on the plane and my child is 10 rows away, I am going to disrupt the plane to get to my child.”

    This is an interesting point. Some airlines already have rules prohibiting passengers in exit rows who are traveling with children, even if those children aren’t seated in the exit row. The idea being the the exit row passenger needs to focus on getting the exit opened in an emergency rather than their children in another part of the plane.

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