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Shame on Airlines for Separating Parents and Children

Shame on Airlines for Separating Parents and Children
Taylor Rains

Since the introduction and proliferation of change fees for seat selections, it has become increasingly difficult and expensive for families to ensure they are all seated together when flying. The situation adds additional stress to parents, imposes safety concerns for kids, and has made travel a nightmare for families who are forced to sit rows apart from each other. But, despite complaints to the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) about this issue, it does not look like things are going to change anytime soon.

The Trouble With Separating Families

As of late 2019, there have been over 130 complaints to the DOT about the separation of families on aircraft. Many reports outlined events in which 3-year-olds, children with autism, and children who suffer from seizures were separated from their parents. Although the thought of a child with special needs sitting alone without a trusted guardian is concerning enough, there is still the very real risk of sexual assault or the possibility of an inflight emergency, which a child will likely not know how to handle.

According to an FBI investigation, sexual assault on aircraft has occurred to children as young as 8 years old. Furthermore, children trying to find their parents before exiting an aircraft during an emergency pose a safety risk to other passengers.

The Less Than 1%

Back in 2016, in an attempt to address this problem, Congress proposed the Families Flying Together Act. But the legislation was never passed and the DOT deemed it unnecessary, saying that less than 1% of consumer complaints involve family seating. Personally, I think the risk of sexual assault on children seems like a big enough issue to impose legislation.

Canada’s Solid Start

While there doesn’t seem to be any further movement on this issue in the United States, Canada enacted a new law–Phase 2 of its Air Passenger Protection Regulation–in December 2019 that requires airlines to help seat parents and children under the age of 14 close together at no additional cost. How far families can be separated depends on the age of the child:

  • Under the age of 5: In a seat beside the parent, guardian or tutor.
  • Aged 5 to 11: In the same row and separated by no more than one seat.
  • Aged 12 or 13: Separated by no more than a row.

Although this new policy is a step in the right direction, it is not a cure-all. Airlines must assign seats according to the above parameters. However, if a family is not sitting together at check-in, the airline is not required to find them seats together. They must ask for volunteers to switch places, but if they cannot find any, they cannot force any passenger to move.

Airline Policy

Many airline policies state something along the lines of, “we will seat children with their parent or guardian at no additional charge” or “seating families together is a priority,” but then force them to pay for seats together anyway.

For example, a couple flying on Air Canada was split up from their 4-year-old daughter, but when they asked the customer service representative about the issue, they were told that they could not do anything about it because they had not paid to reserve their seats. They even refused to move one parent next to the child.

Call me sensitive, but it is ridiculous that airlines are so hung up on profit from seat selection that they completely ignore the fact that a 4-year-old should not be sitting alone.

Tips to Avoid Being Separated

Although the DOT has not implemented any laws that prevent the separation of parents and children on aircraft, they have provided an extensive list of tips to help mitigate the possibility of it happening.
  • Read the Airline’s Seating Policy. Every airline in the United States outlines this on their website, so read it before you book your tickets. For low-cost carriers such as Spirit, Frontier, and Allegiant, or basic economy on major airlines, you will probably have to reserve seats for a fee ahead of time.
  • Book early. The earlier you book, the more likely there will be enough seats available together for your entire family.
  • Book families on the same reservation. Airlines assume that multiple people booking on the same reservation will want to sit together, so it is more likely you will be seated as so. Furthermore, priority is given to parents with children during seat re-assignments.
  • Contact the airline directly. If your family was separated or you’re worried about the status of your seats, call the airline directly, explain your concern about sitting away from your child, and ask them if there is any way to accommodate your needs. It is better to do this in advance where they may be plenty of unassigned seats available rather than at check-in.
  • Preboard in the family line. When flying Southwest, ensure you get to the gate early so you can pre-board with families, especially since the airline practices and open-seating policy. On airlines with assigned seats, boarding early can give you more time to discuss seat changes with the flight attendants or other passengers.
  • Pay for your seats. This is obviously the last option families want to choose, but if you do not trust the airlines to put you and your children together, then it may be worth the peace of mind to pay for your seats in advance.

The DOT has put together “Tips for Families” guides for most U.S. airlines on its website:


Do you think this is a big enough risk to warrant regulation? Let us know in the forums!

View Comments (79)


  1. polinka

    February 10, 2020 at 10:53 am

    There’s an easy solution: pay for you and your child’s seat. I don’t understand parents being so indignant that they can’t possible sit in another role from their child. Well, it it’s that important to you (and 6 and under I agree it’s important) pay for the seats. Avoid the hassle.

  2. mvoight

    February 10, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    On the new Canadian law
    “Aged 5 to 11: In the same row and separated by no more than one seat.
    Aged 12 or 13: Separated by no more than a row.”

    Seriously? Southwest Airlines lets 12 year olds travel alone, and an 11 year old child in Canada must be int he same row as a parent, and not more than one seat away. So kids cannot even sit a row in front of or behind their parents?
    At 10, I used public transit in Philadelphia to get from our home by the 9th Street Markets to various museums, requiring connections.
    Of course, once I went downtown to buy a football on Market Street, went to an arcade, and left the football there. ………
    I will admit I was 17 before I flew alone… That was STL to SAN for a “vacation’ at MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot), which I think is cruel and inhuman punishment, because the airport was so close, but the trip home seemed so far away

  3. sfoeuroflyer

    February 10, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    What’s wrong with paying for the privilege of having seats together?

  4. UAPremierExec

    February 10, 2020 at 5:48 pm

    Uh, sorry. If parents want to sit together, they need to select the fare that either allows them to preselect seats (either FREE OR PAID) . Otherwise this discriminates against non-child bearing travelers since we *have* to either pay for our seat or play seat-map-lotto.

  5. KRSW

    February 10, 2020 at 5:50 pm

    The article really should be titled Shame on Parents for not thinking about their children.

    It’s long been established that if you want to sit together for many things, not just airlines, you do so by choosing which seats you want.

    If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

    Now, if the airline makes changes to your reservations, that’s another story.

  6. Allan38103

    February 11, 2020 at 8:53 am

    Do you think this is a big enough risk to warrant regulation?


  7. strickerj

    February 11, 2020 at 8:57 am

    I can see both sides of this. I’m typically a strong advocate of personal responsibility, but I can see where an infrequent traveler might not understand the nuance of the system. One might not care where he/she sits but assume that all travelers on one reservation won’t be split up. Furthermore, once the issue arises on board, the burden of rearranging seats to accommodate families shifts to the crew (who had nothing to do with the policy) and fellow passengers (some of whom may have paid extra for their seats). The airline reaps the rewards of this system but bears none of its drawbacks.

    Not to mention, I book far in advance (like most leisure travelers), and I don’t think I’ve ever made it all the way to the day of the flight without my seats being changed at least once. Usually I’m not notified – I have to proactively check to make sure the seats I paid extra for weren’t yanked. Hard to have sympathy for the airlines here.

  8. view-with-a-room

    February 11, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    Buy the fare with the option to pick a seat. Not a difficult solution.

  9. FlyingNone

    February 11, 2020 at 8:30 pm

    How about airlines going back to FREE seating FOR ALL PASSENGERS (1st come 1st serve) instead of greedily charging for preassigned seats? Been in the industry for 37+ years and feel this move is one of the lowest, grabby moves the airlines could have ever done.

  10. Jimmie Jet

    February 11, 2020 at 9:03 pm

    Pay for the %^&$ seat, its not the airlines issue you want to be cheap and then cry foul when you can sort it in the beginning

    Move “pay for seat” up to number one in “TIPS”

  11. Orange County Commuter

    February 12, 2020 at 5:48 am

    After all the airline looks like the child’s parent right?

    What happened to “shame on parents for not assuming responsibility for the kids”?

    After all just because you have a kid the local grocery store doesn’t have to now give you “more food for free”, the local theme park doesn’t say “well just pay for the adults because you aren’t responsible for costs of having kids”. Why is it the airlines are suppose to give you “freebies” because you had a kid?

  12. jrpallante

    February 12, 2020 at 7:04 am

    Even for an infrequent traveler, there is no way you can miss the upsell offers that encourage you to choose a fare that includes a seat assignment. Almost all travel sites require you to positively affirm that you are aware of the restrictions associated with your $69 ticket. The fact is that many people want the cheap ticket, but they still want all the benefits of the more costly ticket. If an extra $10-50 per passenger is a significant burden for your family, then perhaps you need to reconsider whether you should be traveling at all. Perhaps your family should consider a staycation this year?

  13. secondsoprano

    February 12, 2020 at 5:40 pm

    Oh my dog you people. How is this even a question? Of COURSE children should be seated with parents, and OF COURSE they shouldn’t have to pay for it. Bloody hell you Americans are uncivilised. No Australian airline would dream of doing this, and no Australia passenger would dream of whining “well if you didn’t pay for it it’s your fault”.

    Honestly, I despair.

  14. kkua

    February 13, 2020 at 5:08 am

    If you can afford the trip, you can afford to pay for the priviledge of reserving adjacent seats.

  15. EAJuggalo

    February 15, 2020 at 5:49 am

    My only experience with this is on Delta. It tells you that there is a good chance you will not be able to sit with other people in your reservation when booking Basic Economy, about four times. In Nov. my wife and I took our two young kids on their first plane trip, we bought Main Cabin seats specifically so that we could choose seats together. I would offer two solutions:1. Don’t allow Basic Economy fares for any child that would be subject to an Unaccompanied Minor fee. or 2. Only allow Basic Economy on single passenger reservations. Doing either of those should solve the vast majority of complaints about the product.

  16. FEasy

    February 17, 2020 at 1:12 am

    Keeping parents and children together is a no-brainer. No commercial consideration should take precedence over that. Considering it a “privilege” and exacting payment for that is just plain wrong.
    As an aside, the US is the only country in the world that has not signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. When applied to most situations, this Convention says children should be kept with their families.

  17. KansasCityGuy

    February 20, 2020 at 4:13 am

    Shame on whoever wrote this article for making parents who don’t want to pay for seats, or who don’t plan and book last-minute so seats together remain about the sexual abuse of their children. You’re a moron. Seriously. You’re not qualified whatsoever. // The solve is simple. Family’s who want to sit together shall SHOP and PAY FOR seats together. If no seats remain that meet your needs, take a different flight. Do t show up to the airport and EXPECT the entire plane to re-shuffle because you wanted to buy basic economy or knowingly knew ur seats weren’t going to be together so you’d force the other passengers to make room for your travel agenda. Sexual abuse my ass. Please fire this author. What a loser.

  18. Wunk

    February 20, 2020 at 4:17 am

    Should airlines keep kids and parents together? Absolutely, hell make it a mandatory rule on any airline that a parent/guardian has to sit next to their child.
    Should it be free? Nope

  19. papertec

    February 20, 2020 at 4:18 am

    Shouldn’t the headline read “Shame On Parents Who Are Too Cheap To Pay For Reserved Seats for their Children?” I don’t see why the onus should be on the airline to move people around to accommodate me and my family. Planned right, this is easy to arrange and confirm, and most airlines hold at least a bulkhead row or other row open for rearranging in these situations. If you need your family to sit together, pay the associated fee, take what you get, or go Greyhound.

  20. rwoman


    February 20, 2020 at 4:29 am

    Perhaps “Shame on Parents for Being Too Cheap to Pay for Their Family Members’ Seats…” is a better title? If you do not want the restrictions of basic economy, do not book a basic economy fare.

  21. AJCNL

    February 20, 2020 at 4:33 am

    You get all these whining parents in Europe too with Easyjet and Ryanair etc. Basic fares are cheap but parents are too mean to pay to choose seats next to each other then complain about it. If you can’t afford to pay for a budget flight and add seats then you shouldn’t be flying with children.

  22. m123

    February 20, 2020 at 4:34 am

    There is no defense for an airline not to seat a young child by themselves. On the one hand it does pose several safety concerns, from putting the child at risk for sexual abuse to hindering evacuation procedures. On the other hand, it affects the passengers who had the luck to be seated next to the unaccompanied child. Can you imagine being seated next to an unaccompanied 3 year old on transcontinental flight where no one else is around to assist the child with eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, putting on the seatbelt, working the entertainment system, etc etc etc

  23. Athina

    February 20, 2020 at 4:35 am

    “Personally, I think the risk of sexual assault on children seems like a big enough issue to impose legislation.”
    Personally I think if the $10 you could pay for seat selection is worth more to you than your child’s safety from predators, you shouldn’t be making judgments on what others should do.

  24. MitchR

    February 20, 2020 at 5:05 am

    I have read stories in the media about families buying basic coach tix at a deep discount and then complaining that they couldn’t pre board or sit together. Not buying basic coach isn’t “paying for seats” it’s paying the normal fare. Why should a passenger who paid sometimes 3 or 4x the basic coach fare have to give up their seats because someone gamed the system.

  25. localady

    February 20, 2020 at 5:17 am

    The situation is very similar to WFBF (Want first, Buy First). People think that they are getting such a great deal without reading (or caring about) what they are buying on the super economy seats. Then they throw a hissy (just like their kids) because they were too cheap to reserve seats next to their kid. If anything should be legislated, is that people should have to acknowledge that they do not have children under 10 (or 12, or whatever age) traveling in these seats.

  26. JamesLoughney

    February 20, 2020 at 5:18 am

    Shame on the parent(s)/guardians who are too idle to book their flights sufficiently in advance to reserve seats where they would wish, or who would rather do things on the cheap i.e. not pay for seat reservations. I acknowledge that they may need every penny to pay for the trinkets like I phones that their brats must be festooned with. Nevertheless having their children in the vast majority of cases is a voluntary act, and some expense could be anticipated.

    Shame too on those who choose to trivialise the UN Convention, designed to protect children from awful abuses, by using it to champion those same idle/cheap bookers of flights.

    Shame too on those other passengers or Airlines who do not show big-hearted flexibility, and allow these groups of children and adults to sit together. We all know that a child sat on its own, if not closely supervised, will make the flight of the passengers near it an absolute misery. Guaranteed. Mind you the phenomenon of the carer abandoning their supervisory responsibilities even when in close proximity to the child, can be increasingly witnessed across the world, in retailers, restaurants, and places of entertainment.

    Here endeth the lesson!

  27. Snuggs

    February 20, 2020 at 5:24 am

    Going for the hat trick of inane column titles this week?

  28. arcticflier

    February 20, 2020 at 5:24 am

    SecondSoprana has it right. Ofcourse children need to be seated with parents if they are under a certain age or have development concerns.

    When these parents are online ordering tickets, there needs a be a question, “Are you traveling with children under the age of…? If they answer YES then the software can easily keep them as a group.

    If some parents choose to save money over paying for seats, then they cannot fly. The risks outlined above are real and are too important for child safety. The family should not be allowed to board.

  29. fartoomanyusers

    February 20, 2020 at 5:24 am

    some airlines (such as Ryanair) actively separate family groups – to try and force them to pay to switch seats. it’s one thing to separate families when the flight is full – it’s disgraceful to use separation as a money making ploy. and i say this as somebody who almost always travels alone.

    and it’s worse – research has shown that separating families slows down aircraft evacuations during accidents

  30. mhrb

    February 20, 2020 at 5:26 am

    What an idiotic article. If you’re brainwashed enough to think there’s a danger to your child, paying is a small price to pay considering that you’ve already paid for their ticket and the rest of the cabin have to put up with children in a public space.

  31. geminidreams

    February 20, 2020 at 5:26 am

    As someone who pretty much always pays the fee for seating I dont have a lot of sympathy but I think having to pay two fees is a little unfair to parents. They should have it so that if on the same booking you pay one discounted fee to be seated together but not be able to select your own seats. The other alternative that usually works is just tell the kid to yell mummy or daddy loudly followed by a loud squeal and repeat until they can squeal no longer.

  32. gharkness

    February 20, 2020 at 5:41 am

    Call me a cranky ole B**** but I don’t want to be seated next to a 3-year old who’s whining for his mommy. Or has an allergic reaction. Or pees all over something, especially me, or leaves his seat and has to climb over me 145 times per flight.

    Do whatever it takes to keep parents with their kids. Simply do not allow the separation. Whether ticket prices are a bit higher than this or not…I’d pay it if I were a parent flying with kids, or do the right thing and just let them choose seats together. (I don’t fly often, and I don’t fly with kids, so I have no real definition of “a bit” higher.) When I had small children I’d have missed a flight before I’d have allowed my kids to be a nuisance to other passengers. This whole thing is absolutely ridiculous.

  33. unesco

    February 20, 2020 at 5:44 am

    Keeping children and parents together, or carers and disabled travellers together is not a luxury that should be paid for, it is a neccessity that should be automatic, as it was throughout most of the history of passenger air travel.

    To suggest otherwise is grotesquely cruel and narrow minded.

  34. Xayma

    February 20, 2020 at 5:56 am

    I’m fine being separated from my two year old. Have fun random stranger who gets next to them. Hell, maybe I should be paying the airline to separate us so I can get a whole seat to myself instead of her wanting to lay on me and not have to figure out which iteration of baby shark she wants to listen to.

    Canada’s guidelines are a little far for me. I’d say 5-7 in same row (though really, next to rather than having some poor person having to sit middle seat), but 10+ is fine wherever and 8-10 in a row or two within sight.

    A seat per child next to one parent, randomly assigned is plenty, if they want a specific row or anything then they can pay.

  35. philkirk99

    February 20, 2020 at 6:10 am

    As with most people commenting, I have to ask the question “why does responsible parenting not include paying to ensure you have seats together in the first place and consequently have peace of mind when travelling”. I flew with my 9 year old nephew and made sure I booked us 2 seats together and did not leave things to chance on the day – I certainly didn’t want us split up but also I just knew he’d want a window seat – so I booked it. Parents who don’t book seats together for their families, need to start engaging their brains rather than just saying “it’s somebody else’s responsibility to look after my family”.

  36. weero


    February 20, 2020 at 6:20 am

    For all the “think of the children” advocates: it isn’t only a commercial consideration. Loads are very high these days, there just isn’t enough maneuvering space anymore on these planes.

    Should people who paid or planned long ahead be discriminated against because parents are too cheap and inconsiderate to do the same? Reward selfish behavior once more?
    If anything, paid seat assignments have made it easier for families to sit together. At least they can good seats all together at the time of booking without much risk of separation.

  37. ATXflyer78746

    February 20, 2020 at 6:22 am

    Get rid of the BASIC ECONOMY fares.

    Problem solved.

  38. Annerk

    February 20, 2020 at 6:24 am

    Southwest no longer offers “pre-boarding” to families with children. The only pre-boarding is people in wheelchairs or with other mobility issues. (Of course half of them become “Miracles In the Sky” when they are quite able to deplane and practically run up the jetway upon landing, but I digress.)

    Families with young children (typically age six and under– often in Orlando and other child heavy stations four and under) are allowed to board after the “A” group. If there is already a group of people who are on the plane from it’s previous flight, and a bunch of pre-boarders, there could already be 100 people on a plane that has 143 seats by the time “Family Boarding” as it is called, occurs. Even then it’s only for children under six and only one person over that age per child. So don’t expect a couple littles with mom, dad, the Grands, Aunt Sue, and three cousins who are all teens to board together. The gate agents enforce this strictly.

    There is absolutely no reason that a child over 12 needs to be seated next to a parent unless they have a disability. I’ve sat next to many, many children who were UM’s, there was no parent hovering over them.

    The best way to ensure being seated together on WN is to buy Early-Bird boarding. And don’t try to buy it for one person and all get in line together with that person. I see that a lot, and every single time the gate agent sends the people in the later group away until their boarding group is called.

    I fly 12-16 round trips a year, a combination of business and pleasure. Usually one or two are long hauls. I choose seats in advance, and often pay for better seats near the front or in an exit row. If I pay extra for my seats, I don’t move. If I haven’t paid extra and am asked to move, I’ll do so if I’m being offered a better seat. There’s nothing worse than a selfish, entitled parent. When our son was young we took all precautions to be sure one of us could be seated next to him–and often paid extra to do so. We were far from wealthy but considered it part of the cost of traveling.

  39. friedablass

    February 20, 2020 at 6:25 am

    I’m a parent of a number of kids and when I fly with them I look at the cost of the ticket INCLUDING the seat selection fee and that’s what I believe all parents should be doing. If I would deem it too expensive I would just not book, although that has never happened because most of my seat selection fees were like in the $15 range which isn’t going to make much of as dent when planning a vacation. Airlines now have very competitive fares, many times it’s way lower than they were previously when seats were free so I don’t understand why parents who can afford to fly with their kids become petty about paying for seat selection. Just my 2 cents as a parent.

  40. James M Barnes

    February 20, 2020 at 6:35 am

    Key point…..”less than 1% of consumer complaints involve family seating” It’s such a non-issue. As a former airline employee I can state unequivocally that flight crews will do what they can to get at least one parent with their child. If for no other reason than to make things easier for them.

  41. MemphisQueen

    February 20, 2020 at 6:39 am

    It’s a shameful money grab by airlines and is not limited to super cheap economy fares. We’re flying business class long haul on BA (London-HongKong) and they are charging us for seat selection on top of the cash fare!

    Let’s face it, no one will want to sit next to and entertain/ acquiesce my 2 year old and 6 year old for 8+ hours. But that’s what’s gonna happen because I refuse to pay more ON TOP of a business class fare.

    And who really wants to sit next to someone else’s young kid on any flight??

  42. Jump

    February 20, 2020 at 6:54 am

    Meanwhile, the US Government has separated thousands of children from their parents for months and years at the border.

  43. soundaround

    February 20, 2020 at 7:09 am

    Wow, most of you are obviously not parents and sound pretty dang selfish. Of COURSE parents and children should sit together – at the very least, one parent with each child. Believe me, you don’t want to be next to a kid when they get upset – hungry, tired, or the iPad isn’t working. Or drinks come and they wind up on your lap. Lots of you may know the drill with ticketing and flying, but lots of others don’t – and get stuck with that godforsaken Basic Economy ticket. Also agree with others that paying for seats is a low blow, even for airlines.

  44. mylakay

    February 20, 2020 at 7:10 am

    why should they be any different than the example the president shows us?? He takes children out of the arms of their parents, with no feeling whatsoever.

  45. gbcox

    February 20, 2020 at 7:11 am

    Sorry, but people (including parents) need to take a bit of responsibility and plan ahead. If the airline requires you to pay for seat assignments, then that policy needs to apply equally to all people regardless of whether or not you have children. If you don’t want to pay extra for the seat assignment then choose a class of service that includes it.

  46. waspybear

    February 20, 2020 at 7:11 am

    as a relatively frequent traveler, i’ve grown weary of folks trying to shame other passengers into giving up their seats … the trade is often to a middle seat … pay for your seats like the rest of us … 2 weeks ago a mother tried to get me out of my premium coach seat because she’d booked herself there and her kid in the back of the plane … no how no way …yes the airlines are greedy .. no i’m not responsible for your cost cutting failures

  47. robert4travels

    February 20, 2020 at 7:34 am

    As a parent I always make sure to book way in advance and a main cabin fare (not basic economy) to make sure we sit together.

    But two comments:

    1) American airlines (American, Delta, United etc) have upped the fees. What was first an economy fare with free seat selection is now basic economy with no seat selection, and I now need to pay $60-$80 more for a main cabin fare with seat selection. This irritates me to no end, and one of the reasons Delta made such a big profit this year. As a parent I now have to pay more for the same service, as yes, I still want seats together and will pay the extra cash.

    2) I’ve been in a situation where I booked tickets only 2 days in advance to visit a very sick relative with my children, then 10 and 8, and by then most pre-selected seats were gone, even for me as an elite flyer on an expensive main cabin fare. In that case it would be great if the airline is then forced to let us sit together, as they basically told me they could not help whatsoever as the flight was full.
    Luckily I found the passengers next to me very accommodating to move seats once I explained my situation. But this should not be the case.

  48. schwett

    February 20, 2020 at 8:09 am

    i’m a parent and a frequent flyer, sometimes alone and sometimes with one or two kids.

    this article reeks of entitlement. nobody has the “right” to travel by airplane, or to travel together unless the service they purchased includes that guarantee.

    buy tickets that include seat assignment and/or pay the fee to select your seats together. in the rare event that the airline then moves you, i agree, that’s a problem, but in almost two million miles i can’t remember this happening to me more than once or twice in recent years, and i was never separated from a family member.

    as a parent, it’s your responsibility to keep your children with you, safe, and from bothering others around you. legislation? ridiculous.

  49. gay

    February 20, 2020 at 8:13 am

    Parents should pay for their children’s seats. I don’t want to sit next to kids, no less subsidize their fares.

  50. pmcgarry

    February 20, 2020 at 8:17 am

    I agree keeping parents and children together is the only way to go. However, what you are proposing is that a family get a discount on airfare just because they are a family (that’s what it is when they don”t pay the added fees or buy up to the standard or main fare). Then you have to clearly define what a family is. What about two brothers and a sister where one of the brothers is 6? What happens if the surnames don’t match?
    I get that it’s costly for a family to fly but does everyone have a right to fly? That’s now entering into the capitalist vs. socialist debate.
    In today’s world if you can’t pay for it, then you have to live with what you get.
    If I was in the airline business, I’d codify a rule that asks if you are a family with children under a certain age and then you don’t get the option of the basic economy or no seat assigned option. That way the risk of predation is at least mitigated to a large degree.

  51. donna538

    February 20, 2020 at 8:35 am

    Why should only families with children get preferential treatment? What about families with out children? If I have to pay to be seated next to my spouse or family member, why shouldn’t you?

  52. FlyingBoat

    February 20, 2020 at 8:39 am

    To all of you saying, just pay for the seats. How is this fair? The child weighs less, takes up less space, and yet you want parents to pay for that privilege. You want parents to subsidize your fat a**.

    If two of you are flying, say with your spouse, you could pay the lower fare and take the risk you are apart, or find a seat together on the plane. A parent can’t take that risk and therefore needs to pay more, for likely a middle seat!

    It is outrageous to penalize parents for a child likely taking up less space to sit in a middle seat. And this penalty is imposed on those least likely to be able to afford it, young people with young children.

  53. picturegal

    February 20, 2020 at 8:50 am

    EAJuggalo has it right. Simply don’t allow children to be sold Basic Economy fares. At first the airlines weren’t really charging more for main cabin seating; they were really just charging less for Basic Econ. to try to compete with low cost carriers. But now some airlines are charging different amounts for window, aisle, and middle seats. Think of it as buying a theater seat; you pay more depending on the desirability of the seat. At least they aren’t selling SRO tickets – yet.

  54. NotSoFrequentColorado

    February 20, 2020 at 9:14 am

    If a parent is afraid a child will be molested by a seatmate, teach them to scream “HELP” very loudly if someone tries to touch them inappropriately. Or else just pay for the seat assignment.

  55. D2travel

    February 20, 2020 at 9:17 am

    Do we need new regulations? In a word, NO! What we need is for the greedy airlines to cease charging extra for seat location. It should be first come, first served. The earlier you book, you select your seat; the later, you get the left overs. It’s more of an incentive to book early. If the airlines won’t do a better job of realigning their costs with the needs of the traveling public, then Congress should do it for them. The airlines need to get of the GREED wagon and use common sense.

  56. amybd

    February 20, 2020 at 9:31 am

    I think the current policy also penalizes those who paid extra for their seats, or who have status, so I’m all for making the airlines do more to seat families together. I have been in my carefully chosen (with status) aisle seat and had an 4 year old separated from their parent in the middle seat. Now I’m stuck with the Hobson’s choice of sitting next to someone else’s preschooler for 5 hours or being squished in the middle seat between two 250 lbs guys for a transatlantic flight.

  57. FlyingBoat

    February 20, 2020 at 9:33 am

    FYI, what I tell my adult kids, with my grandchildren, is to bring a car seat along. By law a child in a child seat needs to be accompanied by an adult in a seat next to them. So I hope you free loaders who want to pay less so that parents can subsidize your flight by paying more get stuck next to an uncomfortable car seat on the other side. Serves you right.

  58. Loren Pechtel

    February 20, 2020 at 9:39 am

    When the reservation asks for details and there’s someone too young it should simply not allow it on a basic economy fare.

    On the other hand, I could see a justification for a fare class that simply ensures seats are together but doesn’t let you pick them.

  59. FlyingBoat

    February 20, 2020 at 9:40 am

    donna58, because you can take the risk your spouse and you aren’t sitting together. A parent can’t. You are forcing parents with children to pay more, for a less preferred middle seat. It is not preferential treatment for a family to sit together. It is a penalty imposed on families who need to sit next to their child.

  60. bryanb

    February 20, 2020 at 9:55 am

    Sometimes the threat of regulation will lead companies to impose new policies on themselves. I think it would be hard to craft regulation that doesn’t overstep or become impractical to implement.

    For example, I was on a completely full flight. A dad and his 5 year old kid were the last to board on standby, and there were only two middle seats left on the plane. One middle seat near the back, and one right next to me in the preferred section. I selected my seat weeks in advance because I wanted an aisle for this long domestic flight from BOS-LAX. The flight attendant plopped the 5 year old next to me and then stared at me awkwardly until I offered to move. (Why she picked me to stare at, and not the lady in the window, I’m also not sure. Either way, I was not interested in sitting next to a 5-year-old for 6.5 hours.)

    I ended up taking the middle seat in the back, but what if I wasn’t willing to do that? It seems like the airline would either need to look for volunteers or kick the dad/son off the flight.

  61. dliesse

    February 20, 2020 at 10:30 am

    Having children is 100% optional, and parents need to assume the responsibility for having them. The rest of society shouldn’t have to pay for children to get any special treatment. If there’s a charge for reserved seats, everyone has to pay them. If the fare doesn’t allow pre-reserved seats, don’t buy that fare. Having kids doesn’t give anyone any special entitlements.

    Should parents and kids sit together? Ideally. But don’t base it on an arbitrary age. There are some 25-year-olds who shouldn’t be in public without a keeper, and there are 10-year-olds who are mature enough to behave on their own (I’m obviously ignoring the evacuation safety issue here).

  62. Redheadpeter

    February 20, 2020 at 10:56 am

    We seem to have a rich collection of Ebenezer Scrooges posting here, families have no right to sit together unless they pay! How much skin is it off your nose if they get to sit together witout paying? On a long haul flight on British Airways you are talking a big pile of cash. Maybe they would prefer to have an unhappy 6 year old sitting next to them crying for several hours because they think their parents have abandoned them. Might prompt a change of tune.

  63. Redheadpeter

    February 20, 2020 at 10:59 am

    And another thing. What makes the airline industry so different. on a train I get to choose my seat at zero extra cost, when I buy the tickets

  64. FlyingBoat

    February 20, 2020 at 10:59 am

    diesse, you are the one getting special treatment. You don’t have a child travelling with you, so you can choose a basic economy fare and take the risk you end up where you don’t want to. A parent with a child cannot take that risk, and therefore cannot take the special treatment you are allowed. They are forced to pay more for a middle seat in order to sit next to their child. They end up subsidizing you by paying more for their ticket then you needed to, and they cost the airline less due to less weight.

    You enjoy being a free loader at someone else’s expense?

  65. LHR/MEL/Europe FF

    February 20, 2020 at 11:54 am

    For the safety of all passengers and cabin crew, children should be seated next to at least one parent. In the event of an evacuation you don’t want the parent going against the flow of passengers to a usable exit while they’re searching for their child.

  66. studentff

    February 20, 2020 at 12:13 pm

    Re: booking “far enough in advance,” sometimes it’s not possible. As a kid my family made 4 transatlantics booked the day before travel due to family emergencies. Fortunately in this era (when Pan Am was still in business), we never seemed to have trouble getting seats together, though I was often in the center-seat of a 2-5-2 on a DC-10.

    This entire conversation is a result of a lack of common sense and common decency by parents, passengers, and the airlines.

    For kids under some age (let’s say 8 for argument), it’s idiotic that the airlines that offer seat assignments don’t provide a reasonable, obvious path when booking (at whatever charge) to doing everything possible to keep a parent next to a kid at booking and through changes between booking and departure. The result is making pax and FAs sort these things out on board, which just increases aggravation. Cause IMO: shortsighted airline greed at trying to up-sell every window and aisle seat.

    But the parents stuck separated from their kid should show some sense as well instead of trying to score a free upgrade. In waspybear’s example above, the mom had a premium coach seat for herself and a back-of-the-bus seat for her kid. I assume both were middle’s. Yet she tries to get waspybear to move out of a premium aisle (or window) seat to a middle in the back instead offering her to trade her premium coach middle seat to the person seated at the window next to her kid in the back? Bad choice, mom. If you’re going to ask a stranger to swap seats for you, make sure it is in the direction that is more of an upgrade for the stranger and a downgrade for you.

    As for flyers who refuse to swap, have a little bit of heart and be a bit pragmatic. What are your alternatives? A long flight next to an unaccompanied 3-year old or take the swap? The real problem is that there are probably 4 people who *could* make the swap (left and right of the kid’s assigned seat, and left and right of the parent’s), and only one of them is going to have to do the swap and have their flight ruined. But being left next to the unaccompanied kid is probably worse than the bad seat.

    For the passenger stuck next to the unaccompanied kid, asking for (demanding?) IDB compensation from the airline is an interesting alternative as a thought-exercise, but probably not likely to be productive. Though if enough people made a stink it might make the airlines think about doing more to minimize this problem before boarding.

  67. FlyingBoat

    February 20, 2020 at 12:29 pm

    I have been on both sides of this. Being asked to move for a seat I paid for, for a parent/child, and having grandchildren who need to sit by their parent.

    It is entirely the airlines fault, not the parent. It is fine if an airline wants to charge more for an aisle or window, than a middle seat. But that is not what they are doing. In the case of parents needing to sit by their young child, it is they are forcing a large extra cost for that middle seat occupied by the child. Much hihger than they are for someone else who got that middle seat because they chose basic economy. It is a huge penalty for a young family. It is not an entitlement to be able to sit by your child without paying a ton more than someone else for that same seat.

    The entitlement attitude by those who are flying without children on this blog is astounding. They think, because they are not travelling with children, that they should be able to pay a lower price for a middle seat than a young family. That they pay much less for their 200 pound carcass then a 20 pound 2 year old is outrageous.

    Hopefully competition and common sense will prevail into something that is fair and reasonable. But it may not, because the 200 pound adults on this blog think they are entitled to pay less. They just lack common sense.

  68. snidely

    February 20, 2020 at 1:14 pm

    Most people that fly once or twice a year probably aren’t aware of these strange seating rules. I fly JetBlue a couple times/mo. and have been caught off guard as they, recently, have been changing seating policy.

  69. FlyingBoat

    February 20, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    I like what SunCountry says. My grandchildren are flying out with them in a couple of weeks.

    Do I have to pay for a seat?
    No. If you choose to not pre-select a seat, you do not have to pay for a seat, and you will be randomly assigned a seat at check-in. Please note: If you are traveling with children and choose not to select seats in advance, we will do our very best to ensure children are seated with at least one adult on the reservation.

    My experience with Delta is I have called in advance so they were aware my Daughter was travelling with children and they had a row for her in the back.

    It is just upsetting to see adults here thinking they are entitled to be able to purchase a Basic Economy seat, but a 2 year old is not, simply because their middle seat would need to be next to their parent. And then people here try to put shame on the parent, thereby allowing airlines to continue the unfair penalty against families with young children. Many adults here seem to be quite fine with their ability to pay for Basic Economy and shove the higher costs on to young families. Everybody gets away with what they can, it appears.

  70. jybrick

    February 20, 2020 at 6:06 pm

    I think parents should be required to sit in front of their kids. Then the little buggers will be kicking their seat instead of mine.

  71. Grog

    February 20, 2020 at 6:20 pm

    Airlines absolutely suck for not allowing certain contingent of seats to be booked free of charge. If the family is all on the same PNR, let them book the seats for free. The extortion committed against travel groups–especially those with minors–is downright disgusting. A family shouldn’t have to pay extra to ensure one of their children isn’t subject to tight quarters with anyone that hasn’t had a confirmed background check run on them. You wouldn’t allow anyone working with children to not have been checked out and airlines certainly shouldn’t set up that type of situation on an airplane.

  72. dginil

    February 21, 2020 at 6:12 am

    I agree with others that the Canadian rules seem excessive when some domestic airlines (SWA) allow 12 yr olds to fly totally unaccompanied by any adult, and all domestic carrier policies I am aware of allow 6 yr olds to fly in “unaccompanied minor status” meaning that you pay a fee (as much as $200 per leg) for your child to be seated by a flight attendant who gives some individualized safety instructions and theoretically is “aware” your child is alone in the event of an emergency. Your child often will be seated next to other unaccompanied minors (if there are any) but where they are seated is in complete control of the crew and a 6 year old next to an unfamiliar 14 year old is not necessarily safer.

    I am also left wondering how those rules work with large families, where the number of young children outnumber the parents/adults esp on smaller aircraft using 2-3 or 2-2 seat configurations? — eg, a mom with 4 or more kids?

  73. drphun

    February 21, 2020 at 8:13 am

    Not getting seat selection is just a nice way of saying random middle seat. How is the airline supposed to seat parents and children together if they all basically chose random middle seats and middle seats are not together?

    Personally, I think the airlines have gone overboard with charging for seat selection but it applies equally to everyone, so it sucks for everyone. This shenanigans definitely factor into my airline choice.

  74. PDog

    February 21, 2020 at 9:20 am

    You all aren’t serious? Living in your jaded, judgemental frequent flier castles condemning parents for being cheap. You’re essentially saying that their young children *deserve* to be sat next to strangers because they didn’t pay extra to the airlines.

    If/when an emergency happens on board, I hope one of you is there to save that three year old. Granted, Mom or Dad, would already be impeding any evacuation by trying to get to their child.

    For Pete’s sake, as fliers, we obviously don’t care that the airlines became greedy, money grabbing, entities who don’t give a hoot about their customers, but we can still care about doing the right thing.

    Separating children from a parent is just wrong.

  75. Morgacj2004

    February 21, 2020 at 9:55 pm

    Excellent quote KRSW

  76. CEB

    February 22, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    75 comments, roughly 55 of them calling Taylor Rains out on her entitlement attitude. Seems like a trend here?

    Some thoughts:
    1. Sure, let’s go back to a regulated airline industry. And don’t complain when airfares double or triple in response.
    2. No, let’s not hold ourselves accountable for poor decisions on a TOTALLY discretionary expenditure. Let’s whine about how greedy the airlines are, after all they are not a business but rather a charity transportation system subsidized by a socialist government bureaucracy.

    Anyone who thinks the size, age, or any other characteristic of the passenger is a driver for airfares is naïve. Market forces got us where we are and the only thing that will change things is market forces, whether you are talking US airlines, European airlines, Asian airlines, or any other airlines. Regulations will do nothing more than increase prices.

    So what is the solution? There are none.
    A. The airlines are in business and the market says people are willing to pay more for the seat they want, whether in a premium class of service or anywhere else on the plane. If the airlines discriminate they will find plenty of trouble with both the public and the government agencies.
    B. The traveling public will always follow their nose to the lowest price they can find and damn the consequences. A certain portion of the traveling parent population will try to game the system and cry foul when caught at their games and forced to pay the piper. A handful will be caught unawares, but such is life. And the reality is that most of the time, when asked nicely, those of us who travel frequently can help to find a proper resolution in cooperation with the FAs, and it generally is not a big deal. This is confirmed by the miniscule number of complaints.

    As for Taylor Rains? She got what she deserved in response to her whiny entitlement attitude. And she also got 76 comments (counting this one), so I guess she got what she wanted as well, a fair number of readers!

  77. Taylor Rains

    February 23, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    Hi CEB, I welcome discussion and criticism on all my writing (I guess I set myself up for that by being a writer). I’m sorry if my article seemed entitled, but it was not meant to. I gave my opinion on the matter. Of course I think it’s wrong for parents to play the system, such as buying an economy plus seat for the child and only basic economy for themselves, and then demanding they get an upgrade to sit with their child. I stand by you on that, but the name-calling in comments are not productive (although I have appreciated your insight over the months). I’m happy to speak with you about this in a respectful way if you’d like. Again, I apologize if it seemed whitty or entitled – I don’t try to anger you guys, I just want to spark interest and discussion, even if I don’t have a popular opinion.

  78. jrpallante

    February 24, 2020 at 5:16 am

    Since some passengers refuse to read the terms of their fare, the airlines should simply prohibit BE bookings for groups that contain anybody under 12 years old.

  79. darknstarry

    February 24, 2020 at 11:28 am

    I perfectly agree that someone with kids shouldn’t get SPECIAL seating preferences. But I ask those you with the negative judgment filled responses: Do you have kids?

    Let me know why you are wrong: I can’t leave my child ‘safely’ in the car while I run into a gas station. Or safely in their crib while I go for a walk down the street. Why? Because I am ultimately responsible for their care and society has deemed it unacceptable to leave them unprotected on their own. It’s reasonable to expect ANY business to have a child to be seated by at least one parent. If that’s in the back of the plane, fine. As others have pointed out it is unfair to expect special seating if you don’t pay for it. Truly, I don’t see why this should even be an issue needed to discuss. It’s absolutely bad business and a liability for a business to separate children from their parents. Think your ticket prices are subsidizing theirs? Wait until something bad happens and then the airlines raise prices after getting sued for X Million/ Billion dollars.

    One other point. Our society values having children whether you like it or not. You don’t like that? too bad. (Translation to your language: Too bad, move to China. They have still have some of the strictest laws on having children.)

    Now I’m going to go finish my taxes and get my extra refund thanks to the Child Tax Credit.

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