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Transportation Department “Urges” Airlines to Keep Families Together

Short of a formal rule, the U.S Department of Transportation is now “urging” airlines to keep children under 13 seated next to an accompanying adult without extra charge.
After outcries from families split apart on flights, the U.S. Department of Transportation is doing the minimum to try to keep children with their accompanying adults.


In a new notice, the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection is “urging” airlines to “do everything in their power” to keep children 13 and under seated with their families.


New Notice Designed to Drive Airline Action

Airline seating policies which could separate parents from children is a contentious topic. In 2017, a gay Florida couple accused Southwest Airlines of discrimination, when they claimed a flight attendant did not allow them to board during the family group with their adopted child. In 2019, the Transportation Department received over 130 complaints about airlines separating parents and children aboard an aircraft.


With the new notice, the Office of Aviation Consumer Protection “wants airlines to do everything in their power” to make sure that children 13 years old and younger are sat alongside their accompanying adults at no additional cost. The rule is especially apt for those in “basic economy,” where seats cannot be pre-selected prior to check-in.


“Although the Department receives a low number of complaints from consumers about family seating, there continue to be complaints of instances where young children, including a child as young as 11 months, are not seated next to an accompanying adult,” the notice reads. “If airlines’ seating policies and practices are barriers to a child sitting next to an adult family member or other accompanying adult family member, the Department will consider additional action consistent with its authorities.”


Because the notice falls short of a rule, airlines are not obligated to change their policies today. However, the office will review airline practices over the next four months to determine if additional action is needed.


No major carrier has commented on the Transportation Department notice.

fissfiss August 9, 2022

People with disabilities have to be accommodated, service animals have to be accommodated, they do not have to pay extra. Children should also be accommodated. Be nice, they will hopefully be funding our Social Security and Medicare. In the olden days, before you could select your own seats, I more than once deposited a youngster in a seat and said to the adult sitting next to her, in the politest possible way, "your choice...swap boarding passes with me or deal" something I should never have been responsible for saying. When booking these days,  the airline knows the passengers ages and could easily block seats together.

jetabout July 21, 2022

If there was an emergency and the child isn't sitting with their parent who is responsible for that child. I suppose they don't get oxygen !!!

MRM July 21, 2022

Anybody really think there was discrimination against the gay couple mentioned, or just poor customer service?  I'm going with #2 - but the family went with #1 to get more attention.

strickerj July 20, 2022

I can see both sides of this - infrequent flyers might not care exactly where they sit (so not pay extra for seat assignments) but assume passengers on the same reservation would be seated together. OTOH, it isn't right to bump passengers out of seats they paid for to accommodate those families. Honestly, I think the airlines created this situation (and don't get me started on selling seat assignments while not actually guaranteeing them), but as long as the fees are generating revenue, and only the front line agents have to deal with the consequences, I don't see anything changing.


Sorry but I "urge" parents to be responsible for their offspring.   Why are you expecting "Freebies' from the airlines because you had kids?   Does it work at the grocery, you get "free" food because you decided to have kids.    Having kids comes with a cost, if you aren't willing to pay it you might should reconsider.