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United Makes It Easier for Families to Sit Together

Old Feb 20, 2023, 11:17 am
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United Makes It Easier for Families to Sit Together
New dynamic seat map feature will sit children under 12-years-old next to an adult in their party for free regardless of the type of ticket purchased

CHICAGO, Feb. 20, 2023 /PRNewswire/ -- United today announced an improved family seating policy that makes it easier than ever for children under 12-years old to sit next to an adult in their party for free - including customers who purchase Basic Economy tickets.

United's new policy is made possible through a series of investments in a new seat map feature that dynamically finds available adjacent seats at the time of booking. The online seat engine first reviews all available free Economy seats and then opens complimentary upgrades to available Preferred Seats, if needed.

Customers traveling with children under 12 will start to see more adjacent seat options immediately and the complete policy change will go into effect in early March.

In instances when adjacent seats are not available prior to travel - due to things like last minute bookings, full flights or unscheduled aircraft changes United's new policy also lets customers switch for free to a flight to the same destination with adjacent seat availability in the same cabin. Customers also won't be charged if there is a difference in fare price between the original and new flight.

"In an era where more families are working in a hybrid environment, they're traveling more often and they're flying United," said Linda Jojo, Chief Customer Officer for United. "We're focused on delivering a great experience for our younger passengers and their parents and know it often starts with the right seat. We look forward to rolling out more family-friendly features this year."

Many airlines try and use a more manual process to seat families together that can include blocking random seats or asking agents to facilitate seat swaps at the gate. Those circumstances often result in more stress and a longer boarding process for everyone.

Today's announcement reflects the investments United has made in its technology and tools. Since last summer, the airline has worked to improve its ability to seat families together more easily by optimizing the airline's seat engine to prioritize families who did not have seats assigned before their day of travel and prioritize adjacent seating for families during schedule changes, aircraft swaps or irregular operations.

United Polaris, United First Class and Economy Plus seats remain separate products and are excluded from this family seating policy change.
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United Makes It Easier for Families to Sit Together

Old Feb 20, 2023, 9:48 am
  #1  
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United Makes It Easier for Families to Sit Together

https://www.united.com/en/aw/newsroo.../cision-125258
United today announced an improved family seating policy that makes it easier than ever for children under 12-years old to sit next to an adult in their party for free - including customers who purchase Basic Economy tickets.

United's new policy is made possible through a series of investments in a new seat map feature that dynamically finds available adjacent seats at the time of booking. The online seat engine first reviews all available free Economy seats and then opens complimentary upgrades to available Preferred Seats, if needed.

Customers traveling with children under 12 will start to see more adjacent seat options immediately and the complete policy change will go into effect in early March.

In instances when adjacent seats are not available prior to travel - due to things like last minute bookings, full flights or unscheduled aircraft changes United's new policy also lets customers switch for free to a flight to the same destination with adjacent seat availability in the same cabin. Customers also won't be charged if there is a difference in fare price between the original and new flight.
Seems like a smart play, and reading between the lines it feels like it will be seats auto-assigned by United, without an ability to change them, which feels like a fair compromise to me as kids don't mean you get to pick seats for free, but are simply guaranteed adjacent seats even if it means being the last row in front of the lav.
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 9:57 am
  #2  
Ari
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How nice of them! What spontaneous altruism!

https://www.transportation.gov/indiv...ne-2022-notice

(A "smart play" indeed).
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 10:12 am
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It is smart to have the feature before being forced to have it because they can then play it up to the media.
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 10:21 am
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I wish, for many reasons, that United had never added BE fares. Nonetheless, I'll acknowledge that this is probably a wise PR move on their part.
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 10:24 am
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Originally Posted by angetenar
It is smart to have the feature before being forced to have it because they can then play it up to the media.
Already front page news on today's WSJ
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 10:30 am
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Presumably the family needs to be on one reservation for this to work. However it does seem fair to families and other passangers who are often "guilted" into moving seats. Also solves an issue for the poor FAs who have to handle this on flights.
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 10:43 am
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Originally Posted by angetenar
It is smart to have the feature before being forced to have it because they can then play it up to the media.
Plus, they already have the IT in place whereas some other airlines likely still need to roll out updates for it. I'd expect some airlines like AA to struggle to have a competitive response other than announce they will have something similar "in the coming months" with no additional details until they know the limits of the bandaid put on their system to handle something like this.
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 11:09 am
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I love a good upgrade to a Preferred seat 😍
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 11:15 am
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I don’t think they should have this feature for BE fares. If your kid can’t sit alone you shouldn’t be buying that.
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 11:15 am
  #10  
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A key caveat in the announcement was
United Polaris, United First Class and Economy Plus seats remain separate products and are excluded from this family seating policy change.
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 11:18 am
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Originally Posted by lowfareair
https://www.united.com/en/aw/newsroo.../cision-125258
Seems like a smart play, and reading between the lines it feels like it will be seats auto-assigned by United, without an ability to change them, which feels like a fair compromise to me as kids don't mean you get to pick seats for free, but are simply guaranteed adjacent seats even if it means being the last row in front of the lav.
Sure, as long as the family on a BE ticket doesn't get to displace a single passenger on a regular economy ticket who paid extra for the ability to pick their seat, or worse, picked a preferred seat at a premium.

When you book a Basic ticket, UA.com makes you confirm no less than a dozen times that 1) you do not get to pick your seat(s), 2) the computer will assign you one at check-in and you will like it, 3) there is NO guarantee that you will get to sit together, and 4) the above are acceptable to you. If sitting next to your child is important to you and you bought a Basic ticket, that's your fault. Personally I make it a rule never to book basic economy or equivalent fares under any circumstances for myself and anyone I book travel for.

DoT threw a hissy fit over a non-existent issue when a remedy clearly exists - pay up for a regular Economy ticket or pay up for seat selection if on a BE ticket like everyone else.

Last edited by stupidhead; Feb 20, 2023 at 11:24 am
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 11:24 am
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Originally Posted by stupidhead
....
When you book a Basic ticket, UA.com makes you confirm no less than a dozen times that 1) you do not get to pick your seat(s), 2) the computer will assign you one at check-in and you will like it and 3) there is NO guarantee that you will get to sit together. ....
However the travels portals / online ticket agencies that most use are much poorer about providing such notice We on FT may be better informed to avoid those OTA for that reason but that disconnect has been a major source of problems. Much of the traveling public go to these multi-provider portals, for travel, for hotels, for cars, for merchandise because that is the internet way.
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 11:29 am
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"I don’t think they should have this feature for BE fares. If your kid can’t sit alone you shouldn’t be buying that."

That's one of the reasons these fares drive me nuts. Had this argument recently with a friend who is generally a very reasonable person in just about all other things.

Her: "Our family got split up and that's not right".
Me: "You bought a BE fare and it said you weren't guaranteed to sit together"
Her: "I know, but families should be guaranteed to sit together".
Me: "Then you should have bought a regular fare".
Her: "It cost more money".
Me: "I know, but then you would get to sit together".
Her: "We should get to sit together anyway".
Me: "But the BE fare says you might not get to".
Her: "But that isn't right, there should be a policy".
Me: "I'm going to go beat my head into a wall now".

Does United really make any money selling these BE fares? I'd think they'd make more money selling a single last-minute empty seat than they would filling a bunch up early with 10 BE fares. But then again they probably know a bit more about business than I do, so what do I know. I also wonder if this will cost them a little. I'm sure some families with young kids bought regular fares to avoid the possibility of being split up. Now that this won't be an issue, all the more reason to buy the BE fare.
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 11:29 am
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Originally Posted by stupidhead
Sure, as long as the family on a BE ticket doesn't get to displace a single passenger on a regular economy ticket who paid extra for the ability to pick their seat, or worse, picked a preferred seat at a premium.

When you book a Basic ticket, UA.com makes you confirm no less than a dozen times that 1) you do not get to pick your seat(s), 2) the computer will assign you one at check-in and you will like it and 3) there is NO guarantee that you will get to sit together. If sitting next to your child is important to you and you bought a Basic ticket, that's your fault.

DoT threw a hissy fit over a non-existent issue when a remedy clearly exists - pay up for a regular Economy ticket or pay up for seat selection if on a BE ticket like everyone else.
Where did they say they will displace any other passengers as part of this? If you read the release, you'd see they explicitly call out what can be done when the family can't get seats together (due to a plane swap, etc): They can change flights for no fee, but the new flight must have seats together to allow the change. Nowhere does it say they'll kick someone out of their seat, and this policy/IT change makes it much less likely a pax or FA is pressuring you to switch seats so a family can sit together.

Also, the first part you bolded seems to stay true - nowhere here does United say you get to pick seats together, just that they will be assigned together.

I don't have kids and don't plan to have them, but I see this as a win-win for other passengers like me who absolutely do not want to have a young child next to me multiple rows away from the parent.
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Old Feb 20, 2023, 11:36 am
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Originally Posted by stupidhead
Sure, as long as the family on a BE ticket doesn't get to displace a single passenger on a regular economy ticket who paid extra for the ability to pick their seat, or worse, picked a preferred seat at a premium.

When you book a Basic ticket, UA.com makes you confirm no less than a dozen times that 1) you do not get to pick your seat(s), 2) the computer will assign you one at check-in and you will like it, 3) there is NO guarantee that you will get to sit together, and 4) the above are acceptable to you. If sitting next to your child is important to you and you bought a Basic ticket, that's your fault. Personally I make it a rule never to book basic economy or equivalent fares under any circumstances for myself and anyone I book travel for.

DoT threw a hissy fit over a non-existent issue when a remedy clearly exists - pay up for a regular Economy ticket or pay up for seat selection if on a BE ticket like everyone else.
My read of the following sentence from the United policy clearly implies that no one with an assigned seat prior to the "family" booking will be displaced:

"In instances when adjacent seats are not available prior to travel - due to things like last minute bookings, full flights or unscheduled aircraft changes United's new policy also lets customers switch for free to a flight to the same destination with adjacent seat availability in the same cabin."
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