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Airlines Introducing, Altering Family Seating Policies

by Aoife O'Riordan

Mar 16, 2023

© Siarhei Dzmitryienka | Dreamstime.com


Anyone who has traveled with family knows the difficulty in not only booking seats together but also avoiding an extra charge to group a family together. Now, however, several airlines announce upgrades and changes to family seating policies in the wake of the Biden administration cracking down on airlines charging families to sit together.


On Feb. 21, Frontier Airlines revealed an easier way for families to book tickets and assign seats next to one another. The airline is currently updating its system on how it assigns seats to families with kids under 14 years old. The new process ensures young travelers always sit with at least one parent.


Now, when families book with Frontier, the seating system automatically assigns seats for children and at least one parent or guardian next to each other with no additional cost. Before, families who wanted to select seats had to pay an extra charge.


United Airlines also unveiled its new seat map feature to help families with children under 12 finds seats next to each other for no charge. Including basic-economy tickets, the feature finds available adjacent economy seats at the time of booking and will even open up complimentary upgrades to other available seats if needed.


Should there be no side-by-side seats available on a particular flight, United Airlines customers can switch to another flight to the same destination with adjacent seats in the same cabin for free. Customers who switch flights will not be charged the fare difference.


While Frontier and United join the growing number of airlines allowing for an easier and cheaper booking experience for families, there are some airlines that always offered family-friendly booking experiences. Breeze Airways allows families to sit together for free, with a waived fee for a family seat selection.


American Airlines also became one of the latest airlines to update its family seating policy. The airline announced it would ensure children aged 14 and under are seated adjacent to an accompanying adult at no additional cost, including Basic Economy tickets. Families must book on the same reservation to qualify, and adjacent seats must be available at time of booking. Once assigned, customers cannot make changes to seat assignments.


Other airlines have yet to implement changes. Delta Air Lines offers family seating “upon request.” Delta Air Lines customers can access a seat map that blocks off some areas for family seating up to 48 hours before a flight.


Southwest Airlines’ open seating and board-by-number policy sees the airline take a different approach with families. Families with children 6 and under can board early to increase a family’s chances of sitting together.


Airlines are continuously updating these policies.


The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a notice encouraging U.S. airlines to do everything possible to ensure a child aged 13 and under can be seated next to an accompanying adult without charging fees for adjacent seating. The notice comes following consistent complaints from customers about family seating, with some complaints mentioning children as young as 11 months old not seated next to an accompanying adult.


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