Flying With Your Kids? It May Cost More

Families wanting to sit together on flights are sometimes facing extra fees.
Families wanting to sit together on flights are sometimes facing extra fees.
iStockphoto.com

You are finally booking that fantastic family vacation. Now if only you could fly next to your kids without paying extra.

Why is this happening?

According to airfarewatchdog.com, an airfare listing and alert site, airlines are saving seats for their best customers (like those in frequent flyer programs) and strategically withholding standard economy seats, even if the flight is half empty, to make more money. They are setting aside aisle, window, and exit-row seats for passengers willing to pay extra, according to this foxnews.com report.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

All of this is making purchasing seats that are together without added fees harder for everyone, not just people with kids. One man had trouble booking a flight next to his wife, according to elliott.org, a consumer advice site. However, it is especially ticking off parents who feel they have no other choice than to pay extra for preferred seating, because the alternative is leaving their child unattended in another part of the plane.

There isn’t a U.S. airline that will guarantee seating kids next to a family member, according to airfarewatchdog.com. The only airline that has such a policy isBritish Airways. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced a bill in 2012 called the Families Flying Together Act that would change that. It would force airlines to seat kids 12 and under with a family member, but the bill is “lingering” in Congress, reports foxnews.com.

In the meantime, parents are faced with the decision to pay more or hope that an airline employee or fellow passenger will be sympathetic the day of travel.

“I am not willing to shell out more money for something that is ridiculous. It should be up to the airline to seat parents and kids together,” Keryn Means, a family travel blogger, told foxnews.com.

Parents venting on Elliott.org are posting comments such as “my kid is NOT your problem. My kid is MY problem. And I want to keep it that way. The airlines have no right to separate my child from me and stick him with strangers, making him THEIR problem.”

Others disagree, posting comments such as “Why is a parent wanting a pre-assigned seat gonna be exempt from paying the fee whereas others won’t? Unless there is a safety issue, the reason for wanting to sit together should be viewed equitably.”

So what can traveling families do? Airfarewatchdog.com provides the following tips: Make sure you enter your child’s age when you book (one major airline revealed that its computer system automatically pairs children age 12 and under with an adult if the child’s age is entered). Plan to fly Southwest (where seats are unassigned) if you have kids age 4 and under because you get priority boarding. If you can’t find seats together online, call the airline to see if they’ll open up seats. On the day of travel, arrive early to the airport and speak with an agent about the issue. And, when all else fails, resort to bribery. Offer a Starbucks gift card or buy a stranger a drink in exchange for switching seats with your child (wow, aren’t you sneaky, airfarewatchdog.com!).

Have you had trouble seating your family together on a flight? If so, how did you handle it?