Here’s a question. Should you pay extra if you want to sit with your child on a flight? Fox News recently ran a story on airlines trying to upsell seats to parents who want to sit with their children after realizing they were seated away from them. As the story points out if you are a non-frequent flyer you may not be aware that US airlines don’t automatically sit you next to you young ones.
Here are my thoughts on this. If a parent tells the system at time of purchase that they are traveling with young children there should not be an option for them to sit separately. End of story. They sit together, and if there aren’t seats available together they have to choose another flight. It’s mind boggling to me that there’s a way for the system to assign them seats apart at all. But what happens if they find out after they bought the ticket that they aren’t sitting together?
If a parent bought tickets online and did not check at time of purchase if their child was sitting next to them and they end up apart, there’s no question that they should be charged for an upgrade. Do I agree that this should be possible when buying? No. But if the parent isn’t doing their due diligence and buys seats that are seated separately it should be the parents responsibility to pay to change that seating arrangement (regardless of whether they are a frequent flyer or not). Now, if something happens where the seating arrangements change through no fault of the parents, such as a switch to a smaller plane, then I believe it’s the airline’s responsibility to see that the parent and their young child are seated together with no extra charge. If that means having to ask someone that has status to move to a worse seat so be it, but charging them would be uncalled for. I definitely think that the person being asked to switch should get some sort of concession, whether that be miles, a future upgrade, or something else.
There’s almost always going to be someone willing to switch. In a recent flight I was asked to switch seats for a mother and child and had no problem doing so. Also, if you fly Southwest you get priority boarding when traveling with a young child so as long as you are on time you shouldn’t have a problem finding a seat together. The bad news is airlines are greedy, and they’ll squeeze every last dime out of you that they can.
When I posted this story on Facebook, there was a good discussion, with readers on both sides of the issue. One thing brought up: some of the parents cited in the article didn’t want to pay the fee for seats together on principle, so why should people who do pay fees for a better seat get inconvenienced for them? Would someone who pays for an aisle seat be refunded if they move to a middle seat so a parent can sit with their child? I have to say, if I paid extra, was willing to move, but was not refunded I would be furious with the airline. But let’s be real: NO ONE wants to sit next to someone else’s demanding two year old without their parent.
My advice is to always pay attention to what seats you get on every flight, but especially when traveling with young children. In fact, I think you should check your seat arrangement every day up until the day of your flight to make sure nothing has changed. If you end up having your seat changed due to an airline issue don’t give in if you’re asked to pay extra. If the person you initially speak with at customer service isn’t able to help you, hang up and call back. If you’re still not able to get the seats changed, when you get to the airport speak to the ticketing agent, and then the gate agent. At some point you should be able to find a solution. IMO it’s better to work with the airline than to just ask people to switch once you’re on the plane, as the airline may be able to offer some sort of compensation to people who move to accommodate you. George from Airfare Watchdog has some good advice about this issue.
What do you think readers? There are two polls, and I’d love to get your opinion on both!
Have a travel question or suggestion? Send it to RoadWarriorette @ gmail.com.
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