Have you ever been charged extra to sit next to your child on an airplane? As if traveling with kids wasn’t stressful enough, that stress gets compounded when you arrive at the airport and realize your seat assignments placed your toddler in the back of the plane and you in the front. In order to avoid the commotion of begging other passengers to trade seats, many parents opt to pay extra to ensure that they get seated next to their children.
This problem arises for parents because when purchasing economy tickets, many airlines do not allow you to choose your seating in advance. Instead, you are assigned seating at the gate. The U.S. Department of Transportation says it has received numerous reports from concerned parents who say they were forced to deplane or change their travel plans when they were not able to sit by their child on their flight.
But here is the good news: The Department of Transportation (DOT) notified airlines that they need to let parents sit next to their children — without charging parents an extra fee to be assured a seat by their child. As long as the child is 13 years old or younger, airlines must allow parents and young children to be seated together at no extra charge.
The DOT announced the move last week over Twitter:
We're taking action to protect airline passengers:
Publishing a Bill of Rights for Airline Passengers with Disabilities
Reminding Airlines that Kids Should Sit Next to Parents for Free
Addressing Consumer Complaints and Refunds https://t.co/Qf8xIjyVbQ
— TransportationGov (@USDOT) July 8, 2022
Along with the guidance for parents traveling with children, the agency also announced its first Bill of Rights for Passengers with Disabilities.
“If airlines’ seating policies and practices are found to be barriers to a child sitting next to an adult family member or other accompanying adult family member, the Department will be prepared for potential actions consistent with its authorities,” the DOT said.
This decision has been a long time coming. In 2016, Congress pushed for regulations that would require airlines to allow children to fly next to family members free of charge, but the Department of Transportation was slow to respond.
Consumer Reports Advocacy and other family advocates continued to apply pressure to DOT, saying that seating children away from their guardians was dangerous. As horrifying as it may sound, a 2018 FBI report found that in-flight sexual assaults were on the rise, so it is absolutely no wonder that parents would not want their vulnerable children sitting by total strangers instead of by their family.
“Ensuring that children are always seated with their parents regardless of the ticket purchased would improve safety and security for all travelers while easing the minds of families,” said Anna Laitin, director of financial policy for Consumer Reports.
So, the next time you are flying with your kids, remember that you have the right to ask to be seated by any children under the age of 13 years old, without having to pay any extra fees. Finally, a bit of peace of mind for traveling families!