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Airlines Take another Shot at Family Travelers

Transportation Security Authority

Earlier this year, when a handful of airlines started charging extra for passengers to guarantee seats together in economy class, I bristled at parents who claimed airlines were holding families “hostage,” insisting that these policies screwed everybody, not just those of us traveling with kids.

This week, as news hit the wires that these very policies separated a family who paid to sit together on a U.S. Airways flight from Philadelphia to San Diego, I can safely say that family traveler outrage over the airline seat-fee issue is entirely justified.

In other words, I’m saying I was wrong.

The latest story isn’t exactly cut-and-dried; you can read the nitty-gritty details about the story here, on Christopher Elliott’s blog. (Be sure to read the comments, there are more facts there.)

The bottom line: This poor mother and father paid more than $600 extra to guarantee that neither of their 5-year-old twins would be flying alone, and the kids still ended up being ticketed next to strangers on both sides.

Let me review.

Mom and Dad paid extra. The 5-year-olds still were ticketed to sit by themselves. Next to strangers. While M and D were on the plane.

Like, WTF? How hard is it for airlines to establish a policy stating that when children are traveling with parents or guardians, they must be seated next to at least one of them at all times? How challenging is it to put families in a position to avoid the uncomfortable ask-strangers-to-switch-seats-with-you game? Finally, how outrageous is it to ask an airline to guarantee that I can sit next to my kid so I don’t have to worry about her ending up next to a pedophile?

The answer, of course, is that with the right logistics/seating arrangement software, airlines could do this with next-to-no ramp-up time.

(Heck, I bet most of them could do it tomorrow if they wanted to.)

Some critics have called for the government to step in and require airlines to seat families together. I’m not that much of a zealot on this one, but I do think something needs to change.

Furthermore, while I think we families are entitled to this type of policy free of charge, I actually have no problem paying extra to guarantee I can sit next to my kids, so long as I actually can, in fact, sit next to my kids.

In other words, airlines, I’d gladly let you take my money on this one. Just put it where your mouths are.

What’s your take on the issue of families and seat fees? Leave a comment and let us know.