7 ways to keep families together on a plane, without going broke

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Photo by leocha
Full disclosure, my son is now 24. So, family seating issues are no longer a potential crisis. However, since we traveled a great deal when he was small, I understand (most) parents don’t want to be separated from their toddlers and young children.

For that matter, almost all other passengers and flight attendants on a plane prefer children be under the direct supervision of their parents. (I know, some parents do adopt the, “What, me worry?” attitude regarding their offspring’s antics. This post is not targeted towards them.)

The real problems arise when for whatever reason, families don’t have seat assignments in advance. That’s when families need to rely on gate agents or the kindness of strangers to sit together.

Personally, I have no problem switching to help families or even adult couples out. One aisle to another, one window to another. However, where I do have a problem is when someone wants me to give up my window seat for a middle seat or my extra legroom seat for a seat way in the back. I think many travelers feel the same way.

Sometimes these things aren’t the parents’ fault. There may be an equipment change, for example, or a missed connection. But often, families will book the cheapest airfare, where there are no pre-assigned seats, and figure it will work out, regardless of how much it annoys or puts out their fellow passengers. Other times, families will do everything possible to keep from forking over hundreds of dollars extra in seat-reservation fees for seats together.

Here are a few tips for families who do want to sit with their children without paying seat-reservation fees. These tips will minimize stress, maintain your dignity and won’t incur the wrath of your fellow passengers.

1. Look for flights that have seats together. Travel agents can easily see seat charts, and many online booking sites will allow travelers to see the seat charts before paying for the flights. (Domestic carriers now have to let you cancel within 24 hours of booking, if there’s a problem.)

2. Consider Southwest Airlines. With the open seating, any family who checks in right at the 24-hour advance time should be in at least an early enough boarding group to get seats together, although they may be in the back. With Southwest, passengers have to take some personal responsibility. For families who want more choice, or cannot check in 24 hours in advance, Southwest’s $10 priority boarding fee is one of the lowest in the industry.

3. If you have elite status, use it. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I have talked to passengers who booked holiday travel on an airline they never use because it was a little cheaper, when their regular carrier would have not only given them free checked luggage, but also preferred seat assignments. The total cost of travel is what matters, not only the airfare.

4. Look for a travel agent with preferred access to seats. These may not be available on all airlines. For example, our agency has free preferred seats on both American and British Airways. Travel agent relationships with other carriers can be a big help in a pinch.

Of course, agencies that have these preferred deals will charge a service fee for booking tickets, but the fee is usually much less than it would be to pay for the seat assignments.

5. Keep checking back up to 24 hours prior to departure. Most carriers have some changes in their seat maps before departure, especially in the last week or days before departure as frequent flier upgrades are confirmed.

Again, some travel agents will keep checking for you as part of their service. But, this can be done with online bookings, too. A client who had booked a personal trip direct once asked my “secret” when he ended up in a middle seat. The secret? Persistent repetition; even if it takes a couple of minutes each time to check, that effort will seem like nothing compared to a six-hour flight with bad seats.

Or, use ExpertFlyer, a free app that keeps checking seats for you.

6. Take scattered windows and aisles. If you or your agent finds scattered seats that include aisles and windows, take them. It’s going to be MUCH easier to find someone to trade with on board if you tell someone with a middle seat, “You can have my aisle/window if I can sit with my kid.”

7. Get to the gate early. If all else fails, and sometimes situations dictate last minute bookings with no seat assignment, get to the airport, especially the gate, early. Seat assignments are given away when passengers don’t check in by a set time, and the gate agents have control of those “new releases.”

Tell the agent your family-seating problem, being as polite as possible (“I’ll never fly your airline again,” doesn’t qualify.) If you are a family of four or more, offer to split up, one adult per child, which will be a lot easier for the gate agent to find than four seats together.)

None of these tips is guaranteed to help on any given flight, but they will improve your odds. And remember, regarding family travel, the kids do grow up. This, too, shall pass.

Photo: © Leocha

  • http://twitter.com/johntbaker John Baker

    Janice … Here’s the one thing that always gets me with articles like this… No one ever seems to put the onus on the parents to purchase seats together. Sorry its not the airlines or your fellow passenger’s responsiblity but yours.

    Oh and before someone tells me that I just don’t “get it.” I have 3 kids under 10 and we fly all of the time. I don’t buy until I find seats together, even if I have to pay more, and then check the reservation every few weeks to make sure that we haven’t been moved.  There have been cases where I could find seats together – we took different flights or changed days until I could find flights with seats together.

  • DCTA

     I’m sorry John, but I think a quick re-reading will show that Janice is suggesting buying seats together.  In fact, it’s her first suggestion!

  • http://twitter.com/johntbaker John Baker

    @fa78834808012ccc5d607f080cb9e718:disqus I guess my statement came off harsher than intended but I was ready for comments like @c96d0c3590dd5104e3af439fff1e2f60:disqus above where they ignore this for the other suggestions. They think its the airlines “problem” to seat them together. Sorry but its your job to buy seats together first. I’ve seen other postings where people knew there weren’t seats together when they purchased the tickets and did it anyway only to throw a fit at the gate.

    I guess I have grown tired of entitled parent who thinks that the entire world should revolve around their child.

  • Janice

     John, no I absolutely think its the family’s responsibility.  Funerals and emergencies are different, but when it’s a vacation trip planned in advance I think you should plan a way to sit with your kids-  there’s usually SOME flight option that works. (I try hard to move clients to such an option- in fact just had one where the scattered aisles worked for a mother and child. Guy in middle was thrilled to switch.)  My original post title was more on the lines of who to sit together without alienating the rest of the plane in fact.

    And I hate “entitled” for what it’s worth.  Have even had families think they should have the exit row so kid could have room to lie down on the floor. Really..

  • Anonymous

    My husband is a Gold elite on Delta, and over Christmas, our seats were split a week before our flight without an equipment change, explanation or apology.  Elite status gets you those free bags and a better loading zone, but no guarantee of your seats remaining grouped.

    Also, PLEASE stop making this solely about families with young children.  If people book early enough, they should expect to be able to get seats together.  Whether that’s a family with “littles”, adults traveling without kids, or adults traveling with older family members that might be confused if they are separated from their guardian.  Everyone goes on and on about “you don’t want to sit next to my toddler”, but do you want to sit next to a 80- or 90-something that can be easily agitated?

    You don’t buy tickets to a sporting event or play/musical and find out when you get there that the tickets you selected from the map are now scattered across the venue.  (Yes, I know there are equipment changes – that doesn’t happen with venues, unless you count the collapsing Metrodome ;) ). You are not charged extra in these situations to sit together – you buy your tickets so you are sitting in the same row or set of seats across a few rows.  The airline industry needs to stop monetizing every freaking aspect of their business.

  • Anonymous

    I had paid extra for additional legroom on a carrier I don’t usually fly.  I got called to the desk at the gate and was asked to switch to a middle, no leg room seat to accommodate a family.  The agent explained my refund for the seat would be issued in  the form of a voucher.  I had no intention of flying them again and said no.

    The family that wanted me to change seats was right there at the gate and the father was abusive ( “greedy sob”) when I said no.  The gate agent did nothing to help.  The rudeness continued on the flight.

    All in all, it was a horrible experience.  If you are a parent and want someone to switch with you, I suggest you have cash in hand and make sure YOU get the middle seat.  The reason people hate you is because you act entitled, not because you have children.  Figure it out.

  • Anonymous

    When I am on the east side of Manhattan, near Grand Central Terminal, and want to take the no. 7 subway home to Flushing, Queens, I know that if I board the train at Grand Central, its third stop in Manhattan, I will have to stand the entire 30 minutes going home. So I may walk several blocks crosstown to Times Square where I can board my train at its first stop, knowing that I will get a seat. Now, after getting a seat on the train, and upon the train’s arrival at Grand Central, an elderly or disabled person boards there, expecting me to now yield my seat to that person, and have me stand. What should I do?

    I made the extra effort to walk to Times Square for the specific purpose of having a seat. Yet, the elderly or disabled person now expects me to give up what I sought–where I undertook additional effort to acquire–for their own convenience in themselves not boarding at the first stop. Is that fair? This situation seems to be in the same category as the family showing up at the airport, demanding that others who have planned in advance to give up their sought-after seats for the sake of a family.

    What is the proper balance between, on the one hand, undertaking the effort to secure a seat, and on the other hand, giving up that sought-after seat for someone who might have a greater need for it? I don’t know.

  • Mindy

    Walking to a different stop is not really an easy choice for the elderly or disabled.  Stand up for goodness sake and be grateful that both of your legs work and that you’re pain free. Consider the extra walk to have just been a calorie burning bonus for the day.   For goodness sake..is this really a question??

  • Anonymous

    Will you give up your long-reserved aisle seat in the premium zone at the front of the aircraft to someone else (be it a someone’s family member or be it an elderly or disabled person), and willingly accept a middle seat in the back? I don’t think the answer is easy.

  • Anonymous

    I was booted from bulkhead seats regularly for this exact reason for several years.  I don’t book bulkhead anymore for this exact reason.

    Disabilities are a different category than entitled families or those who simply don’t plan well.  There are only so many places people with disabilities can sit on a plane.  I just bought first class airfare for my flight over the weekend so I’d be sure to have the space I need for my injured leg (and I wouldn’t boot someone out of bulkhead seats).

  • Mindy

    Refusing to give up your train seat to someone who is elderly or disabled does not make you a Rosa Parks.

    Romeo’s problem is that of shoddy customer service. Moving a customer who paid to reserve a seat..and only offering a voucher is poor CS. Methinks there may be more to this story…but I digress..

    If you can easily and without financial or physucal harm (other than being irritated) give your seat to someone who is unable to stand for long periods on a bus or train…just do it. Give yourself a silent pat on the back and hope that Karma will be generous to you on the next go around.

    As far as seat planning in the “friendly” skies, I think one would be surprised with the results of a kind smile and a generous attitude. Perhaps instead of a future travel voucher, Romeo should have asked for a few drink coupons to drown his woes.

  • Anonymous

    Now, after getting a seat on the train, and upon the train’s arrival at Grand Central, an elderly or disabled person boards there, expecting me to now yield my seat to that person, and have me stand. What should I do?

     You give up your seat.  Because one day – if you are lucky – you will be elderly.  Or you may find yourself disabled and dependent upon public transportation.

    So if I’m still on my cane the next time in NYC, I’ll be sure to stand in front of you on the 7.  Because right now?  I’m not stable, and the jerking of a subway car will throw me off my feet.  I’m hoping you make a good landing pad for me.
    I lived in DC, and frequently had to stand 30 minutes or more on DC’s Metro system (bus or train).  It’s the price of using public transportation – sometimes you have to stand.  And sometimes you have to have some empathy and give a seat to someone who needs it, rather than wants it.  That is not actually the same as someone who could sit in the seat, but chooses not to.

  • Anonymous

    When I was growing up in Manhattan, (NYC,) I was taught to, and always did, give up my seat to the elderly or infirm. I still do that today, because, although I am 70, I am still an able-bodied person. 

  • Anonymous

    What I love about this particular situation is that it means someone in the family is actually sitting in the paid-extra-for-legroom row.  But you’re the “greedy” one when you won’t give up your seat for a voucher that the airline – if you do fly it – probably will make difficult for you to redeem later down the line.

    So families like this probably did book early enough to get some desirable seats and just want the people who booked even earlier to give their seats up.  Because I have never been on a flight with an equipment change where seats were reassigned where you were put into a “plus” seat if you hadn’t bought it (usually you lose your good seat). In my case I have joint disease.  The few times I’ve been guilted into changing seats, I’ve regretted it and I don’t do it anymore (though never a paid-extra seat – usually an aisle for middle swap).  Because those families certainly won’t give me cash for the extra PT sessions I need to fix the problems that invariably arise when I’m wedged in a middle seat between two seat hogs.I will give props to the airline you were flying, though – usually they leave that to the FA’s instead of trying to resolve it before boarding.

  • Familytravel

    I don’t disagree with you at all. If someone pays extra for a premium seat, they shouldn’t have to give it up for a family wanting to sit together. However, this responsibility should be on the airline to keep the family together, not the family. We are buying a product. It’s not my responsibility to ensure that others have a comfortable flight, that’s on the airline. IF the airline wants to price risk the comfort of others, by charging extra for advance seat assignments, then I am willing to save that fee. Let the airline decide if the fee is worth it. It appears that the airline would rather have you take care of my kids, and charge for every seat reservation, than allow people to sit together at no charge.

  • Anonymous

    If you booked seats together and the equipment changed, yes, the airline should make all efforts to keep all parties together that booked together, not just families.

    However, it is *not* their responsibility to seat you together.  They provide seats at different costs, and you can choose to purchase them or not at your discretion.

    I don’t like these new reservation fees at all, but if you want to ensure you get those seats, then you will have to pay for that privilege on large carriers.If you want to fly inexpensively and sit together, then check into SW and see if they fly to your destination.  Then you can use the tips Janice presented above.  To me, that seems to be the affordable way to fly with family for the well-prepared traveler.  If not, then you need to budget for these crap fees in your travel fund or choose to drive.  I’ve driven halfway across the country at last minute instead of flying, because the costs were otherwise exorbitant.  It is an option.

    There are times when the airline can boot you from your seat (handicapped needing bulkhead springs to mind, and it’s happened so often to me I never book them anymore), but it shouldn’t be because the seat was available when you booked and you didn’t want to pay the admittedly bogus extra fee.  Someone else will, and those people don’t actually have to move for you.  Parenthood is not some exclusive club that makes you special and worthy of skipping out on social etiquette and other rules – it only makes you a reproducing member of Homo sapiens.

    I can remember many flights at the back of the plane as a child, because that’s where my parents could get seats together when they booked.  Would my parents liked us to sit elsewhere (especially since this was when airfare still cost an arm and a leg)?  Of course.  But instead, they sat where we would be sitting as a unit.

  • Anonymous

    Why is it the RESPONSIBILITY of the AIRLINE to seat families together? Is it in their Contracts of Carriage? Is it the law?  It is common sense to seat families together that is why they do it. But if the airlines can make money out of this then they will (just like you want to maximize your income when you bargain for your salary). Capitalism at its best.

  • Anonymous

    If you think seating your family together is the airline’s responsibility, YOU’RE part of the problem.

  • DCTA

     Just FYI – I  have on a couple of occasions balked at buying the “plus” seating because I was annoyed that the same flight a few weeks earlier had those seats for $15 suddenly  only had them at $35 (this is usually a “load” issue).  Anyway, two out of three of those times it turns out that NOBODY wanted to pay for those seats and when I checked in at the airport kiosk, I was assigned one of those seats!  Just lucky, I guess – both times it was USAir DCAFLL.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, that can happen.  But I’m talking about when your seats get scattered after an equipment change (or whatever reason the airline gives).  We’ve seen stories here and on other Chris Elliot boards where someone who paid for one of the “plus” seats checked in to find their seat had been reassigned to a middle in the back after equipment change.

  • Anonymous

    Props to the airline?  Uh, no.  They put me in a bad position.  They should have told the greedy family to go sit down while they tried to make arrangements, not let them stand at the desk to harass me.  They were so rude I thought they should have been warned, then denied boarding if the harassment continued. 

    On the plane that father was loud and rude and made sure everyone on the whole plane knew that his family was split up (BTW, the adults were split up and each had two kids, there were no kids sitting alone) because “that selfish  b*” wouldn’t trade seats.  The FA’s did nothing. 

    I felt the airline should have taken control of a situation they put me in.   I’ll never fly them again if I can help it.

  • Anonymous

    Oh that is heinous.  That shouldn’t have been allowed. It’s just that so often the gate agents seem to leave it to the FA’s when the situation is more cramped and tempers are higher.

    And if they each had a parent with a child, what was the problem?  With a 3-3 configuration, it wasn’t going to get any better than that.

  • bayareascott

    So you assume that the agent KNEW the family was going to harass you. That agent was attempting to solve a problem, and apparently did not chastise you for saying no. So you are blaming the airline for the out-of-line behavior of a fellow customer. That is your right, but it is still part of the problem.

  • Frank

    and you have very right to say, NO.  I trully understand that.  That’s one of my first explanations to families when they ask for help in a seating situation.

  • Anonymous

    Good for you for not giving up your seat. I also would have refused . . . and complained to security or the FA if the verbal abuse continued once onboard.  The only SOB in that interaction was the father!

  • Familytravel

    As someone who travels with kids, I’m simply going to take whatever the airline gives me. It’s not my responsibility as a customer to ensure my fellow passengers have a good flight. It’s the airline’s business to offer its customers a good flight in order to earn their business again. I’m not going to spend $100 extra dollars to ensure that my family sits together. If you don’t want to take care of my kid on a flight, then maybe we should encourage the airlines to use common sense in these cases. The airlines could very easily allow me to preselect seats keeping my kids with me, but why should I pay more so someone else is comfortable.

  • DCTA

     Just curious – how do you know I’ll take care of your kid?  I mean  honestly, in this day and age I’m not taking responsibility for a stranger’s child.  So I might talk to your kid, but I’m not helping him/her  with anything.  And please note that in an emergency, I will be my first priority and my second will whomever I am traveling with – your child is my last priority.

  • Frank

    I’ve been scrolling down, reading all the remarks and was just about to post the obvious reason YOU should be seated next to your children…but, alas, DCTA did.  Wow.  Awesome.  DCTA. 

  • Laurra

    Maybe you shouldn’t be a parent if you are not concerned about the situations you put your children in throughout their life.  We didn’t buy airline tickets hoping to chaperone a brat. And with your attitude, I am pretty sure your kids are brats.  Unbelievable. Me watch your kid?  Not for a second.  I’l stuff him in the overhead bin.  I fly 1 million miles per year and itt’s parents like you that disrupt an enitire cabin due to your lack of responsibility and respect for other travelers. 

  • http://twitter.com/johntbaker John Baker

    Here’s some common sense for you… Don’t buy airline flights where your family can’t sit together and don’t expect the rest of the world to take care of your family.

  • Anonymous

    As someone who travels with kids, I’m simply going to take whatever the airline gives me. It’s not my responsibility as a customer to ensure my fellow passengers have a good flight. It’s the airline’s business to offer its customers a good flight in order to earn their business again.

    Well, as someone who mostly flies on one airline – and a husband who flies over 50,000 miles annually – the way the airline ensures we have a good flight is that we usually get the seats we paid for.

    They may choose to keep the custom of my husband and I over you, since he tends to pay for much more expensive fares on a regular basis.

    Again, the reservation fee is bogus, but flying isn’t just about you and your family.  Many people fly for different reasons, and many have parties of people they need to keep together for whatever reason.  If you don’t like a particular airline’s policy, then you are free to not fly them.  You don’t get to browbeat them into giving you what you want at the expense of others.

  • DCTA

    You know, your last piece of advice is the very best.  There is nothing that will make a Gate Agent or FA put you at the very bottom of  his/her priority list than threats or just a simple negative demeanor.

  • bayareascott

    Exactly.

  • Anonymous

    Your #6 is the best.  I always trade an aisle for an aisle, but not for anything else.  

  • fredandgingermad

     simples fly an airline (this is for those who refuse to pay extra btw) where an adult and a kid will always be seated together even if the entire family isn’t! I generally fly Virgin Atlantic with my daughter because i can access the seat map before we fly, if i fly BA i’ll happily pay the extra to choose seats in advance! But this totally reminds me why i don’t like to fly on any of the US airlines

  • http://www.cruisediva.com/ Linda

    Last week on US Air it wasn’t parents with kids, but a couple not sitting together who asked me to swap my “choice” aisle seat at the front of coach (for which I’d paid a premium) with the husband who had a window seat back in the middle of the plane. I was almost speechless because the wife was a US Air employee flying non-rev.Talk about entitled. I wanted to slap the big grin off her face. When I refused and explained I’d PAID for that seat because I had a tight connection, she acted all huffy.

  • DT

    I’m not following the “parents should purchase seats together”. I always buy my young daughter’s tickets at the same time as my own, and pick seats together, but when I check in the night before, the airline has already separated us and put us on separate sides of the plane. (I fly primarily on United.) Then I’m forced to “upgrade” to economy plus to ensure that we have seats together, and we don’t have to battle it out at the airport. So I’m not sure how else I’m supposed to ensure that we have seats together at time of purchase. What am I missing?

  • Anonymous

    Nothing.  I think about 50%-60% of the flights I’ve been on in recent years have resulted in my seats being changed without my knowledge.    Sometimes it’s equipment changes, sometimes no reason is given.  I don’t think you can really ensure you have a fixed seat these days unless you book first class – I’ve never had one of those shifted on me the rare times I book first (instead of getting an upgrade).

    If you’re willing to pay Economy Plus fees, your method probably ensures you actually get to sit next to your daughter since you’re doing that at check in.

  • bodega3

    Our first class seats were changed due to an equipment change, so you should always keep on top of your reservation. The earlier you note the change, the better the chance of getting yourself reassigned.

  • Janice

     DT, I’ve mostly seen the seat changes since the United merger, although it has happened before.  I would suggest doublechecking seats a few days before departure. If you had them together and have been switched United agents have the authority to override and put you together in econ plus if they have to. Also, if you have written proof that you had seats together and lost them I would write to United customer relations and ask for a refund or voucher for your econ plus fee.

  • DCTA

     This has been happening more oftenon the combined United/Continental.  it is going to decrease.  This is really about “growing pains” – they have a lot of equipment that they are shift around and many different makes/models right now. Once they straighten out which equipment they need where, it will stop happening so often.

  • bodega3

    You have to stay on top of your reservation and not wait until you go to get your boarding pass to see the seats have been changed. For DIY’ers, you should check several times a week until your day of departure.

  • Frank

    NICE ARTICLE, Janice.  Gasp, yep, I said that. 

    I do want to point out that the “families sitting together” isnt the only issue with seats.  Try going on your HoneyMoon and your seats are not together!  ALOT of couples go on vacation, but the seating on the aircraft is usually 3 and 3.  So, that reduces the amount of people that can have seats together as a couple.  There’s going to be alot of SINGLE SEATS.  But, who

    goes on vacation by themselves?  Not too many.  Use Bermuda as an example.
    Now, another issue with seats.  The handicapped.  I watch agents board non-ambulatory passengers and seat them in the back of the aircraft.  They should be closest to a FLOOR LEVEL exit.  Not in the middle of the aircraft.  These people are not ambulatory and in many cases in assistance off the aircraft in the event of an evacuation.

    FYI.  In many cases, the flight attendants  DO NOT know that you’ve paid for a premium seat when trying to resolve a seating issue with kids.  And, many flight attendants do reward nice behavior.  I’m more then happy to buy you a drink. etc.

  • Anonymous

    I laughed at your honeymoon/couples comment.  My husband likes windows, I like aisles and for years one of us would sit in the middle seat and grumble about it.  (I need an aisle so I can stretch my joint-diseased legs a little bit, my husband likes the window so he can either nap against it or look out of it.)

    But being married for 10 years, we now split ourselves to window and aisle (NOT conversing over the middle seat, we’re not that rude – many middle-seat pax are surprised to find out we’re married as we’re leaving the plane), or find the flights that have a 2-seat configuration on at least one side of an aisle.  Apparently romance dies when legroom is involved ;)

    Question though – I can see FA’s not knowing you specifically bought an Economy Plus seat or whatever.  That makes sense.  But do you switch equipment so often it’s hard to determine where the plus seats are on given equipment?  Is it configured differently on each individual plane, even if they are the same model?

  • Frank

    Economy Plus seats arent the only seats that are sold. 

  • Janice

     btw, thanks Frank!

  • Alan

    When I travel with my wife, we usually try to get a window and aisle with an open middle seat between us.  Then if there is someone in the middle, they are usually thrilled to move to the window and we take the middle and aisle. 

    On our last trip, we had to get two aisle seats across from each other and the two middle seats next to us will used by a young couple who ended up with both having middle seats.  It was an easy switch to give one of they an aisle and we sat next to each other with the other aisle and middle (we picked the side to use based on who was sitting in the window seats).  This also works if the middle seat is filled by a single and they love to switch to one of the aisle seats.

  • DCTA

     That is the exact strategy I teach all my new honeymoon clients.  And of course, they stick with it the rest of their lives…

  • Anonymous

    Wow.

    our agency has free preferred seats on both American and British Airways

    .
    That alone is a good reason to use your agency. I don’t sell enough BA to get invited anywhere :-)

  • DCTA

     We have those and UA. and also DL.  BUT just as a note to everyone – not all agencies have this, it really is only those that have a large corporate travel business as well as leisure.

  • Anonymous

    My only problem is BA since I cannot assign seats for passengers WITHOUT STATUS. (Of course I have a problem with UA after the merger but that is understandable).

  • Janice

     DCTA is right, BA normally sells preassigned seats.. But agencies who do a lot of air, or are part of a larger agencies, may have contracts allowing free BA seat assignments.  For a family, especially a big family, it may be worth finding one of those agencies.

  • I_amacpa

    I say let your four year old sit between two strangers. After 10 minutes there will be chaos and the flight attendant will deal with it, if not sit back and have another drink.

  • Frank

    No one wants to help out a family?  I cant make anyone move, so, that’s how I DEAL WITH IT.  Sorry, no one will move.  I’m done.

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t the average American household size only 2.6 people?
    So why is this such a big issue?
    Most flights in Europe do not even offer advanced seating reservations (although their ave. household size is only 2.4). Why don’t you hear Europeans complain about this? Same with Asians. Is this an American disease – whining?

    There are so many airlines that offer FREE advanced seat reservations. Use them and boycott those that don’t. If you buy your tickets early enough, you will most likely find enough seats seating together even for a large family. Otherwise, why not just pay for select seats?

    I happen to have 3 kids. While the youngest is now 13, we have had numerous LONG overseas trips (when they were much younger) where we needed 5 seats together. No big deal!
    Because we have a household size of 5 (sometimes 6 when my mother-in-law has an extended vacation) we have to buy a larger vehicle. When we eat out, I often get the mandatory service charge for large groups. And we usually have to wait a lot longer for larger tables. But I accept the fact I have a large family. I don’t complain about it and I pay whatever I have to pay to get what I want.  But for Pete’s sake, no one is special just because they have kids.

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  • http://www.freakyperfect.com Amy Bradley-Hole

    I can’t agree more with #2. I flew SWA just yesterday with my kids. I’m A-list, so I already get A seating, but I paid a measly $20 to ensure my kids also got Early Bird seating. Even though they were a little behind me in the A group, the kids were allowed to board with me. If we hadn’t been in A, no big deal, because families are allowed to board after A and before B group. All that, and our luggage was free. I hope I never have to live in a market without SWA. They are by far the most family-friendly option.

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    “So why is this such a big issue?”  Because the # 1 “illness” in the US is narcissism.  It is all about me.  Look at all of the people who are writing how great they are, how great they are doing, etc. on their Facebook pages.  Look at most of the TV reality shows, it is all about me, me, me.  These are the same individuals who want to force other passengers from their choice seats, premium seats, etc. because it is all about them.

  • DCTA

     ARW – right on the nail!!!!  I find people are pretty oblivious to everyone else around them – it’s all me, me, me!

  • Arizona Road Warrior

    I look for flights where I can book three seats together.  If I can’t do that, I will look for flights where I can book two seats together.  Depending upon the length of the flight, I will look for flights that I can upgrade my family to FC by using miles so it doesn’t matter if the seats are not together.  If I can’t book three seats together, I will book window and aisle seats and it has never been a problem in trading a window or aisle seat for a middle seat. 

  • Vaid

    You know, I always buy seats together, but they often get split up by the airline, and when I get the notification, it’s already too late — I spend hours on the phone with the airline only to be told, “It can only be dealt with by the gate agents.”  So, before you all assume that a family is split up only because they tried to save a few bucks, consider the possibility that the family GOT seats together and the airline *&^%ed it up.  Plus, the idea (which is come up a bunch in previous comments) that it’s our responsibility to keep checking and re-checking the reservation is absurd.  We paid for a specific service, it should be the airline’s responsibility to live up to the service they sold.

  • bodega3

    According to the carriers, you paid for a seat on the plane, not a seat assignment. Don’t shoot the messenger, it is something I have dealt with my entire career in getting people reassigned if we had seat assignments at the time of ticketing. You do have to stay on top of it. If you are a DIY’er, check several times a week on your reservation. The earlier to catch a change, the better chance of getting things straightened out.

  • BobChi

    A few weeks ago I was flying home from abroad on a foreign carrier. As I was sitting in the gate area, an agent came to me and asked if I’d minding switching seats so that a family could sit together. I said “Sure,” and she gratefully took my boarding pass away. A few minutes later she was back, thanked me for my willingness to switch, and gave me the new boarding pass: “I apologize for the inconvenience, but I don’t think you’ll mind. Just don’t tell anyone.” I looked at the pass. Row One, First Class.

  • Elle Emme

    Wow. My dad worked for Continental when I was a child, and one thing that was ALWAYS drilled into me by both my mom and my dad is that you are always on your best behavior as a non-rev, and you take whatever seat they give you and are grateful that you’re getting on that flight. It utterly blows my mind to hear stories of non-revs acting like that!