American Airlines became the first U.S. airline to offer a guarantee that families could sit together, by writing it into its customer service plan. That’s a commitment which is enforceable by the Department of Transportation.
This applies to families traveling with children under 15.
- They ask you to book everyone in the same reservation, but still offer to have reservations noted if they are separate.
- You can choose seats together or skip seat selection if only paid options are available and you don’t want to pay. Even Basic Economy passengers without seat assignments will have seats assigned together if traveling as a family. (If there aren’t seats available for the entire party to sit together, they’ll ensure at least one adult is next to children under 15 on the reservation.)
The Department of Transportation plans to put family seating policies into its customer service dashboard next week. So far this has been used to pressure airlines on their rebooking, refund, and hotel and meal reimbursement policies.
Next week, @USDOT will publish a family seating dashboard to show which airlines guarantee families can sit together for free. I appreciate American Airlines becoming the first U.S. airline to commit to putting this guarantee in its customer service plan. https://t.co/5bOaZPhsKa
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) February 28, 2023
Last week United curried political favor and strong publicity being the first to announce a policy meant to keep families seated together without extra charge. Frontier Airlines quickly followed, committing to assign seating to families with children in the reservation prior to the check-in window opening, in order to increase the chances they’d sit together.
American’s commitment doesn’t apply in the event there simply aren’t adjacent seats available at time of booking (they aren’t promising to remove people from their pre-existing seat assignments, though families can still get help at the gate) and it doesn’t apply in the event of an aircraft swap to a smaller plane.
Already Southwest Airlines allows families to sit together via their boarding process, where those with children 5 and under board before the ‘B’ group (so there are still generally plenty of seats left). Delta Air Lines has not yet announced how it will respond to government pressure, currently jawboning that is expending to turn into a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.