American Airlines Becomes First Airline To Guarantee Families Sit Together In Its Customer Service Plan

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.

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. So, if I book a window seat and later on some family wants to sit together but there are no seats as a group, does this mean I may get reassigned to an aisle, or God-forbid, middle seat?

  2. If at the time of booking there are no adjacent seats together on the flight I want, I will need to choose a different flight, to pay for adjacent seats, or throw myself on the mercy of others if I want to sit next to my mother (she is 97) and is in need of assistance.
    If at the time of booking…(rinse and repeat above).. if I want to sit next to my developmentally challenged niece (she is 34 in age, but about 7 mentally) and is in need of assistance.
    I could go on, as there are cases involving this issue without being a child under 15.
    Perhaps my husband is blind, or deaf and needs someone that can read menus to him or use ASL. Bottom line, flying is expensive and the more people in your party the more it costs. Getting a break just due to age is in no way fair or equitable for anyone.

  3. Guarantee is such a strong word

    It will be stated as based on availability. Availability will be in row 42 next to the shitter unless they pay for premium seats

  4. I am not okay with this. As a person who normally travels alone I suspect travelers like me will take the brunt of this change. So, I choose (or don’t choose) to travel alone. I plan ahead. I book a flight taking seat availability into consideration. Some family decides to go cheap and book a fare that does not include assigned seats. Day of departure they request to sit together. I get moved.

    The days of anyone taking responsibility are over.

  5. American Airlines Becomes First Airline To Guarantee Families Sit Together In Its Customer Service Plan.

    Ahem, no, as LoyaltyLobby reported a week ago

    >b>United Makes It Easier for Families to Sit Together

    New dynamic seat map feature will sit children under 12-years-old next to an adult in their party for free – regardless of the type of ticket purchased.

    CHICAGO, Feb. 20, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — United today announced an improved family seating policy that makes it easier than ever for children under 12-years old to sit next to an adult in their party for free – including customers who purchase Basic Economy tickets.

    United’s new policy is made possible through a series of investments in a new seat map feature that dynamically finds available adjacent seats at the time of booking. The online seat engine first reviews all available free Economy seats and then opens complimentary upgrades to available Preferred Seats, if needed.

    Also, according to LoyaltyLobby, the policy is apparently “not exactly a generous move because DOT and the government may soon require that airlines seat families together [1].

    Mets Fan in NC sez: “Guarantee is such a strong word.”

    Agreed. It is a highly nuanced word in loyalty that self-anointed “travel gurus” like to throw around as if it were “absolute” when they wish to claim the superiority of a benefit offered by one of their preferred programs.

    [1] See link to government document in next comment.

  6. Oops! I jumped the gun on this one.

    My comments above were based on the title of the post claiming AA to be the “first” when I recalled seeing something similar on LoyaltyLobby, I found the LL post but did not bother reading the post here afterwards before commenting. My bad because @Gary did mention everything I tried to fault him for.

    Mea culpa!

  7. If they are not booting customers out of their seats at the gate then this is a worthless guarantee. I find many popular flights only have random middle seats as the departure date approaches.

    And if you narrow the universe of forced seat re-assignment to non-elites and people who didn’t pay a seat that’s going to be a very small number…

  8. How is this post even remotely accurate? AA doesn’t guarantee a thing, and it doesn’t even give you any money if they don’t find seats next to your kid (remember, they just say that they will “try” and nothing more

  9. The bigger story here is the unjust enrichment of American Airlines charging families for all of these years until Biden’s intervention to put a stop on this. Nothing prevented AA from having this policy on the day the started charging for seats, but opted to ignore the American family and charge parents to be seated next to their 8 year old daughter so she wouldn’t end up alone next to a predator. This was morally disgusting.

  10. I’m not particularly enthused. I feel that if a person is old enough to travel as an “unaccompanied minor” they are old enough to fly in the same airplane with a parent, even if not adjacent. I don’t mind having this policy for kids too young to be unaccompanied minors. That makes sense.

  11. while the AA and UA fan clubs fight it out, this was discussion was had on OMAAT and multiple people noted that DL actually started doing this long before UA. The difference, of course, is that DL doesn’t grab a trumpet and tout what it has done – it just does it.
    UA, as usual, followed DL and DL actually didn’t erode the ability of passengers that want to do so to select paid seats; DL simply will allow advance seat selection to go as it does now, including for basic economy passengers that are not entitled to advance seat selection, and DL will programmatically seat unseated passengers or reseat family members if they are not seated together.

    And it simply is not any private sector business’ responsibility to GUARANTEE that the entire family will sit together as long as airlines are allowed to charge for any type of seat assignment – and removing that ability is re-regulation of the airline industry which will be tested in court.
    Since the Supremes yesterday indicated that they are not buying the Biden administration’s overriding of law by Presidential edict, there will be a whole lot of things that Biden and his lackeys are trying to do that will never pass muster.

    Oh, and Lori Lightfoot was booted out of office yesterday. Sanity is returning to the US

  12. CTP says flights are expensive, it was more expensive c2c in 1968! wow! You should have flown during the scamdemic! Roundtrip 50$ boston miami! sorry! not sorry

  13. Sorry but this is an affront to personal responsibility. People book as far in advance as possible for a reason. Unless it’s an emergency booking for say a funeral, I don’t think this is fair.

  14. Perhaps the honorable secretary himself should fly commercial airlines to all his engagements to understand the frustrations of flying before coming up with such policies.

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