DOT Investigating Airlines Splitting Up Families

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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. If airlines can’t price gouge passengers to reserve a seat so their two-year-old can sit near a family member, will airlines adjust the loss of their ancillary revenue with higher ticket prices for all?

  2. A lot of times I see parents that buy basic economy, don’t want to pay for seat assignments when booking, and then complaining when their family of 4 or 5 doesn’t get seated together.

    I’ve also been asked many times to “trade” my economy plus aisle seat for a middle seat in the back so the parent can sit next to their child. However, the child has always been a pre-teen or teenager and doesn’t look up from their iPad for the entire flight.

  3. @Ken Should American taxpayers be allowed to travel free on USA airlines? After all taxpayers money was used to bail them out.

  4. @Ken – if airlines thought they could increase ticket prices for all, they would do so, whether or not they lost any ancillary revenue.

  5. As someone without kids and zero plans to have any (from either me or my husband), allow free seat assignments to sit families together, but the airline can pick the seats. I don’t want to have to deal with the choice of babysitting a child or switching last second; it behooves everyone to seat kids with parents automatically. Let airlines choose the seats as a compromise; put them next to the lav with the paid option to select better seats, as long as the family is together.

  6. @Ben has a good idea which it seems to me could be implemented with a reasonable amount of work. It should satisfy a family whose priority is to sit together, and it helps those of us not traveling with children who prefer not to be requested to trade seats. It wouldn’t always work in cases of flight irregularities, though, so that’s an issue that needs to be thought through in terms of spelling out such a policy.

  7. Finite number of seats,coupled with possible change in type/configuration of aircraft,figure in a reluctance /inability to pay higher ticket price in order to pick seats in advance, add to that some customers simply don’t want to switch seats. ..could gone…DOT involvement? ?? can you say TSA???

  8. You make a decision to have kids, there is a cost to that decision. Diapers, bottles, baby clothes, and yes seat assignments. Why do you get a break because YOU made the decision to have kids and then travel with the little monsters? Mine is 20 now but she traveled often with me. I had no problem getting her a seat next to me. More American’s crying because they have a “right”. The country is becoming a cesspool of whiners. You sue every time something goes wrong. Nobody takes responsibility for their own actions. It is always someone else’s burden to carry.

  9. Simple solution: airlines block off the last 3-4 rows for families and last minute seating.

    We were flying to HI, 3 legs, 2 kids under 5. I had paid for E+. First flight: cancelled. UA – automatically gave us new flights and seats. 12 middle seats. This is exceptional because UA knows the age of the flyers when you buy a ticket. That’s a horrible system.

    I went to gate agent. She asked me, what would I like her to do? That memory still pisses me off. Eventually it got worked out, but mostly by individual FA. I would’ve loved to put my 2 year old in.a middle seat and walked away. Then maybe UA would fix their problem.

  10. Any time there’s a cancelation or equipment change (whether the same type aircraft or not), the computer automatically reassigns all seats. If a flight is full – well, the flight is indeed full. As a 51+yr flight attendant with a major US based airline I will share we are specifically told NOT to ask passengers to switch seats – unless it’s due to FAA safety guidelines. Period. No exceptions. The reason = discrimination. Yes, some flight attendants decide to go against policy. But if anyone complains they are risking suspension, possibly termination – depending on their work history. Years ago I had a passenger that opted to purchase the cheapest tickets possible for his family of 6. Once on board he insisted it was MY problem to secure a full row of 6 seats for his family or the plane would not move. I explained company policy and suggested he could ask passengers to switch seats. He roared YOU DO NOT CARE! In a normal speaking voice I again explained company policy, adding as the sole support of 2 disabled parents I need to follow company policy. While flexing his fists he continued to rant ‘do you know who I am?’, ‘This plane will not move until I say so says so!’, etc. I walked into the cockpit and advised the Captain we had a ‘situation’ and asked him to ask the Tower to send an agent to the aircraft. The Captain left the cockpit and proceeded to the ranting passenger. When he overheard the guy saying he was in charge and the plane wouldn’t move until HE says so – well, the Captain definitely was not happy. He offered the guy the opportunity to take his assigned seat and not delay the flight or exit the aircraft. The male passenger ended-up leaving the aircraft, his 5 family members traveled without him. Being loud has nothing to do with being right.

  11. Being a flight attendant is not an easy job. On a flight my husband and I were on there were some demanding passengers. We were sitting across from the galley and could see the flight attendant standing there trying to gain her composure after the demands just got to be much. My husband got up went back to the group and told them to lay off. They were no more trouble the rest of the flight. In today’s world he would probably would have been treated differently. In letters to the editor this morning newspaper was an interesting perspective. A person asked him if he would want to be raising children today. His answer was when he was raising children there were Viet Nam, assassinations of JFK, RfK, Kent State and many more he mentioned. However he said my children were not raised on Butt Head and his ilk. To many people he said act like Butt Head, etc and many of them are serving in the U.S. senate and house.

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