I asked readers to share what’s on their mind and one reader mentioned being unable to sit with her husband on a recent trip, and wanted to know how to make that work on future travels.
Now, it can be really hard to get seats together on flights — flights are full, airlines are charging for many of their coach seats (calling them premium when they’re not really different than other seats — perhaps just not in the back or not middles). During the holidays it gets even harder with more families traveling so trying to sit together (compared to solo business travelers).
For most passengers, your ticket doesn’t come with a ‘seat’. Obviously that isn’t literally true, since safety rules require all passengers to be seated. But there’s a limited number of seats on the seat map that airlines will let passengers reserve in advance unless the passenger:
- is paying the exorbitant full fare
- is an ‘elite’ frequent flyer doing 25,000 miles or more a year (usually) on the airline
- pays a fee for a ‘premium’ seat which sometimes just means an aisle or being closer to the front of the plane which is only better in that you can get out from being trapped in a metal tube more quickly.
Here are things that you and your family can do, though, to make the process of travel smoother and secure seating together:
- Confirm your seat assignments when you book your tickets. Do not wait to call later, or until check-in.
- Check to make sure your seats haven’t changed. Look at your reservation every few weeks. Your seat assignments might not have ‘stuck’ especially if you bought tickets through an online travel agency. Or your seat assignments might have changed somewhere along the way (perhaps there was a schedule change or change of aircraft). Finding this out sooner rather than later increases the likelihood of getting it fixed.
- Keep checking back. There may not have been seats you could reserve together for free when you booked your tickets, but that can change. Check bag especially as the day of flight approaches — when airlines upgrade frequent flyers, those passengers are moved out of coach, freeing up seats (although mostly freeing up ‘premium’ seats that those passengers get for free).
- Use Expertflyer.com. This pay website will email you when desirable seats open up on your flight (you can set up one alert for free without a paid subscription).
- Keep asking (anyone and everyone). Your chances are not necessarily better at the gate or customer service counter than at check-in, but it’s another bite at the apple and if you haven’t asked someone yet to help you then you haven’t annoyed them yet!
- Trade with another passenger. Nobody else really wants to sit next to your kids, now matter how cute they are (and anyone willing to, and unwilling to trade, can have their character and motives impugned until they are uncomfortable enough to change seats – somewhat tongue-in-cheek advice I’ve given in the past and taken significant heat for). It’s hard for them to argue that they should sit next to your spouse or underage children, since that’s creepy.
- If you can’t secure seats together, at least get as many aisle seats as you can. At least don’t assign yourselves middle seats, those are tough to trade. People will almost always give up middle seats, and aisle seats are the best trade bait.
- If sitting together is important, then take that into consideration when making your booking. Look at seat maps before you purchase. Make- sure you know what seats are available to you.
If all else fails, if it’s important to sit together and you don’t want to go through the stress and hassle of dealing with matters at the airport or onboard the plane, then consider the cost of an assigned seat part of the cost of the ticket and buy seating at the time you buy your ticket. That’s not great for the family budget, but neither is being separated especially with young children in tow. Sometimes the best option is the one that is ‘least bad’. Unfortunately, it’s baked into the cake now as part of the cost of travel, so best to know that going in.