How Infrequent Flyers Can Get Seats Together During Busy Holiday Travel

Scott Mayerowitz has tips for families to secure seats together during peak holiday travel.

The tips apply regardless of season, it can be uniquely hard during the holidays when more families travel, more people thus want to sit together (compared to solo business travelers), and- flights are even more full (as though that’s possible!).

The gist is:

  • Confirm your seat assignments, they might not have ‘stuck’ whether you booked directly with the airline (possible aircraft swap?) or through a third party agent (glitch).
  • Keep checking back. Especially at upgrade windows, coach seats open up as passengers get moved to first class (although mostly ‘premium’ seats get opened as those were generally occupied by elites, so if you are not an elite you’re likely to still have to pay for those).
  • Use Their seat alerts will email you when desirable seats open up (but only one alert is free and if you’re not an elite frequent flyer but would consider paying for more alerts, consider paying for a ‘premium’ coach seat).
  • Keep asking. Anyone you can find. Not that your chances are necessarily better at the gate or customer service than at checkin, 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. They don’t want to sit next to your kids, and it’s hard for them to argue that they should sit next to your spouse (and appear creepy).

I’d add that what you want if you have any choice at all is to secure aisle seats. Those are always the best trade bait. People will almost always give up middles or windows, but it’s a tough ask to get someone to give up an aisle for your non-aisle.

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.

And if it’s really important than consider paid premium seats to be part of the trip cost and plan for having to pay.

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. If you use a real travel agent with a top agency, we are able to unblock premium seats on some of the major airlines-worth it especially if you encounter travel issues by flight time getting best reaccomodation options before everyone else who doesn’t use an agent…..

  2. Goes without saying that if you ask another passenger to swap seats, THEY get the better seat closer to the front of the plane. Don’t even THINK about pulling the “I really want to sit next to my spouse!” whine and then ask someone else to move to the back of the plane to make that happen for you!

  3. If you fly Southwest and either check in at the 24-hour mark or pay for Early Bird check in, you will be able to sit together. Also avoid booking a tight connection in case your inbound flight is delayed enough to make you miss the start of boarding for your connecting flight.

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