5 ways to make sure your family is able to sit together on a flight


If you haven’t flown in a while, you may be surprised to learn of all the fees associated with air travel these days. If your family wants to sit together during your flight, in many cases you are expected to pay for that privilege.

At least that’s the opinion of United Airlines President Scott Kirby, who suggested that the carrier charge a premium for people who want to sit together on the flight. The remarks came in an interview with Skift, in which Kirby explained why he thought better seats should come with higher prices.

“Look, when you go to a concert, do you think you should pay the same price to sit in the nosebleed seats or to sit up front? I don’t know why airlines are unique,” he said. “Every other business that has something like that charges more for a better product. It’s a better product. You know it’s a better seat. I don’t know why airlines would be unique by offering lower prices for a lesser product. That’s what we do.”

The comments were not welcome news to consumers in a climate of increasing prices for baggage fees and other airline amenities, and highlighted a challenge that families traveling together on airplanes face today.

Basic economy fares, which are generally the cheapest tickets offered by the major carriers, don’t usually allow you have an assigned seat. To sit together, you’ll have to pay for an upgrade.

But all is not lost. Many flight attendants will do what they can to accommodate seat changes for a family. Of course, full flights will make that task difficult. Still, here are some practical tips for traveling families looking to sit with one another in the airplane cabin, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Transportation:

5 ways to keep your family together on flights

1. Know the airline’s seating policy

Many airlines will give considerations to a family booked on the same reservation. Delta Air Lines allows up to nine people on one reservation. Southwest Airlines has Family Boarding, which occurs after the “A” group has boarded and before the “B” group begins boarding. The airline aims to have fliers under 6 years old sit with an adult family member.

United Airlines tries to let passengers 15 and under sit with an adult family member.

Nearly all airlines allow children under age 2 to be held on an adult family member’s lap during the flight.

2. Book early

Get a jump on vacant seats by booking your flight as early as possible. The longer you wait to book, of course, the harder it may be for your family to sit together. Here’s the best time to book a flight.


3. Confirm your reservations

Many reservations are booked through third parties like travel agents or travel websites. Make sure that after you book your plane ticket you contact the airline directly to confirm your reservation. See if you can arrange for family seating with an agent in advance of your flight so you don’t arrive at the airport unsure about the status of your seating arrangements.

4. Talk to the gate agent

If the flight is not packed, a gate agent may be able to arrange for you to have your seats together. Being polite will give you the best shot at getting what you are looking for.

5. Ask a passenger (or two)

Sometimes you have to depend on the kindness of strangers — even on a cramped plane. Take the initiative to ask a seat mate if they wouldn’t mind swapping for family’s sake. Many people, especially if they see you with small children, won’t mind helping out, even if it inconveniences them in the short term.

Now that you’re ready for a family trip, here’s money expert Clark Howard’s secret to finding the cheapest flights possible.

Here are some more travel-related articles you might enjoy from Clark.com:

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