Anyone who’s ever traveled by plane with family, particularly with small children, will understand the importance of being seated together.
Sharing experiences is a major part of traveling as a family, and if you have children to look after, keeping them close by is a must.
With that being said, many airline passengers have reported feeling anxious about whether or not they’ll be able to sit with their family on a plane, and we’ve heard our fair share of stories from upset families who have been seated apart during a flight.
Read this article to find out what airline policies really are when it comes to seating families together and how you can ensure that you aren’t separated from your family on a plane.
Seating Families Together: What’s the Policy?
If you were wondering whether airlines have policies in place to ensure families get to sit together, the answer, unfortunately, is no – at least, not on a federal level.
Although this may seem shocking to some of our readers, the reality is that there is no federal policy in place requiring airlines to seat families together – even when it comes to parents and children.
The only exception is for children under the age of 2. Until a child is 2 years old, the law requires that they be seated with their parents for obvious reasons.
However, children aged 2 and over can be seated apart from their parents. This is something that understandably causes a lot of anxiety in parents planning to travel by plane.
Although seating children aged 2 and up next to their families is not a legal requirement, most airlines will be prepared to seat at least one parent next to their child(ren) without any additional fees, which should set your mind at rest somewhat.
However, the fact remains that some airlines (particularly low-cost airlines) may seat children and parents separately and then charge a fee to reallocate the seats.
Depending on which airline you’re traveling with, this could be an extra charge of as little as $1 per seat or as much as $50.
How To Sit With Your Family On A Plane
If you want to avoid stress, anxiety, and extra fees, you can take some steps ahead of time to ensure that you’re able to sit with your family on your flight.
Here is what we recommend doing if you’re worried about being seated apart from your family:
1. Book In Advance
Undoubtedly the best way to ensure that you end up sitting with your family on your flight is to book your tickets as far in advance as possible.
The earlier you book your flight, the more seats are likely to be available. This means that you’ll be less likely to find yourself in a situation where you only have single seats left to choose from.
Booking in advance also means that the cost of seats will probably be lower, which will be useful if you find yourself needing to employ tip number 3 (see below).
2. Don’t Book Separately
If you’ll be traveling with children we’re assuming you’ll be booking your tickets and your children’s tickets at the same time anyway.
However, if you’re going to be traveling with adult family members and want to make sure you can all sit together, it’s best for everybody to book their tickets on the same reservation.
The reason for this is that seats can often get booked up very quickly, so you can’t book two seats out of a row and count on the remaining seats still being there at a later point. The best way to ensure that your whole family can sit together is to reserve your preferred block of seats all at once.
3. Choose Main Cabin Economy
We know we said we would give you tips to avoid extra fees on your plane seats, but while this tip does involve spending more money, it may still be cheaper than paying last minute change fees depending on your chosen airline.
Basic economy seats tend to fill up very fast, which means that it can be difficult to find enough empty seats together for the whole family. Main cabin economy, on the other hand, takes a little longer to fill up, so your chances of finding enough seats together are higher.
Admittedly, main cabin economy is more expensive than basic economy, usually costing around $50 more per seat.
However, bear in mind that you won’t have to pay to choose your seat if you fly in the main cabin as you would if you opted for basic economy seats, which you should factor into the price difference.
Plus, even if you do end up having to pay more for main cabin seats than it would cost to change your basic economy seats, it will still save you stress on the day of travel, which is worth a lot.
4. Contact Customer Service
If you’ve tried booking all your family’s seats together on the same reservation, checking both basic economy and main cabin, and can’t find enough available seats, the best thing to do is contact customer service.
You should be able to find contact details for your chosen airline through their website quite easily. There may be a phone number, email address, or a live chat function where you can ask for assistance.
Explain your situation to the customer service representative and they will usually do their best to help you find a solution that works for you, especially if you explain that you’re traveling with children.
5. Ask the Gate Agent
If all else fails and you end up having to reserve seats for your family that aren’t together, your last resort is to ask the gate agent on duty if there’s anything they can do before you travel.
This will involve arriving at the airport early on your day of travel. You should arrive at the gate at least an hour before departure, but we recommend arriving as early as you can (within reason) to maximize your chances of success.
In most cases, if there are young children involved, the airline will at least ensure that each child is able to be seated with at least one adult in their family.
They may do this by moving individuals who are traveling alone or seating adults on other bookings (or your own booking) separately.
You will probably still have to pay a last minute fee in this situation, but it’s better than spending your flight worrying about the wellbeing of your children.
Much to many parents’ dismay, there is no federal policy forcing airlines to seat families, including parents and children, together except where children under the age of 2 are involved.
However, most airlines will be willing to accommodate parents’ requests to sit with their children if they can.
If you want to make sure that you can sit with your family on a flight, do your best to book your tickets early and reserve all your seats at the same time.
Try looking in the main cabin economy and contact customer support if you can’t find suitable seats. As a last resort, speak to the gate agent on duty before you fly.