It can be expensive for families sitting together. That is wrong
Few travel issues are more contentious than having families sitting together on airplanes. Sure, nobody wants young children to sit by themselves, but that doesn’t mean that travelers who have booked way in advance or paid a premium want to give up their seats, either. The easiest solutions involve getting the seats right in the first place so families can sit together.
Here are five suggestions for a stress-free airplane approach for families sitting together that won’t break the bank.
1. Book early. Yes, this seems too simple. Sometimes families sitting together is not possible. Many times families know when their vacation travel will be, but they just procrastinate or wait in hopes of better last-minute deals. Booking in spring for summer travel, for example, will generally mean it will be easier for families sitting together.
2. Avoid some of the “economy-minus”-type fares. Many airlines, including American, Delta, and United Airlines, are now offering super-low fares that have absolutely no frills and no ability to reserve seats. They cannot be changed and they do not allow seat assignments. But the discount fares that do have seat assignments may not be that much more. While I completely understand the desire to save money, sometimes with a family it may not be worth the risk. (There’s a similar phenomenon with hotel rooms. Companies like Priceline may not let you confirm bedding in a room, and I’ve heard of families complaining about being offered only king-size beds. If you HAVE to have two beds, book in a way that guarantees it.)
3. Consider Southwest, with a relatively low early boarding fee, easily allows families sitting together — EarlyBird Check-In, which gives travelers a better boarding position in Southwest’s unique open seating system, will go to $15, $20 or $25 depending on the length of the flight and the popularity of EarlyBird Check-In on the route. Plus, Southwest also has absolutely free options for families with children age six and younger to board after the “A” boarding group and before “B,” when almost always there are seats that allow families to sit together.
4. Book separate window and aisle seats. This requires a bit of work, but if there are decent pre-assignable seats available that aren’t together, get as many aisles and windows as possible. This makes bargaining for families sitting together seats easier. Getting people to trade when offering decent seats is always easier. It’s harder to start at the airport with nothing, and even sympathetic fellow travelers don’t want to sit in the middle seat.
5. Use a travel agent. Besides being able to compare fares, agents have access to seat maps on flights, so they can say up front which flights still have seats available to sit together. In addition, some agents may have special relationships with airlines for seat assignments. These deals can range from free seats with carriers that normally charge, to the ability to get an airline to unblock preferred seats without an extra cost. Yes, a travel agent will generally charge fees, but the fees can often be less than it would cost to get only the seat assignments separately. Not to mention the amount of time it might save to have someone else look for open flights with seats together.
Of course, there are times, especially with last-minute travel, when the only option is sorting things out at the airport and begging gate agents and fellow travelers for help so families can sit together. However, everyone will be happier if those times are reduced to a minimum.
Finally, when families sitting together is impossible, go on social media and ask the airlines’ social media staff at Facebook and Twitter if they can facilitate the seating so that young ones can sit with parents. That normally works, however, it is a shame that families need to go through these reservation gymnastics.
Janice Hough is a California-based travel agent a travel blogger and a part-time comedy writer. A frequent flier herself, she’s been doing battle with airlines, hotels, and other travel companies for over three decades. Besides writing for Travelers United, Janice has a humor blog at Leftcoastsportsbabe.com (Warning, the political and sports humor therein does not represent the views of anyone but herself.)