Airline Refusing To Provide Free Advance Seating Next To Your Kids? The DOT Wants You To File A Complaint About It!

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Airlines have made it more and more difficult to be seated next to your travel companion for free.

On basic economy fares there are no free advanced seat assignments, though you may be seated together at checkin.

But even on standard fares, more and more seats are becoming assignable only for payment unless you have elite status.

It’s also worth noting that even when you are seated together, plane swaps or IT glitches can occur that separate your seats, so you should always check on your reservations regularly to watch for seat swaps or flight changes.

The DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection isn’t happy about airlines refusing to offer free seating for families with kids ages 13 and younger so that they can sit together.

They note that while there haven’t been many complaints, they are especially unhappy about complaints received about infants that haven’t been able to get a seat next to a parent without an extra charge. In one complaint where an 11 month old and 4 year were seated by themselves, the airline responded to a DOT complaint stating that the DOT hadn’t put any directives into place about family seating. Another case that the DOT cites is a parent who complained that their 6 year old was seated separately and that the child’s seatmate proceeded to watch an R rated movie, which the airline did not dispute had occurred.

The DOT sent this notice to airlines that they have 4 months to fix things on their own, or else the DOT may take action to ensure young children receive assigned seats next to their parents at no additional charge.

They say that, “Airlines should do everything that they can to ensure the ability of a young child (age 13 or younger) to be seated next to an accompanying adult (over age 13) family member or other accompanying adult, without charging fees for adjacent seating.”

The DOT says that it “has determined that it is appropriate for each U.S. airline providing scheduled passenger service to have and implement a policy that enables a child, who is age 13 or under on the date an applicable flight is scheduled to occur, to be seated in a seat adjacent to the seat of an adult family member or other accompanying adult over the age of 13, to the maximum extent practicable and at no additional cost.”

They are asking airlines to allow families to assign seats for free on all fares, so that children 13 or under are always seated next to someone in their party.

The DOT clarifies that this policy does not have to extend to provide seats with extra legroom if all regular economy seats are assigned.

Notably, the DOT specifically says that the free family seating policy should apply even if basic economy fares are purchased.

The DOT also states that airlines with an open seating policy, such as Southwest, should allow families with young children to board early enough so that they will have seats together or they must block off seats for families with young children.

If you have a flight booking with children 13 and under, be sure to reach out to your airline now for free seating assignments. Should the airline refuse to provide that, you should immediately file a DOT complaint against the airline. 

The DOT will contact the airline based on your complaint to work out a resolution and those complaints will let the DOT know if they should be setting up regulations in case the airlines won’t make their own policies for family seating.

It’s worth noting that Breeze Airways offers free family seating, even on their equivalent of basic economy fares. We’ll see if other airlines match that.

Have you been refused free seat assignments next to your children on a flight?

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62 Comments On "Airline Refusing To Provide Free Advance Seating Next To Your Kids? The DOT Wants You To File A Complaint About It!"

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TG

Do they have jurisdiction over Turkish flights that take off from USA to IST?

Mo2

I have booked basic economy on JetBlue with 5 children under 13 for end of August and they do NOT allow seat selection.
Though they usually do put families together, it’s unsettling not to be able to know for sure till checking in.

S

I feel like with the recent EPA decision, airlines can probably sue the DoT and win as this probably exceeds their authority as provided by congress.

I think it’s likely we’ll see a rollback of DoT authority if congress doesn’t step in.

Abey

I agree. It’s not like airlines are not providing an option for families to sit together by buying more expensive fares. Is Amtrak supposed to guarantee family seats? What about movie theaters? It’s an added benefit which you should pay up for

Mo2

Yes, they should. if booked in advance as a group

abey

Why ? because you want to >?

Mo2

No. Because they don’t offer to supervise unaccompanied minors

A jew

Score yet another point for Southwest airlines, my favorite airline at least at the moment. Whenever I show up with my young kids they always let me and my family board first after the priority passengers and group a, but before group b c and d no matter what group we’re in

CollegeGirl

That’s a total different issue, and so far most airlines have allowed me to board as a family right after priority boarding…

Shmueli

The difference is that southwest doesn’t have assigned seats, you take whatever seat you please when you board. So if you have a family, you could all sit together if you board earlier because there are still open seats to take.
As opposed to airlines WITH assigned seating, where if your assigned to not sit together with your kids, priority boarding ain’t gonna help you.

CollegeGirl

Oh that makes sense and then yes score one for southwest.

Rivka H.

How young though? When we flew Southwest last summer, they said families with children 6 and under board first. We happened to fit that criteria, but I can’t imagine a 7 year old having to sit by themselves.

Joe

Can you file a complaint with the DOT for similar circumstances for Turkish Airlines?

Avi

I have a flight in 2 weeks on El Al, flying with 2 children under 13, no room left in regular economy, El Al wants to charge me $99 per seat in economy plus to reserve seats together. Any benefit to complain?

Abey

United had provided free family seating for me every time i asked (in advance) always contact them thru iMessage which is super convenient but I guess not many options for android users, would be nice if we can just do it ourselves online. I’ve even gotten economy plus for asking nicely when other options weren’t available

AAA

+1
I did it many times on United by calling on the phone.

CollegeGirl

Jet blue in January I had to pay for my children to sit next to me even though I had free seat assignments cuz of the healthcare heroes tickets.

CollegeGirl

Jet blue when they canceled my flight back, they reassigned me and my husband on one flight and my 2 toddlers on another flight by themselves (granted they were added on after so separate reservations but still) after spending many hours on the phone just waiting in line they obviously finally helped us change our itinerary. (The call back option called back 3 days later once we were long home)

Plini

They officially don’t guarantee family seating but in reality, I never had an issue (flew United, and Jet Blue).

sk

it notes ‘US Airlines”. What about international airlines flying to or from the US?

TG

Turkish from USA to IST would need to provide it.

Yiddish kind

Flying elal in 4 weeks 3 kids sitting on their own… they claim they can’t do anything but at checkin they will try.
Does this deserve a complaint?

Alan

Yes

Smart

The thing to do is, tell the airline that you are ok with your 4 year old sitting by themselves next to a stranger (When my kid cry’s don’t expect me to help lol) they will gladly end up putting you together. Had this in past experiences.

Eb

My husband is flying delta cle-jfk on sunday with my two sons under 13. I called delta who said that bc i booked on priceline they can’t help me and that the gate agent will be the one to take care of it when they check in to their flight.

Dov

I lately had an issue with El Al that they didn’t want to honor their 24 hour free cancellation policy and would only give free cancellation if you cancel on the same day. I filed a complaint with the dot but they said that since the flight isn’t originating or ending in the US there’s nothing they could do.

JJS

Airline agents typically try to be accomodating. But any family that’s been flying together for years and booking basic fares or avoiding seat choice fees, is already used to it.

Ben

DOT basically the only government agency that does it’s job these days.

yakov

Just had nightmare experience with jetblue: me, my wife, and two daughers)

1. Have Mosaic status.
2. Booked Basic, so couldn’t select seats until 24 hours.
3. there wasn’t any adjacent seats, so I was able to book Diagonal across for my two daughter’s (9 and 11)
4. When checking in they said, they have to move us around because “at least 1 parent needs to be with kids” ended up with front 2 seats and middle of the plane 2 seats.
5. when being seated found out, that row 17 was exit row.
6. So now my two kids are sitting all alone in front. and me and wife in exit row 17.
7. half hour into flight. flight attendant comes over and states: since the parents are in the exit row we cant “trust” them to rescue strangers as they would go to front to save their kids.
8. they moved us each to random middle seats across plane. so now we are all scattered all over to the max.

Snorro park

Sounds great but if that is physically impossible?
If you’ve ever seen the seating chart of a decently full flight, you’ll realize there is nothing the reservation agent can do!!
So silly. Reservation agents can NOT remove someone from their seat to reassign to someone else. That can only be done at the airport prior to departure. And even then, only if passengers agree or are not able to sit at specific seating. Silly DOT.

Yosef

Can I file a DOT complaint if the airline is forcing me to sit next to my kids?

anon
Moshe

Shout out to my favorite airline, Spirit Airlines. For years they have been seating our whole family together for free. I always reach out through their convenient WhatsApp chat as soon as I book a flight to explain that we are flying with young children and have never been disappointed. In fact, one time when our flights were cancelled due to severe weather (which was the only time our flights were cancelled or significantly delayed), they apologized that only one adult would be able to sit next to the children on the rescheduled flight and provided us with a voucher worth more than we paid for all of our flights.

yuneeq

+1
Flew Spirit with my family a few times. They always assigned a row of seats for us, even without asking. For all their issues, they got this done right.

Plini

Jet Blue refused to offer me seats for my flight in September (they said I can call 24h before the flight). I filed a complaint just to that DOT gets lots of them. I hope that this will prompt them to force airlines to have a policy in place.

S

was told by Frontier that they can only do at the gate prior to departure. Filed a complaint with the DOT as well.

Jb

Just booked on United basic economy for 2 adults and a under 2yr old (seated) in November. I chatted with united in their app and they assigned us 3seats together seats immediately. No questions no explanations needed BH!

dyb

i had booked seats with el al and when they changed my flight (arbitrarily with no option of contacting them about it ) there were no available seats together. i complained to the dot but it seems that these complaints no longer help. Its been around 80 days now since i complained and i have had no contact from el al despite having informed the dot that they didnt respond after 30 days and after the 60 day mark(they say airlines are required to respond within 30 days and substantially respond within 60 days.
With all of these problems and complaints it seems at least el al has started ignoring the dot

Chani

I am flying Aer Lingus from USA to the UK next week alone with three kids aged 11 and under. I have had a 3 hour chat with Aer Lingus online and a 1hr phone call (on hold most of the time for both of those communications) and they still will not allocate seats for the four of us. They insist that I have to pay $70 per passenger, per flight ‘as no standard seats are available’ and the standard seats would have been cheaper. I have repeatedly been requesting free seat assignments. They keep telling me they can’t do it. What next? Should I be reporting it to the DOT and is there anything they can even do for me in the next few days? This is stressing me out 🙁

Ari

I just tried to get Delta to put us together on a basic economy ticket. They would not commit to doing it, but stated that the gate agent will take care of it. Should I file a complaint with DOT for them not agreeing to immediately change? Will they hear about the complaint 3 weeks before flying date?

Mo2

I have Frontier booked with 6 children under 13 for next week and they do NOT allow seat selection. The agent claimed they don’t even have the ability to do it in advance for free. It can only can be done at gate.
Though they usually do put families on same reservation together, it’s unsettling not to be able to know for sure till checking in. And it’s Frontier.

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