Airlines try to upsell seats to parents who want to sit with their children
Seating families together on a plane may seem like a no-brainer, but who says airlines are thinking all the time? Parents who have never flown with kids are often astonished to discover that U.S. airlines do not automatically seat them next to their young children. Instead, families typically face two options for getting seats together: Pay extra or jump through hoops.
“Airline systems are optimized to squeeze every last dollar out of passengers, but they’re not optimized to seat families together,” says Christopher Elliott, a columnist and ombudsman at National Geographic Traveler magazine.
But you’ll usually get seated next to your child if you’re persistent, says Keryn Means, a family travel blogger at Walking on Travels. Several days before traveling to the Dominican Republic earlier this month, Means discovered that her seats had been reassigned on the second leg of her trip, from Charlotte, N.C., to Punta Cana – and that her new seat was several rows away from her 4-year-old son.
“I called the airline to get it fixed, and I was told there was nothing they could do unless I was willing to pay extra for choice seats,” she says. When Means declined to pay, the US Airways customer service agent told her to see the gate agent when she got to the airport. Instead, Means waited 20 minutes and redialed. This time, a more sympathetic representative found her two seats together in the back row of the plane.
Airlines rack up tens of billions of dollars in ancillary fees each year, largely through the practice of unbundling fares to convert once-included services into opportunities for revenue.
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