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Family airline fee – say goodbye to your family on your flight

family airline fee parent child on a plane

Sitting together on a plane comes at a price

Thought the days of airline fees were over?  Think again.  Now a new charge is being paid for premium seats on flights.  Welcome to the family airline fee!

While this fee is not actually a family airline fee, premium window and aisle seats come with an extra charge. This means that families wanting to sit together on a plane will now have to pay more for a row of seats.

Traveling with kids is difficult.  Now it becomes more expensive.

Not only are summer airfare prices on the rise, so is the cost of just sitting together on the airplane.

Introducing the family airline fee

Window and aisle seat charges have been added by American, Delta, Frontier, and United as these seats are now available as an upgrade rather than as part of your flight.

What’s the idea behind this fee?  Well obviously the airlines want to make more money.  However, they also want to reward frequent fliers and business travelers the option of having more seats available to them when they fly.

For these travelers, many of these seats are available at no extra cost.  Taking a family vacation to Disney World?  Fork over the money so you can sit together.

Obviously, this new airline fee extends beyond families.  Friends, couples, and relatives would also be charged this fee if they want a premium window or aisle seat together as they will now pay more for these seats – each way.

However, the people that may suffer the most are parents and children.  Hence, this is the new family airline fee.  You can add this fee to not being allowed to board early with kids.

What if you don’t want to pay this family airline fee when you book?

Airlines will do their best to accommodate families that want to sit together on the airline.  However, there are no guarantees.  While rare, the possibility exists that you may not be able to sit with your child or that your family be split up.

Hopefully, the kindness of other passengers will come to your aid and be willing to switch seats to accommodate your request.  Just don’t expect the airlines to be this helpful in all cases.

One senator wants to make sure airlines allow a parent and child to sit together on the airplane.  New York Senator Charles Schumer has stated that children and parents need to sit together on a plane and that airline fees shouldn’t prevent this.

Even the senator sees this as a family airline fee.

If you don’t like this family airline fee, read my open letter to US airlines where I share all of my airline complaints.

How can you avoid this new family airline fee

  • Book your flight in advance and choose seats that have rows together or beside each other rather than seats together
  • Contact your local senator or congressman and speak out against this fee
  • Call the airline after booking your flight to let them know of your situation
  • Politely inform the gate attendant or flight attendant of your situation and see if you can switch seats

Just another airline fee

Recently, Spirit Airlines increased their carry on baggage fee to as much as $100 each way.  For other airlines, packing light is the only way to avoid these airline baggage fees.

How important is it for parents and their children to sit together?  Should they be charged a family airline fee for this?  Maybe it’s time for the airline passenger bill of rights to include protection for families as well.

Aside from baggage fees, we are already being charged fees for peak day travel, extra legroom, pillows and blankets, and more.  For most domestic flights, airline meals come at a price (and it isn’t free).

You can save money on your next vacation.  However, be prepared to pay more in airline fees.  An airline ticket is no longer the total cost for a flight.

Bottom line – the new family airline fee is an attempt to make families pay more for sitting together on an airplane by reserving seats for frequent fliers and those who want to pay more for premium seats.

This is wrong.

We need to consider what an airline fee is.  Airline fees should charge for a service that goes beyond what is standard or required.

Not every seat on an airline is a choice that we can make.  However, this new family airline fee will make you pay if you can.

So say goodbye to your family at the gate – even if you are getting on the same flight.

What do you think of the new family airline fee?

Check out the new airline fees you could see in 2012 and beyond.

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Filed Under: airline feesFamily Travelflights, airlines, airportsTravel NewsTravel Tips


RSSComments (47)

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  1. Michael says:

    Well, the airlines are trying every trick in the book to make passengers pay. A scandal, really and I agree that it is so wrong. But that’s business for you.

    • Jeremy B says:

      There are some things you can charge people and get away with. This is not one of them. Stupid idea and it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

  2. This sounds like a failure waiting to happen. Wait until some child freaks out on the plane in mid-flight because parents could not afford the charge. Then the media will jump on it and we will eventually see the end of this stupid idea if it ever flies in the first place.

    • Jeremy B says:

      I almost hope this happens. I hope a parent sues for millions. Then let’s see if that “extra revenue” was worth it. I can see airlines setting aside a few seats for frequent fliers to upgrade. However, charging people more to sit together isn’t going to work.

  3. Lisa says:

    This policy is just so wrong! Flying is difficult enough for families with young children without adding on an extra fee for the privilege of sitting together.

  4. Sandra Foyt says:

    Sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen! How ridiculous that a parent and child will have to pay extra to sit together. Exactly who will be responsible for negligence if and when a parent chooses not to pay the surcharge, and a young child is left on his own?

    • Jeremy B says:

      Correct. This isn’t just a seat issue. This could involve the FAA if certain violations are found with the child. I think this is a horrible idea and airlines will regret this decision.

  5. alanc230 says:

    Hey! This means free babysitting for parents of young children! They will get to relax with a drink while total strangers are treated to their kids’ antics!

    The policy will last just as long as it takes for an influential business traveler to be thrust into the child minder role.

    • I thought the same thing when I first read about this. Put a business traveler there beside a kid and have him watch them or keep them occupied and see how he likes it.

      Not to mention, how many people are going to switch seats with a parent AFTER they’ve already paid extra to sit in a window or aisle seat?

  6. Andrew says:

    I wouldn’t do so well on this either. I dislike flying enough that I really like to sit with Ali. Or even by myself if I had no fear of flight, I have long enough legs that the aisles offer a tiny bit better leg room. I get that they want to make money, but it seems ridiculous to make a price to every single last decision you could possibly make on a journey. The next choice may just be to take the train. (Yay, European trains.)

    • Jeremy B says:

      I agree with you on European trains. I wish this was a more viable option here in the US. US airlines desperately need competition. They would change their mind on all these airline fees in a heartbeat if people didn’t have to fly any more. Thank goodness there are still airlines like Southwest. However, this new airline fee is going too far.

  7. Ali says:

    Generally if you book together they will seat you together even if you aren’t able to pick your seats ahead of time. So if a family of 3 books 3 tickets all on the same itinerary, they’ll be seated together. I’ve never had a problem with that, even on airlines that charge you extra to pick seats ahead of time or on airlines that charge extra for picking a window or aisle seat ahead of time. While I totally disagree with charging for something like this, I don’t think the airline would split up people who are booked together. But like I said, that’s just been my experience. If they start purposely splitting up people to force their fees, THAT’S when I’d get angry.

    • Jeremy B says:

      I asked some parents about this and they have stated that they have been charged fees to sit together on a flight. It is happening because it’s unavoidable. All the airlines mentioned have now increased the number of seats that you have to pay extra. So anyone wanting to sit together, even if you don’t pick your seat ahead of time, will undoubtedly fall into one of those seats with extra charges. This is incredibly stupid on the part of airlines.

      • Ali says:

        Ugh, awful way for them to move things. It doesn’t take much foresight to realize the variety of things that can go wrong if a family can’t shell out more money to sit together and their kid is sitting somewhere else. It’ll bite them on the ass in no time I’m sure.

        • Yes, this is a lawsuit waiting to happen. I can’t imagine this one sticking around but there is a huge uproar over this already. Makes me appreciate Southwest even more now (even though they aren’t perfect either).

    • Jen-jen says:

      My family used to get split up all the time when we were kids, long before the fees. We’d have to get there hours early for check in to sit together. And that’s just a family of four!

      • I think as kids get older, this isn’t a bad thing. However, the one thing about this fee is that it applies to EVERYONE. So even spouse, friends, and family members would be affected by this. However, not as big of a deal to them as it is kids but still a very bad idea.

    • Lorenza says:

      I booked myself and my 2 children together and was just told that I had to pay $30 a person extra to be seated together. On top of a $25 change fee because my husband booked through his work. I have a special needs children. I was told that I either paid the extra or wait until the flight and see if someone is willing to switch. Ridiculous and not safe for anyone.

  8. Simon says:

    When will airlines stop ripping off passengers? All these ‘ancillary’ fees are getting ridiculous! I wish carriers will soon stop with this hypocritical attitude of offering ‘apparently cheap’ flights which in the end are not cheap at all.
    They need money? Why not simply charging a little more for the flight, instead that pushing passengers through an upsetting process obliging to open the purse again and again?

    • In the US, regulations were passed that made it mandatory for airlines to disclose the total price of a flight including mandatory taxes and fees. Before, airlines only had to include the price of the flight. So they could advertise all their deals and then you get hit with a bigger price at the end when you add taxes and fees.

      Now, airlines can get around that by hitting you with some of these optional fees for seats, baggage, and other things. They are so desperate for revenues they are getting around the price by getting you to pay more for other things.

  9. Oh Lord — it’s just getting crazy with fees!

    Although, I have to say, I would pay extra not to sit next to a screaming baby. :)

  10. Leah Travels says:

    This is a total pile of bunk. I often fly alone and enjoy an aisle seat, and I’d be willing to pay extra for it on a long-haul flight. It’s expensive enough for an entire family to fly without adding these fees. Strangely enough, the proponents of this fee are probably the same ones who are the most irritated by kids being rambunctious on a plane. If the parents and kids are all sitting in middle seats because it’s cheeper, who’s going to supervise them? I want the parents next to the kids.

    • The fees are ridiculous. They are stupid, a safety issue, and could violate some FAA rules here concerning the safety of kids. I wouldn’t expect a stranger to watch out for a child in the same way as a parent, especially if the kid is a toddler. You also make a good point about a parent sitting next to a kid. As bad as a kid may be, they are still going to behave better with a parent beside them than with no one.

  11. Laurel says:

    Unbelievable! I had no idea about this. Great suggestions about how to fight it.

  12. As a parent of 3 kids, it’s my dream to just be able to read a book or nap on plane, but my kids seem to think that I’m supposed to spend my time tending to them. I guess I can go back to my leisurely ways now. We were split up a few years ago, and some poor stranger had to hold the airsickness bag while my kid retched into it. No joke. On our 2 recent flights from Malaysia to Tokyo, Cathay Pacific split us all up — even though I had selected seats when I made the reservation and had it on my confirmation. Thankfully, we caught it before boarding, and they managed to get us all back together again.

    • With older kids, this probably isn’t that big of an issue. Some parents may still prefer to sit with their kids. However, what if there is an emergency situation on the plane and you aren’t close to your kids?

      The real problem with this is younger kids. Airlines are extorting money from parents in order to keep their child safe, comfort them, and take care of them. Now what happens in an emergency with these kids?

      So what if a parent asks to switch with another passenger to sit next to their child? How many passengers are going to be willing to switch if they paid for their seat?

      This is really a disaster waiting to happen. I can’t believe the airlines didn’t think about this one. All hail the mighty dollar though.

  13. Lisa says:

    Just read something interesting on Arthur Frommer’s blog about this issue. He says that advocates are urging the Department of Transportation to require that parents sit with their children without paying an extra fee for safety reasons. The argument is that in the event of an emergency evacuation no parent will be willing to exit the plane without their child and will be blocking the exit of others while they try to get to their child. Seems like sound reasoning to me – I know that I’d be climbing over seats to get to my kids before I’d get off a plane in an emergency.

    • Another very good point. Child safety is a major issue here. There are so many reasons this is wrong. Airlines are just waiting on a lawsuit for this. I don’t even understand how they thought this was a good idea. I guess they just though “we’ll work around the family thing” and didn’t realize how frustrating this could be. Not only is it a safety issue but how many strangers really want to watch your kid, in a seat they paid extra for?

      I know Charles Schumer is working on this and I would expect Congress to come down hard on the airlines for this stupid fee.

  14. alanc230 says:

    Just wait until a member of Congress has to sit next to a retching toddler with no parents within reach. This practice will be outlawed so fast your head will spin.

    • One member of Congress is already trying to do something about it. From what I’ve read, families aren’t the only ones upset about this. Get a high profile person that has to watch a kid and even more people will be upset.

  15. All these airline fees are starting to get ridiculous. I think it’s obnoxious that airlines expect families to rely on the kindness of strangers in order to sit together (or pay more). I’m just so tired of airlines who pull this kind of crap, which makes me happy to give my business to an airline that doesn’t (even if it means paying more for a ticket).

    • Well the bad thing about this is it isn’t just families. Anyone who wants to sit together will have to pay – couples, friends, relatives. Granted, they are not as affected and don’t care as much but still pretty stupid. I think there is a reason US airlines never rank very high in the rankings. At least there is Southwest. They don’t charge fees but they aren’t perfect either.

  16. Nancy says:

    My thinking on it is: go ahead and allow the airlines to separate you from your kids. After your child drives either their seatmates, the other passengers or the airline crew nuts, they’ll be switching someone so you’re now sitting with your family, at no additional cost.

    • While that may be true, there is another aspect to this. What if the person that is sitting beside your kid paid extra for his seat? Will he be happy about switching then? I think it’s not only parents that are unhappy but all travelers. This is one that has caused an uproar with a lot of people. It’s going to come back and bite the airlines.

      • Jen-jen says:

        What if the airlines ban your kid from another flight because he was obnoxious without you to keep him in check?

        • Then you can definitely expect a lawsuit. The airline made me pay more money so I could monitor my child. The airline wanted to extort more money from me so I could be a parent. I didn’t want to pay it and you got an obnoxious child on a flight because of it. That’s the airlines’ fault. Also, these children are minors – I would think there is some legal consideration for this as well. It’s just a mess no matter how you look at this.

  17. Adam says:

    Yep – not surprising. This has been around for a little while on the budget airlines in Europe.

  18. Emily says:

    We recently traveled on United Airlines and they expected my three-year old son to sit alone. We booked the flight 8 months ahead and paid extra to upgrade and secure seats together, but at the last minute they cancelled our flight and booked us on an overbooked flight. While you might think people will willing switch seats, that’s not always the case. We had to beg people to switch so my three-year old wouldn’t be forced to sit alone, get scared and cry so hard he would throw up on people… NOT so family friendly. The ticket agent just kept saying, “sorry, there is nothing we can do”.

    • Emily, sorry for the late reply on this. Wow, what a horrible experience! Traveling with a 3 year old is tough but it’s sad that people wouldn’t switch. Probably two reasons why – 1) people didn’t want to get stuck in a middle seat and 2) many people are now paying for those premium seats and don’t want to give them up to a kid. Really have to blame the airlines for this – overbooking and finding any way they can to get more money.

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