Families Must Pay Fees to Sit Together on Flights

Should parents have to pay special fees to sit next to their children on flights? The airlines seem to think so.

There are some fees that consumers are willing to accept. Fees for more legroom, priority boarding and extra baggage are on the rise and make airline tickets much more expensive, but travelers are willing to pay for the extra service. But should customers have to pay extra to sit next to their toddler? Big airlines like American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines think so. According to Consumer Reports, there are fewer “free” seats available. To select a seat, you have to pay a “seat selection” fee and Consumer Reports even found one as high as $139. For basic economy travelers, you may not have the option of choosing a seat at all. And if you’re trying to plan ahead and figure out your seat selection cost, good luck. You have to go through the entire booking system to uncover the fee, which ranges anywhere between $17 and $49 at American Airlines.**

Consumer Reports researched all the complaints lodged by consumers against airlines and one thing is certain: customer satisfaction is low on the list of priorities. The research uncovered some shocking examples:

  • Families traveling with 1-year-olds were separated on United Airlines.
  • Families traveling with a small child and a child who suffers seizures were separated.
  • Families traveling with autistic children were separated.

Traveling with children, especially those with special needs, is harrowing but having to pay more to sit together seems particularly egregious when safety is at stake. According to Consumer Reports, there are several scenarios that could arise from families being separated on flights:

  1. Children who have medical needs are exposed to serious risk if they’re not sitting next to a family member.
  2. Children as young as 8 years old have been sexually assaulted on flights, according to an FBI investigation.
  3. In case of an evacuation, young children sitting apart from their families could pose a major safety risk to themselves and the rest of the passengers on board.

Charging extra fees to sit together illustrates that airlines, like many big businesses, care about profit more than they care about their customers. The anxiety if being separated from your children is very different than not having enough legroom — it’s something that can leave passengers traumatized.

Excessive fees seem to be on the rise across all industries and we hope that consumers advocate for their rights when it comes to unfair fees or opaque billing practices. If you think you’re overpaying for your monthly bills like internet, wireless, cable or home security, Billshark can help. Just send us your bills, and we’ll lower them in minutes.

** Based on a four-person reservation from New York to Miami.

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