Make us your home page
Instagram

Airlines' seating policies not family friendly, critics say

Two-year-old Mia Brecher and her father, Jeremy Brecher, make their way through the baggage area of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport earlier this week. The family was arriving from Cleveland for a vacation. 

Sun Sentinel

Two-year-old Mia Brecher and her father, Jeremy Brecher, make their way through the baggage area of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport earlier this week. The family was arriving from Cleveland for a vacation. 

If you want to sit next to family or friends the next time you fly, you had better not leave it up to chance at the airport.

With some airlines no longer allowing families with young children to preboard and others putting a premium price on more of their seats in economy, it's getting harder to score seats together without paying extra.

Some fliers say the latest changes in air travel are family unfriendly, as they force travelers on a budget to sit aisles apart if they can't afford to fork out extra for advance seat assignments.

As Americans prepare to travel during the peak summer travel period, some could be in for a surprise if they haven't flown in a while.

Major airlines, including American and Delta, have added more legroom to certain seats and are charging extra to passengers who want to reserve them early.

Many times, these are the only seats available when purchasing a ticket close to your travel dates, as airlines have already blocked seats for elite-status and higher-paying customers.

The seat-selection process also has become less transparent, experts say. Seat fees can range from $4 to $200 one way, depending on the airline, benefits and the destination.

"The airlines are trying to get people to buy the premium seats," George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog.com said. "They're selling scarcity and position."

Hobica advises travelers to bring a few Starbucks gift cards along to bribe fellow fliers into switching seats or to offer to buy them a drink so that family members can sit together.

Earlier this year, United Airlines ended a six-month trial that allowed families with children to board flights before the general boarding process, spokesman Charles Hobart said.

That move slowed boarding, so United ended the experiment. Families with children now board in their respective ticket groups, he said.

"We found that's the most efficient way to get all of our customers, including families with children, on board in a timely manner," Hobart said.

Last month, Kaja Meade, a New York mother of a 9-month-old, rallied nearly 39,000 supporters to protest United's decision on Change.org.

"This is another airline policy that's bad for travelers, and I'm concerned that others may follow United's lead," Meade said. "Like many other parents, I rely on preboarding as part of my travel plan. It's not an amenity; it's a necessary service."

Families traveling on American Airlines with small children will be at the mercy of check-in and gate agents at the airport if seat assignments aren't secured in advance.

"We do not have a hard-and-fast rule about calling families to board," spokesman Ed Martelle said. "We give the gate agents leeway to use their discretion given circumstances at the gate."

Some airlines do extend preboarding courtesies to families.

Southwest allows families with children younger than 5 years old to board for free after the A boarding group, spokeswoman Michelle Agnew said.

Airlines' seating policies not family friendly, critics say 07/06/12 [Last modified: Friday, July 6, 2012 10:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Appointments at the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA and the Straz Center highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Charities

    The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA has named Matt Mitchell its new chief executive officer, effective Oct. 16. Selected by the Y's CEO Search Committee following a five-month search, Mitchell will succeed Tom Looby, who is retiring. Looby has served the Y Movement for 37 years, the past 10 …

    The Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA has named Matt Mitchell as its new Chief Executive Officer. [Handout photo]
  2. Rep. Larry Ahern gets roughed up by Clearwater City Council

    State Roundup

    It seemed innocuous enough: an "end of session report" from state Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, to the Clearwater City Council.

    Then Ahern got taken to the woodshed.

    Rep. Larry Ahern is vying for a seat on the Pinellas commission.
  3. There's a bar in Tampa where you can roller skate and eat sushi

    Food & Dining

    Roller skating, it's not just for kids birthday parties and the 1970s anymore.

    The exterior of Pattinis features this mural by Art Aliens! [Pattinis South Tampa via Facebook]
  4. Lockdown: Florida's 97,000 prison inmates confined through weekend

    State Roundup

    All of Florida's 97,000 state prison inmates are on lockdown — and will remain confined to their dorms at least through the weekend — in response to unspecified threats about possible uprisings, officials from the Florida Department of Corrections confirmed Thursday.

    Blackwater River Correctional Facility. [Florida Department of Corrections]
  5. Carnival announces five more cruises from Tampa to Cuba

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Carnival Cruise Line is adding five more cruises from Tampa to Cuba in 2018, Port Tampa Bay announced Thursday.

      Carnival Cruise Line announced additional cruises to  Cuba. Pictured is its Paradise cruise ship departing on its inaugural voyage to Cuba from Tampa. | [MONICA HERNDON | Times]