Families tell American, Delta, United Airlines: ‘Kids should sit with their parents!’

A standard economy ticket typically does not come with a seating assignment

Children under the age of 13 should be able to sit with their parents on American, Delta and United Airlines flights at no additional cost, a new Consumer Reports petition said.

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These three airlines “all charge big fees for families to sit together. And in some cases, they knowingly separate kids from their parents on board — even 2-year-olds!” according to the online appeal. “Airlines can easily fix this, but they haven’t. Doing so would mean giving up millions of dollars in fees from parents who simply want to keep their kids safe.”

The petition had 46,115 signatures of a 50,000 goal as of press time.

When booking a flight, travelers often face paying extra for an assigned seat or risk being separated from their travel partners on the plane. Child advocates don’t think that’s fair.

In fact, Consumer Reports collected more than 400 complaints since last fall that suggest airlines have separated young children from their families on flights, including one called out by USA Today when a family of four, including an 8-month-old and a 2-year-old, flying on Delta were all assigned middle seats that were far away from each other.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
AALAMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC.11.20+1.70+17.90%
DALDELTA AIR LINES INC.24.04+1.72+7.71%
UALUNITED AIRLINES HLDG.26.85+2.83+11.78%

“This is a security hazard for the child and a safety threat to all passengers during emergencies. It also puts an inappropriate burden on customers who sit next to an unaccompanied child,” the petition said, adding airlines should “put safety over profits, and seat children with their families without charging them extra for it.”

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Consumer Reports submitted a complaint to the U.S. Department of Transportation that lobbied the agency to create a policy requiring U.S. airlines to allow families with children to sit together at no extra fee. That request was not successful, however, as the department said the number of passenger complaints was not large enough to warrant a change.

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The department said it continues to monitor complaints and it added family-seating tips to its website. It did note, too, that travelers are not guaranteed a seat assignment with a standard economy ticket.

Airlines often ask passengers without small children if they would be willing to switch seats, and representatives for the companies said they have taken steps to remedy the issue.

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“Regardless of the type of ticket purchased, Delta works with customers on a case-by-case basis to ensure their travel needs are met,” Delta spokeswoman Maria Moraitakis said in a statement to USA Today. “When customers have seating questions, we encourage them to reach out to us as soon as possible to allow for the opportunity to address their concerns.”

American and United have both employed similar strategies.

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