When you book a flight, choosing a seat is usually the hardest part. In the past, flying economy was relatively simple and uncomplicated. You could either choose a window or an aisle seat or if you booked early enough an exit row seat. Families could also choose a whole row to fly together. But airlines started to charge for additional coach seats as they added more seats to their aircraft. As a result, selling airline seats began.
Window and aisle seats are now available for an additional charge ranging from $20 to $90. Even exit row seats can be purchased—for a price. Extra leg room seats are also for purchase. Even those dreaded middle seats closer to first or business class are considered premium seats since they are closer to the exit, and can be purchased. There are some airlines that do not charge for seats, but many do because they can.
But, how can you tell whether the seats available on a given flight are the ones you want? You can check the seating chart on a website such as seatguru.com, Expedia, Orbitz, or Travelocity. You can also go to the airline's website to see the seating chart. However, most of the time, all these seating charts are incorrect—or at least misleading. Airlines hold back a number of seats on every flight to provide them to their mega frequent fliers and big travel spenders. If those individuals don't appear, the airline then offers those seats to first-come, first-served customers.
Families traveling together often have a difficult time finding seats on a flight without paying extra, and the airlines' upsell of seats makes it virtually impossible to have the whole family in one row. But, the U.S. Department of Transportation may come to the rescue, alerting airlines of a potential new regulation that would require them to seat families together, which may upset the seat upsell scheme.
After receiving complaints from travelers who felt forced to buy seats so their families could sit together, a regulation has been proposed.
U.S. Department of Transportation recognizes the importance that families place on sitting together when flying. To make sitting together easier when flying within the United States, the Department has issued a Notice encouraging U.S. airlines to do everything that they can to ensure the ability of a young child (age 13 or younger) to be seated next to an accompanying adult (over age 13) without charging fees for adjacent seating. In addition, the Department offers some great tips that families may use before, during, and after air travel.
The most important tip is when you first reserve a flight—even if you do so online—get in touch with the airline directly and select your seats. Only they have the clearest and most up-to-date seat availability information on their screens.
Also, don't forget that you are entitled to a refund if your flight is delayed, rebooked, or canceled if you paid for premium seats. And if you are dissatisfied with an experience related to family seating, you can file a complaint with the airline or the Department of Transportation.