Less-than-desirable seatmates on a flight include the drooler, the chatterbox and the space hog. These days, you could get someone who’s all three: a kid, with nary a parent in sight.
With airlines charging extra for more and more seats in coach, some families who want to sit together in the cheap seats can find themselves scattered about.
“The airlines aren't charging families to sit together, per se,” said Chris Elliott of Consumer Traveler. “They are charging extra for certain economy class seats. So if families want to sit together, and one of the seats is a premium seat, they'll have to pay for it. It's all a matter of perspective, I guess.”
Airlines stress that they do what they can to have families nestled together in the air, but that’s no guarantee.
NPR Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon recently tweeted his frustration upon discovering that booking tickets offered no assurance that he’d be sharing armrests with his two young daughters.
“If there's a problem in air, shouldn't parents be near children? Do you really want strangers entrusted to help them?” Simon tweeted.
Although Simon did not name the airline, American Airlines responded to his tweet, noting that for prices starting at $4 a seat, customers can get “preferred seats” in coach. Tim Smith, a spokesman for the airline later elaborated to msnbc.com, “We always try to seat the younger children in the party with parents and guardians, even if it cannot be worked out for the entire party.”
Seating fees are now as much a part of flying as jet fuel. United–Continental, for example, charges for the first several rows of economy, where there’s more legroom. Discount airlines AirTran Airways and Spirit Airlines charge passengers to reserve a specific seat. But no worries on Southwest Airlines, which doesn’t bother with seat assignments.
Elliott suggests that parents with scattered seat assignments get to the airport early and ask a gate agent to seat them together. If that doesn’t work, talk to a flight attendant once onboard. And as a last resort, ask fellow passengers to make your flight a wee bit less stressful — just don’t try to trade away a center seat a nose away from the bathroom.
More on Overhead Bin
- Red-eye flight with a toddler — and Ben Bernanke
- Getting seats on a plane ... together
- Playing musical chairs with seat assignments