After Southwest Airlines quietly expanded family boarding on some flights to allow families to board with children up to age 13, the Biden administration is seeking to speed up fees altogether banning family members from traveling with young children to sit together on airplanes.
“Parents unexpectedly cannot sit on a flight with their young child or pay large fees to sit next to their children,” the White House said in a Feb. 1 statement. “The President believes that no parent should pay extra to sit next to their child.”
Relatives: just let families sit together
Most airlines require travelers to select seats in advance when flying certain fare types, which in these cases is the only way to guarantee seats together.
Even if your fare includes complimentary seat selection, whether a couple can find two seats together, let alone three or more for a family, depends on the number of seats available at the time of booking.
If you don’t prepay for a seat assignment, all airlines will automatically assign you a complimentary seat upon check-in.
Unlike most other major airlines, Southwest is known (and often criticized) for its unconventional boarding process, which requires passengers to select their seats in the order in which they board, often leading to a frighteningly competitive process.
Because Southwest doesn’t allow travelers to select seats in advance, the only way to increase your chances of being seated together is to purchase the airline’s EarlyBird Check-In, which will automatically check you in 24 hours before your flight and give you a earlier boarding position guarantees the possibility to select your preferred seat if available.
Booking with EarlyBird used to be a guarantee of an A boarding pass, but those days are over. To truly secure an A boarding pass, you must pay an additional $30-$60 each way to get an A1-A15 boarding pass.
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Traditional airline seat charges, including American, Delta, and United, can cost travelers anywhere from $20 to $100 each way, depending on the airline, fare type, and route. An airline’s most restrictive fare, typically referred to as Basic Economy, typically does not qualify for assigned seating without paying a fee.
Read more: Southwest Airlines is offering an extended boarding age for families on some flights
“Normal economy seats together are often chargeable because so many rows of seats are reserved as extra legroom [or] Premium (no extra legroom, but closer to the front of the plane),” said TPG Editor-in-Chief Scott Mayerowitz. “Unless you’re among the first 20 non-elite people to book, you’re not going to get three or four seats together without paying.”
Biden’s latest foray into Congress follows a public reminder to airlines of an existing Department of Transportation policy that prohibits travelers under the age of 13 from selecting a seat next to an accompanying adult.
Based on that, it seems every airline is in violation of this policy, raising the question of why the DOT stopped taking tougher action.
According to the White House, the agency will “release a dashboard for family seating and initiate rulemaking banning the practice,” while Biden is calling on Congress to “expedite the ban on family seating so the DOT can take action against these practices more quickly.” than through regulation.”
A spokesman for the President declined to comment beyond the published remarks.
In addition to airline seat fees, the White House targeted two other types of fees, including credit card late fees, to lower the legal limit that credit cards can charge users to a maximum of $8, or 25% of the required payment.
This follows Congress’ efforts to lower merchant card fees in the name of market competition.
Additionally, Biden called out “surprising resort and destination fees,” which hotels typically don’t disclose until checkout.
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