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Department of Transportation Seeks to Bar Airlines from Charging Parents to Sit with Their Child

Department of Transportation Seeks to Bar Airlines from Charging Parents to Sit with Their Child

Currently, U.S. airlines are not required to place minors next to their parents free of charge. 

On Friday, July 8, the Department of Transportation issued a notice to change that, requesting airlines “to seat young children next to a parent” with no additional cost.

The notice comes after a period of increased complaints against airlines, mostly related to flight cancellations, but according to the DOT, there have been “complaints of instances where young children, including a child as young as 11 months, are not seated next to an accompanying adult.”

In the statement, the DOT added, “even one complaint is significant for the impacted travelers.” 

The notice urges airlines to “review their seating policies” to “ensure the ability of a parent or other accompanying adult to sit next to his or her young child,” without extra charge. The DOT says a 2016 law requires the department to “review U.S. airlines’ family seating policies.”

The DOT is giving airlines four months to alter their policies. In November 2022, the DOT’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection will review airlines’ policies “to determine whether they enable a child, who is age 13 or under on the date an applicable flight is scheduled to occur, to be seated in a seat adjacent to the seat of an accompanying adult over the age of 13, to the maximum extent practicable and at no additional cost.” 

The notice suggests that “airlines should have policies that enable its personnel to make immediate adjustments as needed to ensure young children are able to be seated adjacent to an accompanying adult,” except when said seat “would require an upgrade to another cabin or a seat with extra legroom.” 

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Currently, individual airlines have varying seat selection processes, with some allowing seat changes after purchasing tickets, and other “basic economy” fares assigning an unchangeable seat. 

Hannah Walden, a spokesperson for Airlines for America, the industry trade group representing major U.S. carriers, responded to the notice with the following statement, “U.S. airlines always work to accommodate customers who are traveling together, especially those traveling with children, and will continue to do so. Each carrier has established individual policies aimed at making every effort to ensure families can sit together.”