Introducing the concept of needing to pay for choosing your seat has been a great moneymaker for airlines. A family of four, for example, will potentially have to pay an extra $25 to $100, per seat (so an extra $100 to $400, on top of the price of their tickets) if they would like the “privilege” of sitting next to each other.
While it’s a great moneymaker for airlines, it’s a potentially horrible situation for families. Because if a party with children doesn’t pay for seat assignments (or if they get a Basic Economy type seat, where seat assignments aren’t an option), they will ultimately be given whatever unassigned seats are left over. That often means the party will be split up, and young children, including toddlers and sometimes babies, are left unable to sit next to a parent or guardian.
In order for the child(ren) to sit with an adult, it meant a game of musical chairs on the plane. Read: Who’s willing to switch seats with the parent/guardian or the kid(s)? Sometimes, it works out fine. Other times, you’ll read stories like the guy who was recently convicted for touching a kid inappropriately while her mother was assigned a seat several rows away.
In March of this year, Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, put the word out – parents shouldn’t have to pay to sit with their kids on flights.
“Parents traveling with young kids should be able to sit together without an airline forcing them to pay junk fees,” Buttigieg said in a statement, adding that the department had been pressing airlines to make those guarantees. “All airlines should do this promptly, even as we move forward to develop a rule establishing this as a requirement across the board.”
At the same time, the Department of Transportation (DOT) introduced a new dashboard that allowed travelers to see which airlines made it their business to sit families together for free, and which didn’t.
It's simple: parents shouldn't have to pay extra to sit next to their children on a flight.
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) August 28, 2023
Until this week, the list of carriers committed to fee-free family seating was paltry. It included:
And the ones that wouldn’t guarantee fee-free family seating were:
However, there’s some good news!
JetBlue’s policy for sitting with children has been:
Traveling with Children
We will always do our best to seat children with an adult family member. For the best seating options, we recommend booking early and selecting seat assignments at the time of booking or with a reservation crewmember (third party service fees may apply). If seats together are not available, please let our airport gate crewmembers know when you arrive at the airport. They will do their best to find a seating solution. We cannot guarantee that seats together will always be available.
In other words, “We will try to sit kids with their parents but we can’t guarantee it, and the best way to ensure that happens is to book early and buy seats together.” That’s how they wound up on the “won’t guarantee fee-free seating” list.
However, without any fanfare that I can find, they’ve just updated their website, and there’s a big change:
JetBlue is dedicated to ensuring the comfort and safety of every Customer including families traveling together with our desire that young children sit with their parents or an accompanying adult. We therefore guarantee that if the following conditions are met, children 13 years old and under will, no later than 24 hours before the scheduled flight departure time, be provided a seat assignment adjacent to a parent or accompanying adult on the same reservation at no additional cost, including Blue Basic fares:
1 All Customers are booked in the same reservation and adjacent seats are available in the same class of service your child is ticketed at the time of booking. The guarantee would apply to seats in Mint only if Mint tickets were purchased for the parent and child and adjacent Mint seats were available at booking.
2 You choose seats for the entire reservation or do not select seats for the entire reservation (if you choose Blue Basic, then skip choosing seats for the entire reservation).
3 No changes are made (by the Customer) to your seat assignments once they’re assigned to you.
4 The plane’s seat layout and configuration allow for adjacent seating dependent on the number of children in your reservation.
5 There is no downgauge (switch) of the originally planned aircraft to a smaller aircraft or aircraft with a different seat configuration.
Even if these conditions are not met, JetBlue will always make best attempts to try to seat minor children adjacent to an accompanying adult.
Although not perfect, it’s better than paying to guarantee sitting next to your 3-year-old.
Good on JetBlue!
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