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Making the rounds in travel news lately is the story of Frank Strong, who was flying with his 4 year old on Delta recently. According to his account,
Delta assigned his daughter a seat 11 rows away from him. It’s been picked up by several news outlets and blogs and is an all around unfortunate situation.
To me, it’s not clear what actually happened and how much of the actual story we’re seeing. I know that when describing a conflict that I’m involved in, it’s hard to be impartial – there’s always the urge to portray yourself in the best possible light and make your antagonist look like a fool.
Mr. Strong says that when he went to book his flight that the only seats available for him to choose were random middle seats in the back of the aircraft. I don’t doubt him, but it’s not clear to me how far in advance he booked the flight or how busy the flight was. I don’t have a ton of experience flying on Delta, but when I have, it has been my experience that it has not been an issue.
Here’s the seat map of a Delta flight that I have booked for September
You’ll notice seats 13E and 13F that I’ve picked out, but wide swaths of availability throughout the rear of the plane. Some of the comments suggest that Delta has a system where they reserve a ton of availability for “gate check-in seats”, and that really this is a thinly veiled scam to force passengers that want to sit together to pay a fee (which is what Mr. Strong did, to the tune of $88)
Again, I don’t have enough experience about the ins and outs of Delta to know if this is true, and if you do, I’d love to hear your experience in the comments
Should family seating be government regulated?
Another interesting point from the story was the author’s thoughts that the government should step in and regulate the airline industry in this regard (and I’m sure others)
I know that the airlines are already regulated to a degree, and I can see some of the arguments, but I have a hard time thinking of a time when the government stepping in to do something has HELPED matters 🙂 But then again that’s probably just a function of my own politics rather than judging this particular matter on its own merits.
I do think that to a degree the airlines are giving (most) customers exactly what they want. I think customers have spoken loud and clear that the one thing that they want is low, low fares. And while there are customers that are willing to pay more than the base fare for things (picking your own seat, meals, more legroom) that others consider a “right”, there are customers that are more price-sensitive and willing to put up with inconveniences for lower fares.
Southwest’s system is not perfect for families, though in this particular case, with a 4 year old, Mr. Strong would have had no problems getting a seat with his daughter.
It does feel like it’s in EVERYONE’S (the family, the airline AND other passengers) best interests to have young children sitting with their parents, but I’m not sure what the best answer is. I liked Mommy Points’ take on this – no matter what, it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that your family sits together, NOT the airlines.
What do you guys think? Increased regulation in this regard would tend to lead to higher prices across the board to compensate, but maybe that’s worth it? Would you pay $5 (a guess) on every ticket in order to ensure that all children can sit with their parents? Let us know in the comments.