Don't miss out! Join the thousands of people who subscribe to our once-daily email or our free miles and points Facebook group with all the best travel news. Points With a Crew has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Points With a Crew and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
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.
(SEE ALSO: Family boarding on Southwest Airlines – tips and tricks on how to get to sit with each other)
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.
Points With a Crew has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Points With a Crew and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered. Other links on this page may also pay me a commission - as always, thanks for your support if you use them
Sometimes it really doesn’t matter if the parent is there or not. On a BA flight from Gatwick to Orlando a couple years ago I was sitting across the aisle from a family going on holiday. When the beverage cart came around the Mom proceeded to get bombed with I counted 8 + tiny bottles of vodka at her feet while she slept for the next 8 hours. The children weren’t being minded in any way, food was making it’s way across to my feet and the flight attendants gave up trying to keep the children in their seats or waking up the parents. I was never more happy to get off that flight. The floor around this area was like looking into a giant rubbish dumpster.
We had a similar issue on a United flight to Copenhagen last year. The initial connecting flight was a plane with a 2+2 configuration, which was no problem to seat myself and my 5 year old daughter together. A couple weeks later, the airline changed the plane to one which had a 1+2 configuration and split us several rows apart. Fortunately I had been checking the reservation on a regular basis and there was enough room on the plane to revise the seating before we were at the airport. Makes me wonder why the airline would think it is a good idea to split a young child from the parent.
Yeah – I honestly don’t think the airline systems even look for that. Whether they SHOULD or not, is a totally different story
Aren’t you supposed to enter your ages and if you’re traveling with children when booking a flight?
Yes you are, but I doubt that is used for situations like this. Now I’m not saying that it SHOULDN’T be (it seems logical, right?) but I am just saying that I doubt that it IS
I booked a flight for my daughter-in-law and her 3 minor children, 11, 10 & 8 in February for a flight on April 10, 2015. At the time of booking I was not able to book seats. I called on March 20th to try to book seats and was told there were plenty of seats available but they could not assign the seats because of weight distribution! They said if someone was handicapped they could assign the seats. I think I should have lied. I called a second time and sent 2 emails to customer care but was still denied seating assignments until boarding. I am shocked to learn that more parents and grandparents are having a similar problem. The seats my daughter-in-law was given at boarding were the last row, no windows, no recline, engine noise and right by the bathroom. Unacceptable.
Which airline was this?
I’d hope someone would have the common decency to switch seats with me. But I do think there should be some type of waiver of the fee if you’re traveling with a kid, especially that young. I’ve “reserved” seats together before only to get my boarding pass reading across the plane. Through third party sites, but still…
This is a really contentious issue for me. I don’t have much domestic US experience but fly internationally a lot, and you’d be amazed how much I have to fight to keep our family of 5 (two adults, two children, one infant) seated in even the same cabin!
We had a 14hr flight with Etihad, hubby got upgraded to business (after complaining he was placed 10 rows back from us yet he is a gold customer etc and we’d pre-booked bassinet row) leaving me with x3 In economy – not the end of the world I’ve done this one solo before.
But the worst earlier this month on Qatar – an airline I have previously sung praise for – put me on stand-by for a connection! So hubby and x3 kids ticketed ready for short connection; me told I’d have to ask in Doha as it was a full flight; seperating a mother from her infant when we are ticketed together, how on earth can a airline do that??? (NB we tried to book together online in advance but for some reason this leg their system wouldn’t let us choose seats, even after phone calls).
I can’t fathom how any airline cannot make changes to seating configurations at check in to allow any child under 12 to be seated with a grown up. The good news is on board flight crews always work hard for the customer to try and fix – and I did get a seat on our Qatar flight – after much fighting one lovely staff member saw common sense, but ironically we all got seated in the same row! – still an incredibly sour and stressful experience and completely avoidable.
Absolutely! It baffles me that airline systems even ALLOW a parent and small child to be split up, but they do. We’ve even had nightmare experiences particularly with Delta. In one case they wanted to move Mom a couple of rows back from 2 y.o. DD, who thought that up? Oh yes some Lovey Dovey 40-something couple who had to sit next to each other and were waving their elite status and mixed up boarding passes at the FA. In the end the Lovey Doveys won, and we ended up with steam coming out of our ears.