Petition for airlines to seat families together for free takes off
tonefotografia/iStock(NEW YORK) — It’s an all-too-common complaint among families who fly: pay an additional charge to make sure you children are seated with you or run the risk of having even babies and toddlers seated among strangers.
The practice of paying for an advance seat assignment used to apply only to low-cost, no frills carriers like Spirit. But in recent years, major airlines like American, Delta and United have also tacked on a fee that consumer advocates say disproportionately targets families.
“Airlines can easily fix this, but they haven’t. Doing so would mean giving up millions of dollars in fees from parents who simply want to keep their kids safe,” reads a new petition from Consumer Reports, which has more than 60,000 signatures so far.
It comes after Consumer Reports used the Freedom of Information Act to look at complaints against the airlines on this topic.
“In multiple cases, children under 5 years old were seated apart from the adults traveling with them,” an article read. “Consumers resorted to asking strangers to trade seats or, when that failed, were asked to deplane or chose to leave out of concern for their children. In the worst cases, families who had to re-book their flight to ensure they were seated together paid thousands of dollars more, in one case totaling $4,341 more and in another case totaling an additional $14,084.”
Consumer Reports filed the FOIA request in the summer of 2018 to find out the status of the 2016 Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016, which included a provision that required the Department of Transportation to review airline family seating policies to ensure young children can sit with their families on airplanes at no cost.
“One year later [after the summer 2018 request], CR got a response to its FOIA request and learned that the agency doesn’t plan to ask the airlines to make any changes to their family seating policies,” Consumer Reports told “Good Morning America” via email. “The DOT cited a lack of complaints for its decision not to act. This fall, CR began publicizing the issue and, in just two weeks, generated three times as many complaints as the DOT received in the previous two years.”
The petition, found here, reads:
“To American, Delta, and United Airlines:
“Children 13 or under should sit with their families while flying, and should not be charged extra fees to do so. Complaints have been filed against your airline for separating children as young as age 2 from their families. This is a security hazard for the child and a safety threat to all passengers during emergencies. It also puts an inappropriate burden on customers who sit next to an unaccompanied child.
“I expect you to put safety over profits, and seat children with their families without charging them extra for it.”
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