Only American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Frontier currently fall into this category
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) just introduced a new dashboard highlighting which airlines will seat travelers 13 and under with an accompanying adult at no additional cost. This dashboard is an interim step while the USDOT works to officially ban airlines from charging families more to guarantee that they are able to sit together.
“Parents traveling with young kids should be able to sit together without an airline forcing them to pay junk fees,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We have been pressing airlines to guarantee family seating without tacking on extra charges, and now we’re seeing some airlines start to make this common-sense change. All airlines should do this promptly, even as we move forward to develop a rule establishing this as a requirement across the board.”
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To receive a green checkmark on the dashboard, an airline must guarantee adjacent seats for a child 13 or under and an accompanying adult at no additional cost for all fare types subject to limited conditions. This guarantee must be included as part of their customer service plan so that it is enforceable by the USDOT if they fail to deliver. The only airlines currently in this category are American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and Frontier Airlines.
United introduced a new family seating policy last month, but it only applies to Economy and Basic Economy tickets. A new seat map feature will dynamically find available adjacent seats at the time of booking. If an instance arises where there are no adjacent seats on a flight (due to circumstances like last-minute booking, full flights, or aircraft changes), customers can switch for free to a flight to the same destination with adjacent seat availability in the same cabin.
Southwest has been piloting a new family pre-boarding program that would allow families with kids ages six and under to board before the “A” group, a change from the current policy that allows them to board between the “A” and “B” groups.
Since most U.S. airlines are not receiving the green check mark on the current dashboard, Secretary Buttigieg recently submitted to Congress a legislative proposal to require that airlines provide fee-free family seating. Because this rulemaking process can take time, the President has called upon Congress to enact legislation, and the Administration plans to send Congress proposed legislation in the coming weeks.