Dem seeks to force airlines to sit families together


A Democratic member of the House Transportation Committee is seeking to require that airlines try to provide seats that are next to each other for parents who are traveling with children under 12 years of age. 

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) has filed an amendment to a Federal Aviation Administration funding measure that would require airlines "to ensure, to the extent practicable, that a family that purchases tickets for a flight with that air carrier is seated together" during flights. 

The amendment would also require airlines to notify passengers at the time of booking if there are not seats together on flights that are being purchased. 

The New York lawmaker has said the requirements are necessary because of the rise of airlines charging extra for specific seat assignments on flights.  

“Air travel is complicated and expensive enough for families without adding new stresses,” Nadler said in a recent statement.  

“Families should not be stuck paying hidden fees, or buying ‘premium’ seats, simply because they wish to be seated together on crowded flights," he continued. "It is positively absurd to expect a two- or three-year-old to sit unattended, next to strangers, on an airplane. It is up to air carriers to make their seating policies clear and easily accessible to the public.”

For years, passenger advocacy groups have complained about airlines separating parents from kids during flights.

The Family Travel Association praised the proposal to require airlines to try to sit families together, saying it a "congressional effort to make flying more friendly to families." 

"If you support language like that of the Families Flying Together Act (H.R. 3334), please reach out to your local congressional representative and explain why you believe it is important," the group said in a post on its website.

Airlines have said they already make efforts to ensure parents and kids can sit together.

"Airlines have always worked to accommodate customers who are traveling together, including those traveling with children, and will continue to do so — without unnecessary federal mandates," the group that lobbies for most major carriers in Washington, Airlines for America, said Thursday. 

"We believe that customer service decisions are best left to the dedicated and experienced airline employees who interact with and receive feedback from their customers every day — not government," the airline group continued.

The amendment to require that companies make a greater effort to seat families together on airplanes is a revival of a measure that goes back as far as 2012 that is known as the Families Flying Together Act. Nadler has filed the measure on at least two occasions before the current attempt to add it to the FAA funding bill. 

Lawmakers in the House are holding a hearing on the proposed FAA funding measure on Thursday. The agency's funding is set to expire on March 31.

The FAA bill is one of the few must-pass pieces of legislation left on the congressional agenda this year. As such, it also represents an opportunity for lawmakers looking for a vehicle on which to attach pet issues.

Most of the debate about the aviation funding bill thus far has been focused on a controversial plan from House Republicans to separate air traffic control from the FAA

The text of the amendment to require airlines to try to seat families together can be read here