Airlines commit to ending family seating fees after DOT pressure

Pete Buttigieg
AP/Stefan Jeremiah
U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg attends a groundbreaking ceremony for the New Portal North Bridge project held in Kearny, N.J., Monday, Aug 1, 2022. A group of environmental and racial justice organizations filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday, Nov. 17, against the U.S. Department of Transportation and Buttigieg. The lawsuit aims to halt a Gulf Coast road project that the group says will harm the environment near historic Black neighborhoods. (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah, File)

Three U.S. airlines have committed to end family seating fees as the Transportation Department ramps up pressure on other airlines to do the same.

American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Frontier Airlines have each guaranteed that parents can sit with their children ages 13 or younger without an extra charge, according to the Transportation Department.

The press release also announced that the department has launched a new dashboard that displays which airlines guarantee that a parent can sit with their child with no extra fees.

“Parents traveling with young kids should be able to sit together without an airline forcing them to pay junk fees,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.

“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,” he added. “All airlines should do this promptly, even as we move forward to develop a rule establishing this as a requirement across the board.”

The Transportation Department issued a memo in July advising airlines to reevaluate their family seating policies. Four months after the memo, the department found that no airline guaranteed family seating with no extra costs, the press release said.

This commitment from some airlines comes as President Biden continues to call on Congress to pass the Junk Fee Prevention Act, a bill that includes measures limiting airlines from charging extra for families to sit together; cracking down on excessive fees for concert and entertainment tickets; and eliminating unnecessary fees for canceling a television, phone or internet service.

United Airlines overhauled its family seating fees last month to make it easier for parents to sit next to their children. The airline said starting in early March, customers will have more access to adjacent seat options for their children under 12, and if there are no seats available, they can rebook their ticket for free.

However, according to the Transportation Department’s new dashboard, United Airlines has not committed to guaranteeing that there will be no extra fees for adjacent seats for children under the age of 13 with an accompanying adult .

Tags airlines Biden Department of Transportation family seating fees Pete Buttigieg Pete Buttigieg

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