Should I feel guilty for refusing to give up my seat to a family?

By | June 20th, 2012

No, you can't have my seat. / Photo by Wex Dub - Flickr
There are at least two sides to every story, and in the recent controversy involving kids and airline seating, the other side didn’t get a lot of airtime.

I’m here to correct that.

It’s voices like Carla Overbeck, who recently overheard a flight attendant ask a passenger if he wouldn’t mind moving so that a family could sit together. (As a refresher, airlines are charging extra for more desirable economy class seats, leading some to conclude that families would be separated — a claim I doubted).

“Of course I wouldn’t mind if I had a middle seat to give that up for another seat,” says Overbeck. “But I think I would be upset if I were asked if I were willing to move from an aisle seat. There would be a guilt factor if I said no, but I would be unhappy with myself and the airline if I said yes.”

In fact, there’s a largely silent majority of non-parents who who meekly suggested they shouldn’t have to give up their seat for a family. And that’s especially true if they’ve paid extra for a premium seat, they say.

As reader Jennifer Minchau, herself a mother, admitted “those who have paid for premium seats might be reluctant to give up their seat up for my special snowflake.”

All of which raises the question of who has more rights: flying parents — or paying passengers?

It shouldn’t ever come to this, of course. But it apparently has and it could happen with more frequency in the future.

So let’s go there.

No doubt, parents do enjoy special rights when it comes to air travel. Some carriers allow them to board early. Babies are offered a drink first, along with first class passengers. Parents with young kids are sometimes given bulkhead seats in order to manage a toddler on a long flight.

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Yet at the same time, airlines cater to those who pay extra. Even if you’re in the back of the plane, if you’ve shelled out $25 for an exit row seat, you have the right to that seat — maybe even a special right to the seat as opposed to the passenger who requested the exit row at check-in.

Airlines place their flight crew in a difficult position. They’re rewarded for their company’s profitability. Yet they’re also asked to keep passengers happy and to mediate any in-flight disputes, including those between parents who think they’re entitled to sit next to their kids and other passengers who think they’re entitled to the seat they reserved.

This money versus morality argument — oh, that’s something the airline industry doesn’t do very well.

I’m reminded of Raj Wadhwa, who was flying from San Francisco to Chicago on United Airlines with his wife and kids, ages 10 and 12. The flight was completely full, and his family had paid for the trip with miles. That’s an important detail.

“Once we were boarded – and we were about 10 minutes past the scheduled departure time, one of the flight attendants informed my wife that my 10-year-old was being bumped to make room for a revenue passenger with a higher status,” he says. “It seems the passenger who was bumping my daughter had missed his connection from an international flight and was not willing to take the next flight – even once he found out he would be bumping a 10-year-old – and the gate agent was going to allow this to happen.”

Related story:   Are you too desperate for an airfare deal?

Wadhwa and his daughter disembarked and took the next flight. He complained to United, and it send him a form apology and a $25 flight voucher.

The absurdity goes the other way. And nowhere can you see it on more consistent display than at my home airport, Orlando. Every flight is filled with kids on their way to a theme park vacation with parents who think they deserve to board first, sit together for free, and have the flight attendant tell them how cute their kids are, even if they are not.

The passengers who paid extra for their premium seat have a right to sit there. They have the right to not feel guilty when a flight attendant asks them to move in order to make room for a family, and they don’t feel like it. They shouldn’t feel bad for wanting to feel a little bit of comfort on what is arguably the most uncomfortable way to travel in America today.

But don’t fault these passengers or the parents or the flight attendants who have been put in a difficult situation. The blame for all this falls squarely on the shoulders of the airlines, whose managers obviously didn’t consider the implications of selling seat reservations.

It’s up to them to find a solution.

  • backprop

    My answer to your question is”neither”; people should sit where their reservations say they sit.  

    It doesn’t matter if they paid more or less, or if they’re an elderly mother on a fixed income who was just diagnosed with cancer going to visit her autistic grandchild on a once-in-a-lifetime trip with her emotional support dog.

  • Jonathan Potter

    Is there any reason the “family with young children” can’t pay for seat reservations? The two are not mutually exclusive.
    If I’ve paid extra for a specific seat, I expect to get that seat.

  • Lynne Rose

    I had a situation like this once. I was traveling with a man with Down Syndrome, and we got bumped from a flight because of mechanical issues. They got us on a flight, but not together. If he sat by himself, his behavior would be fine, but no one would understand what he was saying without me there to interpret. It could have been a long, uncomfortable flight for us and the people who were supposed to sit near him. The flight attendant offered “better” seats to anyone who was willing to move. These were seats that would have cost them a little extra. Two people jumped at the chance, it worked out well. 

  • commentfromme

    The Airlines should not be allowed to charge for seats. The Govt needs to step in here and stop this fee. It is absurd to by a ticket, which implies a seat, and then charge more with an additional cost. The only way to force the airlines to stop this absurd fee behavior is to refuse to move, and to force the airlines to deal with the mess…..until they are forced to back off. I think every parent should seat the kids wherever in the plane the airline puts them, and let the airlines see what happens next. Or the airlines can start an automatic mandatory extra charge for all children under the age of 13, and all disabled adults who need assitance,  in order to be given seating guaranteed with a custodian. What a muddle. The airlines are digging their own grave and begging for more govt oversight and intervention.

  • Chris_In_NC

     If I’m traveling solo, I don’t mind helping out by moving seats.

    However, if I am traveling with my family, I absolutely will put my family first. Then again, I am one of those suckers that pays extra for choice seats and/or early boarding. Since I am paying extra for these “perks” my sympathy and desire to move seats vaporizes.

    If you are traveling with young children, why would you not invest in a few extra dollars to maximize comfort (ie take non-stop flights, don’t book tight connections, pay extra for desired seat assignments)

  • tokay1

    Is that Carla Overbeck, the soccer player?

  • NoJets

    Some of the cases involve families who book late. Even in the days of “free” seat assignments, the choice seats went first, so it wasn’t unusual to see only single/middle seats scattered across the seat map. Somehow then it was never important enough for Congress.

  • JT

    Neither…and both.  The airlines created this mess with the additional fees and such.  Let them figure it out. 

  • sdir

    Didn’t we already cover this in another recent article? 

    I don’t understand the point of “premium” seat reservations.  If window or aisle seats are such a precious commodity, why are families required to pay a premium for the middle seat as well when they reserve?  Oh right, it’s a profit center.

    I don’t blame a family for refusing to pay an extra 60 bucks apiece so they can reserve seats together.  But I’d also expect the family to arrive at the airport early to make it easier for the airline to assign seating together.  That’s just common sense.


  • emanon256

    I think this problem all stems from the fact that airlines are cutting back flights to make sure planes are at or near 100% capacity. I have not had an empty seat next to me in about 4 years now. Something that used to be very common. However, when people book, they do have options depending on how and when they book.

    In Chris’s last article on this, he said the airlines were limiting a very small number of seats to the “pay for premium” seats. But people who book last minute, use sites where you can’t pick a seat, or simply skip the seat picking process have only themselves to blame. My mother-in-law
    still uses expedia exclusively despite my constant advice not to. She always ends up on code-share flights, and even when she isn’t she is usually never allowed to pick a seat until check-in. She is always in a middle seat in the back. My theory is that a lot of these families are doing the same thing, and when they get their seats assigned at the airport, only middle seats are left, and then they ask people like me to trade my row 7 aisle seat for 35B in the middle.

    I voted for people who pay extra. Families have the option to book early and use the airline site or a real agent so they can pick seats, and in the event they book late simply can’t find seats together, they can look for a different flight/route, or they can still pay to sit together like anyone
    else who wants a front aisle or window. It’s not just families after all who have to pay extra to sit together. Friends, buddies, co-workers, everyone who books late and can’t find seats together, usually has the option of paying more to sit together. So why is it the families who are crying? I think people who don’t look into this when booking, and wait until they get to the airport, are creating the problem for themselves. Sorry if I sound harsh, but I am sick and tired of always being asked to move to a rear middle seat, and then getting guilt laid on me about how I am separating a family. I didn’t do anything to the family.

    As far as the United case, that’s just BS (what united did, not the story). I have a friend who was an FA with United (She quit BTW, because of the merger). And I posted the boarding / bumping rules from her handbook here in Chris’s last article on bumping. Sadly, this could have easily changed post-merger. But in the past the order for involuntarily denying boarding was status, fare class, check-in-time. And it stated that award travel is considered full-fare for fare class purposes. Also, I recall it saying to not split PNRs, so they would start with travelers traveling alone first. And of course, they have to ask for volunteers before bumping anyone. I am shocked that United would bump the 10 year old daughter, that is just not right, and the compensation they gave her is an insult. United should be ashamed. They are really going downhill fast.

  • Your poor planning doesn’t make it my emergency.

  • emanon256

    The Airlines should not be allowed to
    charge for seats.

    Whats next?  Should I not be allowed to charge for time and materials?  I’m sorry, I am usually okay with some regulation, but this goes way too far.

  • technomage1

    If you want the desirable seat, you pay for it. And if you paid extra for a seat, and get bumped, the airline owes you a refund – via whatever method you paid for it. No vouchers or miles or space bucks if you paid cash – you deserve cash back.

    I understand the sometimes the best laid plans fall through – I’ve missed connections before myself due to weather/mechanical difficulty even though I usually leave 3 hours between connections. In those instances, if I paid extra for a premium seat and could not get an equivalent seat on the new flight – I also expect a refund for that extra expense.

  • Pembroke Kenner

    On a recent Intl. flight I had a window seat, and was asked by a parent if I could switch seats with her younger child who was on the other side of the aisle. I did so willingly, as it would be easier to stretch my legs, and take those necessary restroom breaks on the 12 hour flight. When the flight attendants began to serve the meal, I noticed that neither the parents or the child that I switched seats with were in my previous seat or row, but had moved to the back of the plane after switching seats with other family members, none of which had children. They had apparently did seat switching with several other passengers, and it made a mess of those who ordered special meals (kosher/vegan/seafood/gluten-free), as no one was supposed to be where they were, and the ran out the vegan meals due to all the changes. The Purser came up to try to see what had happened, and they remained silent, but I informed him of what had happened, as they really put an inconvenience on the other passengers and attendants.

  • john4868

    I choose C. You should receive the seat that you were assigned when you purchased your ticket. If seats weren’t available together when you purchased, you made a poor decision that isn’t my fault.

    Why do the airlines have to be special? There are a number of other situations in life where we purchase seats for time specific events (MLB, NFL, concerts, etc). I have never heard of a family purchasing seats scattered throughout the stadium and then just expecting people to move or have the ushers force them to move so they can sit together.  Can you imagine someone with their little daring in the nosebleeds expecting someone else to give up the front row? Yet, we expect this all of the time on an aircraft.

    What about weather delays? MLB has the equivalent in a rainout. In MLB’s case (or at least our local team), you have the opportunity to exchange your ticket for a like ticket at any future game where there is a seat available. The airline equivalent would be that you have the opportunity to fly on a future flight that has seats available. If they aren’t grouped the way you want, you can turn it down and fly later but you accept the flight and the seat assignment together.

    For those that don’t read that often and think I might not “get it” because I’m not a parent, I have 4 yo twins and a 10 yo. I purchase my tickets months in advance. I don’t plan on the last flight of the day and my wife and I have a “bump plan” if it comes to it and we have to split up to get to our destination.

    Side Note on the UA situation. I’m willing to bet that it was a GS customer who wanted that specific seat. UA throws out their rule book when it comes to Global Services customers. It’s the only situation that make sense.

  • Cassondra Monique

    I am replying to this as a mom. It is COMPLETELY ridiculous to even put a customer in this position. If you have paid extra to sit in a seat you should never even be asked to move so that anyone can sit together. On the other hand, if a family wants to sit together and the person in the seats near them didn’t pay extra, the family should be allowed to sit together, because they have paid more (more people, more $$). However, if it is an airline that allows people to pick seats prior to a flight, it is up to the parents to ensure that the family is sitting together, not the flight crew or other passengers. On my last flight I took a first class upgrade. As I’m waiting for other passengers to board a father walks up with his son, and tells his 10 yr old to sit next to me before heading to the back of the plane. I was nervous that I was going to have to deal with a brat for the next 3 hrs but instead I just handed him my Nintendo 3DS to play with and we were both happy. 

    This all or nothing attitude being perpetuated on both sides of this issue is silly and childish. Not all kids or families are bad, not all single passengers are bad. Children shouldn’t be banned from flying and single adults shouldn’t be metaphorically slaughtered for wanting to keep the seat they paid for.

  • FrankPalmer

    When I was around 20 I was on a flight where the person behind me had a baby that they had on their lap.  When I reclined my seat it was almost touching the baby as the man was large and the seat spacing was small.  He complained and the flight attendant ordered me to not recline my seat.  
    I wouldn’t give in so easily now.  I think that there shouldn’t be any special rules because you have kids.  It’s not my fault you choose to have the baby on your lap.  

    I do agree though that they shouldn’t make you have to pay a premium to sit together.  This is a recipe for disaster.  As for changing seats what if I paid a premium for an aisle seat.  Will I be reimbursed???  Or the flip side if I say no what if the parent says ok well keep an I on Jimmy for me.  I will be in the back.  hahahahaha

  • Asiansm Dan

    I would never give up my seat unless they upgrade me to better class cabin. And not feel a bit guilty, in contrary.
    Not my problem,  why should I help Airlines to make money. Airlines have all the personnel and technology to manage the group or family.
    For example, hand out Upgrade Certificate for the next flight and lot of people will be happy to give up their seat for another. Airlines should do their job to keep traveler happy, not ours.

  • emanon256

    I hate seat negotiators! 
    I was on a flight recently where I was in an aisle, and the guy in the window asked me if he could change seat with me so he could sit across the aisle form his wife.  I usually prefer aisles, but it was a short (3 hour) flight and he seemed like a nice little old man and I felt badly for him, so I agreed and moved to the window.  A few minutes later, he went up a few rows and I heard him offer to trade seats with another passenger and said it was “Aisle for aisle, so would you trade now?”  The guy then came back and took my old seat.  I felt so used.  The old man used me to get my seat to use it to negotiate with someone else.

  • emanon256

    Best analogy ever!!!
    I wonder how many people expect a refund when they miss their baseball game for reasons, z, y and z?
    And good call on the GS, I have been randomly moved for GS before as well, which is quite annoying.   

  • Asiansm Dan

    By the way, I doubt if all the 3 persons are on the same PNR, they can discriminated bumped. It’s a question of timing and technicality. To split reservation and re-ticketing will take some times and doing it at the gate is an acrobatic manoeuvring. So I guest the Wadhwa’s are on differents PNR.
    Again, Award ticket usually have one of the best priority (by the Class Code) for Upgrade just after the Full Y class, I questioned the reason of bumpind is because of the Award Ticket. When I travel in Economy Award Ticket, I got upgrade 1 out 4 times, and on UNITED, I always have the Economy Plus seat.

  • Abbywoo

    Steve, sometimes it isn’t poor planning.  I buy tickets well in advance and pick seat assignments at the time of booking.  Sometimes the airline changes my seat assignments anyway (and the fight begins…).  Most recently my husband and I have 2 tickets purchased last January for a flight in July.  Last week United changed our seat assignments and split us up, with no change in aircraft, flight time, flight number, etc. After an hour of “discussion” with United, our original seats were given back to us.  What do you bet United tries switching them again before we fly next month?  SO.  No, there is no poor planning on our part, so your emergency doesn’t apply.

  • BillCCC

    I usually pay for premium seating since I prefer some seats over others. I would expect to be compensated if I was asked to switch to a less desirable seat for any reason. I would not feel guilty about refusing since I paid extra for a reason. There is nothing stopping another passenger or passengers from doing the same thing if they must sit together. 

  • azevedan

    I actually resold my extra-cost seat in one of these situations.  Someone asked me if I would switch out of my exit-row aisle seat (as part of a complicated 3-way seat switcheroo so his mother could end up sitting next to either him or his wife).  I would’ve ended up in a regular middle seat.  I politely declined.  He then said ‘look, I’ll give you $100 bucks for it’.  Since I had paid $89 for two flight legs’ special seating (and I’d already vacated the first leg special seat for a family), I figured ‘why not?’  – the airlines have turned it into a commodity, I have no compunction about reselling it.  And yes, I did check that the Ben was real.

  • azevedan

    Sorry – disagree with you here.  Unless you’re on an overnight flight, reclining is evil.  People are squished in already with the ever-shrinking seat pitch. If, after I asked you politely not to recline, depending on the circumstances, you’d probably have a very uncomfortable flight if you didn’t. And, no, I never recline, unless it’s the overnight flight. And I always warn the person behind me that I’m about to do it.

  • mythsayer

    Sorry, double post.

  • JenniferFinger

    Possibly because I don’t have the money to do so?  Travelling with young children is expensive in and of itself, and having to be on a tight budget might well mean that I don’t have “a few extra dollars” to invest to maximize comfort, or the flexibility to not book tight connections or take non-stop flights only, especially when there aren’t any available between my points of departure and arrival.

  • Clint

    This actually happened to me on a flight about two years ago. I had paid for a premium seat in the first or second row of the airplane with my partner. We had already boarded and taken our seats when the flight attendant came up to me and TOLD me she was moving our seats to accommodate the person in the window seat and allow his wife to sit next to him because neither of them spoke English. I always go out of my way to book my seats as close to the front of the plane as possible, even if it means paying extra money. The flight attendant gave me a guilt trip about not letting them sit together…as she was moving me to an exit row. Her reasoning was that the exit row is considered a premium seat as well. Knowing that flight attendants are highly sensitive and ready and willing to kick anyone off a flight for any reason, I didn’t put up too much of a fight. But I’ve always been bitter since.

  • AirlineEmployee

    Totally agree with you here.   If more parents can just “bite the bullet” and let the screaming three-year old be put in a middle seat 10 rows ahead next to passengers 1K and Elite, who is going to stand for this??   Let it happen, make a fuss !!  Let the airline take the delay (something they despise) – forcing them to come up with a solution johnny on the spot.

    Am I going to now become the guardian of this strange toddler and be responsible for an oxygen mask or a toilet accident if the need arises ?? 

    It’s a simple solution that used to be done.   An agent would be assigned hours before a flight or a day in advance to preassign seats to families to keep them together.  Don’t know why it’s not being done anymore (where I work) ?????

  • elisarose

    This always seem to happen to me. I choose seats when I buy the tickets (months in advance) but when it’s time to check in, the seat assignment has changed. The option to choose seats when purchasing tickets seems to be completely meaningless.

  • AirlineEmployee

    It’s not a few extra dollars – family of four paying (ie.), $30 each for the extra legroom or window/aisle – you’ve paid for your seat when you bought the ticket, why are you paying this extra $120 for the “security” of sitting together ???   Passengers need to rally and protest this nonsense.  
    I refuse on principle to ask people to pay for the extra legroom if that is the only thing left.  I will just seat them there on default (which most agents do anyway).   

  • Bernard Rappoport

    I would NEVER move out of a seat that I had paid for unless I was given IMMEDIATE CASH PAYMENT by the F/A,…no vouchers, no excuses, no runarounds.

  • Why do people think that they can book certain seats and then get there and inconvenience someone else. I had this happen one time where I booked a seat and the FA’s moved a woman with a child to my seat before I got there and then wanted me to sit in the back of the plane, not the front where I had chosen the seat.

  • moonshin

    im tired of parents with kids thinking they get extra privileges. whether its the right for their little darlings to run rampant through a restaurant,the right to block traffic becasue their kids cant walk home from school and are to important to take the bus or any other thing todays parents do.  Id the parents dont want to pay the extra for the seat then they take their chances. 

  • mythsayer

    Okay look, I can see both sides and I will tell you that I REALLY DO NOT like children.  I really don’t.  And yet, I have one myself.  As some people have said “I like MY child.”  I am not really fond of other people’s children and I never have been.  I would rather pay someone to babysit than do that babysitting switch offs a lot of parents do (you watch mine, I’ll watch yours); so don’t think that I am child friendly in this debate.

    Even when I was single with no kids, I would have switched seats with someone so they could sit by their kid, mostly because I wouldn’t want the kid next to me.  I will repeat, I DO NOT like other people’s children (for the most part… don’t get me wrong…. I don’t hate them or anything).  Of course, “back then” airlines didn’t have these special premium seats, so I would have been a bit annoyed to be in the middle seat, but that’s about it.

    Now, I fly back and forth from Japan a lot because my husband is in the military and we live here right now.  I usually fly Delta.  Delta now has economy comfort seats.  They cost $125 each way on the Japan routes.  If someone bumped me from my $125 seat when I’d already paid $1500 for my ticket in addition, I would be really mad and I would DEMAND a refund.  It’s stealing to sell me something and not give it to me.  Trust me, I would raise hell.  I don’t care what their stupid non-negotiable contract says.  I would be getting my money back.

    On the other hand, now that my daughter is two, I have to buy her a seat, but should I HAVE to pay more just to sit with my
    toddler?  SHE IS TWO.  She CANNOT sit with a random person.  So should
    we be penalized and forced to pay more if we “book late”?  What if I
    have a family emergency (my mom is disabled and my husband is in the
    military… what if, god forbid, he has an emergency)?  What if I have
    NO CHOICE but to “book late” and the only “free” seats are middle ones? 
    Should I be required to pay an extra $125 PER SEAT (on these Delta
    Japan flights) just to sit with my daughter?  Of course not.  I’m not
    saying the people who did pay more should be bumped, but are you
    seriously telling me that EVERY aisle and
    window seat is an extra fee seat now?  There are DEFINITELY seats where
    people could be moved from/to.  I’m sorry, but no one should be FORCED to
    pay more to sit with a toddler.  Now, a 10 year old?  Yeah, put that kid
    somewhere else.  Even a 7 year old.  But if the kid is under 5, it
    should be a requirement that the airline provide seats with the parents,
    if only for the sanity of other passengers. 

    This is not a black and white area.  There are shades of grey that most people seem to ignore.  “Your poor planning is not my problem” and “My 11 and 14 year old MUST SIT NEXT TO ME AND MY HUSBAND EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE ONLY THREE SEATS NEXT TO EACH OTHER IN A ROW BUT I DON’T CARE, I WANT THAT EXTRA SEAT RIGHT NEXT TO MINE BECAUSE GOD FORBID THERE IS AN AISLE IN THE MIDDLE!”  That’s obviously an exaggeration, but it seems like these are the two viewpoints and no one considers the middle ground.  There are situations where people can’t book months in advance, etc.

    This is a crappy situation created by the airlines.  But, I guess bottom line what I think is that people who pay for their seats should get their seats OR get a full refund and every other seat is up for grabs for moving people around.  And not every window/aisle seat should be a paid seat (so far, they aren’t, but you never know in the future….)

  • Pdoggs

    Because it’s not a matter of just a “few extra dollars”.  A family of 4 heading to Florida on a flight with 1 layover.  $25 per person per desired seat x 4 flights = an additional $400.  I’m not a parent and even I don’t think that’s fair.

  • cscasi

    Pre-planning goes a long way to alleviate those things; not always but almost always. If you travel at the last minute, you have to take your chances. If one does not have the “few extra dollars” then one must accept what is available or perhaps make another type of travel arrangement. It is not incumbent on other paying passengers to feel obligated to cater to the desires of others.

  • backprop

    You think because the family paid extra, they deserve whatever seating arrangement they want?  I don’t get that.  If your reserved seat is usurped by someone who wants to sit with the family, it’s the individual who is displacing you, not “the family who paid extra” (!?).

  • mythsayer

    What happened to “my seat is included in the price of my ticket”?  The issue here, IMO, isn’t what happens with the people who bought premium seats.  I agree that they should get their seat.  The issue is that if there are SO MANY premium seats that the ONLY seats left are middle seats, why should a family be REQUIRED to pay extra just to sit together? 

    If I travel alone with my husband, I don’t HAVE to sit next to him.  I might want to, but I don’t have to.  We can both take care of ourselves.  Thus, the extra $60 per seat or whatever is optional.

    My two year old cannot take care of herself.  Thus, now I am being FORCED to pay extra to sit next to her, unless I want to take my chances at the airport.  I don’t like taking chances, so now I’m forced to pay to avoid a bad situation later. 

    It’s just a policy that is essentially targeting and harming families.

  • backprop

    I guess if you don’t reserve two seats together then that’s what happens.  Sometimes I want to fly out to meet my mother but they say the plane is full.  I like seeing my mother.  I choose to visit her.  Does the full plane mean I should be separated from her?


  • john4868

    I think it happened to me too. I have status and all of a sudden we lost one of our seats for an upcoming flight. When I called the premier desk, I was told that they couldn’t undo the change or move us back. We had to move back a row in order to get three seats together again. 

    Just one of reasons I check our seat assignments at least weekly.

  • Kat Parr Mackintosh

    The question actually comes down to: “Do you want to sit next to someone else’s unaccompanied child?”  Because that’s the reality of the situation.  If you don’t want to give up your seat then you potentially end up sitting next to a kid who’s not your responsibility and who you have no chance of stopping if they kick off…  

  • $16635417

    Speaking from my experience and observations, families were split up and kids ended up seating alone before airlines charged for seats as well.

  • backprop

    Sorry, not anyone else’s problem.

  • Pdoggs

    I have to disagree with you that ALL reclining is bad.  I see nothing at all wrong with reclining the seat back a bit to make myself more comfortable.  No I don’t recline ALL the way back (unless it’s an overnight thing) but I sure as heck aren’t going to sit at an uncomfortable angle just to make someone else happy.

  • Debbie Dubrow

    If something were to go wrong in flight, having children seated away from the adults responsible for them is a safety issue.  That should take precedence over any other seating issue.

  • mythsayer

     Families are crying because they are forced to pay extra, unlike friends and co-workers.  I wouldn’t pay extra for a 10 year old, but, like I said in my post, my toddler can’t sit by herself.  Even a four year old might be okay, but never a two year old.  She can’t even open her own snacks most of the time.  And not everyone can always book the needed flight at the right time. 

    Oh and I agree about bumping the 10 year old.  That is simply ludicrous.  That should be illegal.  Unless the airline wants to take responsibility for babysitting that kid, it should be allowed.

  • mythsayer

    Double post again… it’s too late here.

  • mythsayer

     I have also had airlines randomly change my seat.  I ALWAYS pick a seat WITH my daughter and I have had my seats changed for no reason before the flight.

  • sirwired

    If you want somebody with a good seat to give it up, you better be offering up an aisle or window.  Don’t go offering up a middle seat in the back of the plane and expect anybody to take it.

    If you want to sit as, say, a pair, pay for two aisles if necessary (assuming, of course, you can’t find two adjacent seats.; you should be able to get one of the two occupants of the adjacent middle seat to give theirs up without too much hassle.

  • Frequentfliermom

    And why should someone who does have the money have to pay for their tickets, and seat assignments have to pay for you and your children? I have flown with my children  since they were infants, and all over the world. If I couldn’t afford seat assignments, I would choose to fly less, and only go when I could make sure to sit with my kids.

  • azevedan

    It’s not making them ‘happy’….it’s making it tolerable for everyone in a shared-misery situation. I’m not a tall or large person, and I’m squished when I have the misfortune to be in a regular economy seat.  I can’t imagine how it feels for someone tall.
    You’re right, in most cases, a 1-click recline wouldn’t be a big deal, and I’d probably let you by unmolested. Too much of the situation, though, is an instant smash-back to full recline.
    My personal favorite was when someone on a flight from DC (already in the bulkhead row with extra room) did it to me behind him.  I politely asked him if he would please not recline so much, as there was very little room already.  As he turned slightly to upright his seat, I noticed it was my congressman…

  • backprop

    I’d tell the flight attendant that the passenger next to me was causing a disturbance and perhaps s/he should be de-boarded :)

  • sirwired

     If the “Premium” seats are free, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to sit together.  The only change is that those with early reservations will get good seats, while last-minute flyers get lousy ones.

    That means that families traveling together for a last-minute, urgent, trip (say to a funeral) would not be able to sit together.

  • backprop

    The answer to all the “Should I be forced to pay….?” questions, in my opinion, is… “Yes.”

  • cscasi

    Unfortunately, this is the way air travel is these days.
    If, for whatever reason, you make arrangements to travel at the last minute,
    you have to be willing to accept what is available or make other travel
    arrangements. If someone is kind enough to give up his/her seat so you can sit
    together, that’s great. If not, while you might not like it, that is the way
    things are today and will so remain unless the airlines are forced to make
    changes to the way they now do business.
    By the way, thank you for your husband’s service. I served over twenty years in the U.S. Navy and I know how getting to see one another whenever possible when the service member is deployed can be a real chore. Still, that does not entitle us to any “special favors”.

  • cscasi

    Well said!

  • mythsayer

    You didn’t support your answer.  WHY should I have to pay more?  I specifically said, sitting next to another adult (husband, friend, whatever) is OPTIONAL.  I AM NOT REQUIRED to pay more to take that flight.  Sitting next to my toddler IS NOT OPTIONAL.  I should not be forced to pay more just to take a flight with her.  That is the issue. 

  • mythsayer

    Do you have kids? 

  • john4868

    The seat that you wish to sit in has a higher demand than another seat. Basic supply and demand … Higher demand means a higher price so yes with more people wanting that seat you should pay more

  • mythsayer

     My point was that I don’t want someone with a “good” seat to give it up… I just want a seat, ANY SEAT, with my kid.  If I have a 4th row aisle seat, and the only seat I can get her is in row 25 in the middle and you can seat me with her in the last row by the bathroom, I will take that.  I’m not asking for any thing unreasonable.  But I do think it is unreasonable to not seat young children with parents.  There is ALWAYS a way to do it.  I don’t think someone who paid more should be bumped, though.  I think that’s wrong.  I also think it’s kind of wrong that seats in row 10, say, are “premium” seats.  Why are those seats so awesome?  I can understand the economy comfort seats on the Delta flights… you get extra legroom and free drinks (liquor, not just wine and beer on the overseas flights), but the random seats in economy (not bulkhead or exit, I get why those are more)?  Why are those more expensive sometimes? 

  • blc51

    I was once on a flight where a woman deposited a 4-year-old in the middle seat beside me and proceeded to the front of coach where her seat was.  Two uniformed, but off duty flight attendants sitting in front of me saw this and started chastising the mother for not sitting with her child.  They then asked if I would change seats, which I did.  I ended up in a middle seat next to a man spitting tobacco for the rest of the flight.  It was a toss up whether he or the unsupervised toddler would have been a worse seat partner.  The thing that bothered me was that neither of the flight attendants considered, or were willing to give up their seats to fix this situation.  One of them stopped by my seat later to say “thank you”.  She saw the misery I had exchanged my nice aisle seat for, but didn’t offer to find me a more comfortable seat, or even offer a free drink for my inconvenience.  So, no, I would not feel guilty about not giving up my seat for a family in the future.  The airlines are the ones who should be concerned about their ability to show some compassion. 

  • mythsayer

     If no one pays for their “premium” seat, then in theory no one is harmed by being moved to another seat.  That’s the point I’m making.  If you paid $60 for your window seat, then yes, I see why you’re mad.  If you just happened to click on your window seat a couple days before I managed to book my “middle seats only available” but you didn’t pay anything for the window seat, then yeah, I’m going to be a bit irritated that you can’t sit in the middle seat.  Remember, I have to sit in a crappy seat, too, just to sit next to the kid.  She gets the good seat.  I get the crappy seat.  I’m sorry, but I think it’s incredibly selfish to insist you get to sit in your “I didn’t pay more for it” window seat just because you don’t want to move to the middle.  I said it before… I don’t like kids, but I would NEVER for a toddler to sit without a parent.  NEVER.  That’s just wrong.  And this is coming from someone who vehemently hates any seat but a window seat. 

  • othermike27

     Scalping Seats??

    What a hoot!  Hey, wait – this could be a whole new market opportunity for the road warrior. On second thought, once the airlines catch wind of it, they’ll want to own all the action. Oh well…

    One time, settled into my aisle seat as everyone was boarding a full plane, I watched a couple board at the end of the crowd and fumble their way to separated middle seats, with the woman next to me.  They made such a fuss just getting down the aisle that we knew what was coming next.

    Sure enough, they started asking whether anyone was willing to trade seats so they could sit together.  The woman added an extra kicker – they were newlyweds!  (The BS meter started twitching here, but never mind that.)  I said I would be happy to change to any other aisle seat – but only an aisle.  They couldn’t find any other takers, so they finally had to take their middle seats.  But then she says to the guy, “Since he (meaning me) was so rude to us, I don’t even want to sit next to him.”  And they switched, and we flew and that was that.

    Was I rude? I didn’t think so.  Did I care to own their problem? Not really.

    On the other hand, I had an aisle seat on yet another full flight where I willingly gave up my seat. I’m 6 feet with fairly broad shoulders, and the guy in the window was about the same.  The poor guy in the middle was at least 6-3 and must have played football somewhere.  He went out of his way to avoid bothering either of us who were squeezed in next to him, and he seemed like a regular guy.  So I told him to take my seat rather than watching him twist himself into a pretzel for the next two hours.

    So why the different response in two similar situations?  I am much more inclined to help out or inconvenience myself to assist someone who makes every effort to address their own situation without expecting others to step in and help them.  The people who expect others to help – not so much.

  • Jennifer Minchau

    Wow, I’m quoted in the article. I’m truly honored :) I sent this to a coworker and he asked if my “special snowflake” was my husband or my 2 year old.

    As an aside, some of you have said that families should book far in advance and do the required planning. I agree, but sometimes the best laid plans can even get screwed up when your original flights get changed. We are planning another trip to Jamaica next June and will have another special snowflake for this trip. We’ll have our travel agent book our seats together, but I’m sure within the year we will be moved around. 

  • stevepy

    I was on a recent United flight from ORD back home to TPA where I purchased an extra seat for comfort, since I’m a bigger guy (middle/window seat), and paid extra for economy+ for added legroom.  The aisle seat was taken by a man traveling with his wife and two children (seated two rows behind us in economy).  When most people were boarded, he motioned for one of his children to sit with him, and I politely let him know that was my seat that I paid for – and showed him the boarding pass.

    He was determined to let me know that his child needed to sit there, even though I not only paid the cost of the extra seat, but the extra cost of the economy+ upgrade from the economy fare.  Ultimately, I asked him if he thought it’d be ok if a passenger sat on his wife’s lap, since they wanted to sit in that seat.  Thankfully, he got a clue.

    I agree with the comment below about “people should sit where their reservations say they sit.”  That extra seat may be reserved by someone that paid for it to enjoy some additional space, and they might not be as outspoken as I was to tell you about it.  Same goes for any seat that may come at a premium cost.  My sympathy also quickly diminishes when it comes to me losing out on things I explicitly paid for.  You know why – because the luck I’d have would mean that if I let the kid sit there, the guy turns around and complains that some “fatso took half of his kid’s seat…”  crying to Christopher about needing free tickets anywhere in the Continental US to get over his anguish.

  • Margery Wilson

    David Sedaris wrote a wonderful essay on this very topic, “Turbulence” if you want to read it here is the link:

  • backprop

    Right, I was going to edit but got sidetracked as I was doing so.  I was going to say that it’s “Yes” although it’s unfortunate.  Airlines are unbundling everything  and although it makes for more of a competitive and frustrating environment, people vote with their wallets; they see a base price that’s five bucks lower and they take it.  This is the consequence. Like John Baker pointed out, it’s supply and demand. When every bit of supply or demand is milked for a few extra dollars, that is the result.

  • mythsayer

     I don’t have sympathy for two adults… I do for children, though.

  • LadySiren

     Sorry, I have to disagree with your assertion that the rest of the world should accommodate you. If you choose to take a child who cannot be separated from you on a flight, then YOU need to be the one to take responsibility for that action. I can see bending this a little in a time of a true emergency but for just normal air travel? You and your family don’t take precedence over anyone else, sorry.

    It’s absolutely ludicrous to suggest that my world revolve around your situation, especially if I’ve paid extra for a premium seat. Put on your big girl panties and take responsibility for your choices. Don’t expect me to make exceptions for you.

    And before anyone decides to call me anti-family, I have five kids. The difference is that I don’t demand special treatment for my special little snowflakes.

  • Having kids costs money. Tuition. Housing. Clothing. Food. Think of this as one of those expenses. Why should someone else be disadvantaged because you chose to have kids? Your choice. Your expense. But the easiest solution is to book early or check-in early. Chances are ONE of you will have an aisle / window seat. I’m sure someone with a similar seat would be happy to exchange premium seat for premium seat. Book late or check-in late, then pay extra if you feel it’s important to sit together.

  • mythsayer

     For God’s sake… how about we just charge for the privilege of reclining seats?  And opening or closing window shades?  The point of this entire argument is that airlines are charging for pointless things!  I’m not stupid; I understand supply and demand.  But when I’ve already paid for a ticket to get on the plane, I don’t think there should be charges for aisle seats in economy class!  I would prefer to go back to the “first come first served” thing from 20 years ago!  At least then I had some power over the seat I got (i.e. I got to the airport early) and I didn’t have to pay for it.  I understand the new “economy comfort” type seats (I only fly Delta usually, so I don’t know how the other airlines work these things, but I think they have them too, now), but that’s an entire section where you pay more for extra legroom and stuff, but to just charge extra for a random window or aisle seat is stupid.

  • backprop

    And thank you for booking an extra seat!

  • mythsayer

     I agree with this… you paid for the extra seat.  It was yours. 

  • backprop

    Yes, but fortunately they’re not there when I fly for business.  For pleasure, there’s Southwest where all this stuff is avoided, and we can check luggage to boot.

  • naoma

    I have refused to change my aisle seat.  Usually I have booked way ahead and just say “no.”  Once it was a couple of their honeymoon and I said:  “They have their lives together — an hour or two apart won’t hurt 
    them.  Call me “snotty” but that is my seat!

  • backprop

    I’m 6’1 and do not have a problem with someone reclining.  I think a lot of the “I’m not tall but I’m squished” results from people not putting their rear ends as far back in the seat as they can go.  It took me a while to figure that out.  If I’m slouching with my behind forward, my knees can touch a reclined seat.  If my rear is all the way in the back of the seat, I have inches to spare.  It’s night and day. 

  • RobynJacqueline

    If you are a family and want to sit together, then you should either pay to select your seats, fly on an airline with free seat selection, or take the risk. I also understand that travelling with children is expensive. If you can’t afford the extra cost of seat selection, then you should hold off on your vacation until you can afford it. If I pay extra for my seat, I’m not giving it up so sit somewhere else because you took your chances. I shouldn’t have to lose out because of your poor planning.

  • jet2x2

    You made the right decision.  I lost my carefully selected seat at the gate one time – they just switched me so that a family could sit together – and when I objected the gate agent informed me that I could either take it or go standby on whatever flights were available that day.  I ended up in a bulkhead seat being stepped on by parents who were walking their little snowflakes up and down the aisle to keep them occupied.   

  • LOL.

  • technomage1

    You were 100% right – and thank you for doing the right thing to begin with by purchasing an extra seat.

  • azevedan

     It’s not my knees, it’s the back of their seat in my face!

  • You could always pay for a premium seat just for yourself. I’m sure you can get someone in a regular aisle/window to switch with you.

  • backprop

    So why did you mention that you weren’t tall or large?  And imply that it would be worse if one was tall? And use the word “squished”?

  • azevedan

     Wow……to make a point that seats are small, pitches are close together, and I actually sympathize with others?

  • backprop

    “If you just happened to click on your window seat a couple days
    before I managed to book …but you didn’t
    pay anything for the window seat, then yeah, I’m going to be a bit
    irritated that you can’t sit in the middle seat. ”

    The operative word being “before.”  You are obviously very passionate about this cause, but I for one have a really tough time understanding why you feel that someone who books ahead of you should not have priority on the reservation.

    Do you ask people without kids at the grocery store to let you go ahead of them, indicating that it’s not your fault that they are in a much better position “just because they arrived a few minutes earlier”?

  • Chris Johnson

    I’ll move for anybody if I get bumped up to first class in exchange.  Outside of that, I booked the seat I have for a reason and don’t feel any guilt about splitting up a family.  You want to sit together, book ahead.  if you have to pay extra fees for that, it sucks but sooner or later the marketplace will take care of that problem, airline travel being the ultra-competitive business that it is.

  • flip44

    I had an aisle seat and was asked to move, and I refused. Another empathetic passenger agreed to move. I did not feel guilty. 
    As to the 10yr old that got bumped, what would the airline have done if the father said, OK, she’s now in your custody and your resonsibility,you have to take care of her: food.lodgings, etc. “Keep her comfortatable until we get back?”  Wouldn’t that blow their minds?I would have liked to have been there to see that. 

  • $16635417


    If I want to take the precious little ones to see the “Teletubbies! Live on Stage!”, and all that’s left are single seats, do I buy those and hope for the best? What if all that’s left together are the premium seats near the stage (extra money), but I wanted to buy the nosebleeds to save $? Do I buy the 4 scattered nosebleeds and demand the usher seat me in the front row?

    What if last year it was general admission and I got there early to get the good seats. Now, I have to pay extra because they assign seats in advance…who do I call to complain about the unfair change in business practice?

  • backprop

    I just tried to give some friendly advice for people (especially tall people) who feel “squished”  that happened to work for me.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And how do you do that when Grandpa just died and the funeral is in 5 days?

    And why are you so sure that “someone with a similar seat would be happy to exchange premium seat for premium seat”?  Trust me – not everyone is.

    I totally get that someone who paid for a premium seat shouldn’t have to switch to a non-premium seat.  Nobody should have the right to basically take your money away for nothing – which is what would happen if someone paid for a premium seat, then was pressured into giving it up. 

    But when there is no difference in the value of the seat In other words, you didn’t pay extra for it), people should not only be willing, but REQUIRED to move to allow small children to sit with their parents.  (Not teenagers, mind you…they can fend for themselves, in fact their parents will probably be happy NOT to be stuck near them!)

    I am stunned at the number of people who seem to think that their right to sit somewhere supersedes the basic rights of TODDLERS to not be put in a dangerous situation, alone and away from their parents, for hours at a time.

  •  I agree with you.  The airline sold you two seats, one for you and done for your toddler.  When you purchased your seat you disclosed this fact to the airline.  The airline is responsible for ensuring that you and your toddler stay together.  How they do it is their problem.  If they move backdrop and others to accommodate you, backdrop must remember that  at best, he is only entitled to a seat within the same class as he purchased.  He has no right to that specific seat so he needs to suck it up.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Except that that’s dangerous.  What kind of parent would put their child in a dangerous and upsetting situation to make a point?

  • Marilyn P Daggett

    Once on a flight a family had boarded after I did. Apparently they were the last to board. The mother marched up to my row with several kids in tow and one in her arms (not an infant – more like a toddler). Their seats were A & B in the row and I had seat C). The older daughter had a seat in the rear of the plane. The mother told me to move so her older daughter could sit in my seat and help care for the kids. I said I would only move if the flight attendant asked me to move. Then the flight attendant came up to me and accused me of being ‘difficult.’ I really wasn’t, as I explained, but I’ll be darned if I will be commanded where to sit by another passenger.  She should have ASKED POLITELY. Not done, as I explained it to the flight attendant. It was not about asking me to move; more like a response to HOW it was done. Not civil at all. Eventually I did move to the child’s seat and it was a better seat – away from screaming babies. What made it unpleasant was the WAY I was told to move and who instigated it.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And I will ask the same question I asked above:  how do you do that when Grampa died and the funeral is in 5 days?

  • This article is much ado about nothing, setting up straw-man issues, and fails to disclose how airlines work.  TonyA, where are you when we need you.

    First, you do NOT have a right to a particular seat.  Airlines sell seats within a class, and the airline can rearrange you within that class as it sees fit. It can even put you in another class.  This notion about MY seat is simply not true.

    Small children should not be unattended.  That should be a families right.  One does not need to purchase a premium ticket to assert a right.  That right ceases once the kid is old enough to sit unattended.

    It is the airlines responsibility to ensure that small children do no sit alone.  When the booking is made, the airline knows the child’s age and should be proactive in dealing with the situation.

    However, that people paid extra for premium seats should also be respected.  This the rearranging should occur with the non-premium seats.

    Remember, you do NOT have the right to any particular seat.  The GA has the right to rearrange folks for the smooth operation of the plane

  • backprop

    you got my name wrong, again, Craver.

  • ClareClare

    I book EARLY and always make sure that I have an aisle seat for specific reasons–not only my height, but also the fact that I once graciously agreed to move to a window seat and ended up with frighteningly swollen ankles (I was only about 35 at the time, so this isn’t just an old-lady thing). 
    People anxious to sit together might size me up and tell me, “you can just move, it’s not an issue for YOU,” because they feel competent to give me a full health diagnosis simply by looking at me for a few seconds… but I won’t, and I have good reasons for it. 

    I was once asked to move because two newlyweds were en route to their honeymoon, and they wanted to sit together.  Aw, isn’t that sweet!  Nope, sorry… 

  • JenniferFinger

    And just who made the claim that they are paying for anyone’s children? Not me.  All I’m saying is that it’s not always possible or practical for people to plan that far in advance or pay extra even if they have to travel with children.  It’s very easy for people who don’t have children or aren’t in a specific situation to say people should do this, people should have done that.

    And for the record, I don’t have children.

  • JenniferFinger

    Preplanning isn’t always possible-especially in bereavement or other emergency situations.

  • cscasi

    Then you should have “reserved” your seats earlier instead of waiting until someone else has reserved his/hers based on what is open at the time. It’s not the other perosn’s falt. You are entitled to your opinion of “selfish” but I wouldn’t move for you, either! If you don’t like it, that’s your problem, not mine. Other fliers do not owe you anything.

  • Michael__K

    Problem with the stadium analogy is that stadiums don’t generally let you cherry pick seats– seats are sold contiguously.   And the same seat is never promised to multiple people.

    That’s why I’ve never heard of a situation where a stadium had 40% of its seats unsold and yet it was impossible to get 4 seats in a row.  And that’s why I’ve never heard of a stadium usher telling a family with seats together that they need to separate and decide which half of them will miss the game/performance and have to return for the next day’s game/performance (and not necessarily sit together).

    If airlines actually sold seats like stadiums do, it would actually solve many of the issues.

  • I believe United’s bumping rules no longer consider status.  But separating a child from her parents is listed as a do not bump situation (i.e. either bump the child and parent, or bump neither).  No matter what, more than a bit of stupidity on United’s part.

  • JenniferFinger

     I never said it was.

  • cscasi

    It is sad,
    isn’t it that tragedies happen. But, those are not the fault of other flyers
    and they should not have to give up their seats to accommodate people with
    children who travel at the last moment. As for your opinion that people should
    be required to relinquish their seats so as to allow children to sit with their
    parents; that is your opinion and everyone has one.

    There are
    always “excuses” as to why parent’s should be given priority when
    they travel with small children. But, you just have to deal with things as they
    happen and not expect others to kowtow to your desires!
    And, if you are so concerned about “toddlers’ rights” rights not to be put in a dangerous situation, then please do not fly when seats together are not available; make other arrangements. Other flyers do not OWE you anything. If they exchange seats with you, it is out of the kindness of their hearts .

  • sershev

    I had an economy plus seat on United flight from San Francisco to Maui. I believe United has full rights charging for economy plus seats because this product offers en extra leg room for people who are willing to pay for it and they are loosing on a number of seats they can have on the aircraft. Often when there there are unsold economy plus seats and there are still people with unassigned economy seats they might get those seats for no extra charge at the gate. When I got to my seat (isle seat in economy plus section) there was a person in my seat as well as a teenager and 10-12 yo kids in the seats next to mine. An adult seating in my seat asked if I wouldn’t mind to switch to a seat in the back of the plane. I said no, because I paid an extra fee for the economy plus seat. If they wanted to have three seats together they should ask people in the back to move to economy plus section. They didn’t do it and all just gave me an attitude that I am a heartless and trying to separate family from seating together. Then on purpose as soon as the seat belt sign was off they were doing a musical chair switching seats through the whole 5 hr flight. And apparently there were more than three people traveling in that group because I kept seeing new faces passing by me all the time. If someone is traveling in a large group please respect others: try to get tickets in advance when there is a good seat availability; check available seats before purchasing ticket and consider an alternative flight with a better seat selection; when you asking someone to switch seats with you to seat together, consider to give up a better seat; pay extra for extra leg room/recline etc. like most people do; or don’t flight at all.

  • cscasi

    “It’s just a policy that is essentially targeting and harming families.”
    You are entitled to your opinions, but this is a bit over the top, don’t you think?

  • JenniferFinger

    Just for the record, I don’t disagree at all with the proposition that people who pay premiums for their seats should get first priority on them or that it’s a good idea for people with kids to book early and/or being willing to pay more.  I do disagree with the judgmental comments I’m seeing from people who think it’s always easy, possible, or practical for parents to do that.  Sometimes it is not.

  • Julie Northrop

    I am a mom, and I do feel that it really depends on the age of the child on whether or not a person should willingly give up their seat.  If the kid is under 5, then yes I would hope that a person would want to switch seats so they could sit with their mom. If the kid is 9 or older then, no I wouldn’t expect a person to willingly give up their seat.  I usually have no problem switching seats with a parent regardless of the age of the kid because many times kids are nervous fliers.  However, after my last experience with switching seats for a family, I won’t do it again regadless of the age of the kid.

    I was politely asked if I would switch seats with her 4 year old so they could sit together. The kid was in a window seat, so I didn’t mind.  That was until the kid continuously kicked the back of my seat. I calmly asked the child to stop, nothing. The kicking continued. I calmly asked the mother to ask her child to stop or I would get the flight attendant involved. She apologized, but did nothing. He kicked my seat one more time, and I turned out and yelled at him to KNOCK IT OFF.  The flight attendant came over, I explained I had switched seats with the kid and he was kicking my seat which was causing me pain. I said I’ve asked the mom to get her kid to stop, she did nothing and I wanted to sit in my seat I paid for.  The flight attendant said that was fine, and the mom became hysterical begging me to change my mind, but at that point it was to little to late. She glared at me the rest of the flight, but I didn’t care. 

    Bottom line, switching seats for a family shouldn’t be an obligation on an innocent person. If that person nicely decides to switch, that is great. However, it shouldn’t be something someone is forced to do because you want to sit with your kid.

  • jim6555

    If all of the airlines used the same boarding system as Southwest Airlines, families sitting together would not be a problem as long as the family checks in 24 hours in advance. For an explanation of how Southwest’s boarding process works, go to this link: 

  • JenniferFinger

     Wow.  I’m glad the flight attendant got you your seat back.

  • emanon256

    In my many many miles of travel, I have found the unaccompanied children to be far nicer and more polite then their parents.  I have had to sit next to someone’s 2-6 year old several times because the child and parent were both in middle seats and I refused to move.  The parents have often said that their kid is my problem and huffed off.  So far, this has not been a problem.  The children are usually polite, have things to entertain themselves, and don’t encroach into my space.  The older ones can even have a decent conversation. The second the parent comes around, the child acts up and the parent acts all annoying.  I would rather sit next to someone else’s child than move to a middle seat, and I sure as heck would take the child over the annoying parent.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Wow, I was more than a little blown away that the airline would even begin to agree that a 10 year old was being bumped!  Really?  

    Of all the other passengers on that plane, it was the 10 year old they chose to remove (not bump, IMHO, which is what happens BEFORE you get on the plane) so “Mr/Ms Passenger I don’t care about anyone but me” can fly?  

    And the airline was powerless to tell the elitist flyer (who missed their connection – how does that happen with good planning for an international flight?) “I’m sorry but, we simply don’t have a seat for you on this flight.  Now take the next one or don’t go at all, it’s your call.”

    Wow.  Just, wow…

    Okay, whew, now – to answer Chris’s question…

    If someone is paying extra for a seat, then, no, they shouldn’t have to move nor should they feel guilty for declining to move so a family can sit together.  If the airline is going to separate families by asking everyone to pay extra for their seat (and when did a seat become a “luxury” item on a plane flight?) then the airlines need to deal with the consequences of the choices they made, not the passengers.

  • Cybrsk8r

    Well, this might sound calloused, but if I’m asked to move from a bulkhead seat, or exit row seat I paid extra for, I expect to be re-imbursed the $25 I paid for that seat, and I don’t care if it comes from the airline or the parents.

  • Then I’m sorry, but if you don’t have the money either don’t fly or don’t expect every other paying customer to bow to your desires or needs. Sorry as someone else posted, kids cost money. Vacations need a budget and flying, you know the way to get somewhere, should be included. Including the cost of upgrades, etc.

  • SooZeeeQ

    I fly Southwest, so all seats are the same, no frills.
    I have seen too many times families that are separated because they are not allowed to pre-board any longer.
    And they should for a couple of reasons – they will sit together, obviously – and people who do not want to be in the close proximity to children will be able to scope them out and sit where they feel more comfortable.

  • SooZeeeQ

    Ouch ~ you sure have your Grinch on.

    I moved once for a family and got the worst seat on the isle at the back of the plane, but at least I slept well that night.

  • AKRaven

    After 19 knee surgeries – most on my left – I have a hard time sitting in anything but “D” seats which allow me to stretch my left leg into the aisle a little bit as needed.  But at least three times a year (I travel frequently) I’m asked by someone to give up my seat because they’re flying last minute or standby and couldn’t sit with the person they wanted to sit with (child, co-worker etc.).  When I politely decline I’m called selfish, inconsiderate, rude and usually spend the next several hours suffering guilt along with nasty looks.  Along with the TSA and all the other challenges with traveling these days it’s making me wish I could travel by car more easily.  (I live in Alaska).  

  • Joe_D_Messina

    You make whatever choices your budget and time allows, the same as with anything else.  I have kids and have had to ask to trade seats to sit with them, so I’m not against your cause. But nobody owes me and my family anything. If they help out of the kindness of their hearts, fantastic. But it’s not other people’s problem how I budget and plan my travel.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow. It just amazes me that people are willing to put a small child in actual danger for no reason whatsoever. But I guess that’s what it’s come down to: people think that their right to not have to move to an equivalent seat takes precedence over putting a small child in a dangerous situation. And when that child gets hurt due to having no adult supervision, I guess they’ll feel no guilt.

    Humanity. I guess some have it, and some don’t.

  • $16635417

    Actually, for a concert I’m taking the family to this summer (Not Teletubbies!) I WAS able to pick my specific seats from a seat map. I could have left a buffer between me and the party next to me, but I didn’t. This particular venue is not the only one where I have seen feature.

  • bodega3

     I agree with not charging extra for  seats.  Just charge a fare and be done with it…no nickle and diming passengers.  I feel sorry for the FA’s who have to deal with all this.  Management needs to get away from their corner office and actually come to the airport and work with the public so they can see how their ideas really affect passengers and their employees.   

  • Michael__K

    Exactly.  I completely agree practically speaking.

    If 100% of aisle seats start to become “premium” seats, then one can concoct scenarios where respecting families and respecting premium seat holders is not fully compatible.  (In a 2-4-2 configuration, 50% of the seats are on the aisle).  But realistically, I doubt there will be much issue even then because I expect that relatively few passengers will be willing to pay an extra charge to reserve an aisle seat.

  • john4868

    Local MLB team has a seat map at checkout. I get to choose my exact seats. Since its a MLB website, I assume (bad thing I know) that it carries to other teams as well.

  • john4868

    @facebook-727596077:disqus You really need to break away from the DL world (trust me I live near CVG I know all about it). Try flying Ryan Air where the seats don’t recline in order to allow an extra row.

    Instead of complaining that you have to pay extra for seats that everyone wants, you could look at it that you got a discount for sitting in the seat that no one wants. Oh and since you fly DL you had better be careful of their new fare that only allows you to sit in the middle seat and your seat isn’t assigned until check in. The local newies were discussing it a few weeks ago.

  • john4868

    Why should the rug rat pay less for a seat simply because they are a rug rat? Shouldn’t they pay the same as everyone else?

  • sershev

    If you go to a funeral, seats next to each other for family of five should be the least of your problem, seat where available and mourn the Granma. And if there is a small child the family bring it to the attention of the gate agent that your child might require assistance in case of emergency and I am sure at least one adult will get a seat next to the child.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I don’t disagree with you. Parents should do everything in their power, even if it costs them extra, to be able to sit with their children without having to inconvenience other passengers.

    But that can’t always be done. We all know that even if they purchase premium seats, even if they book as early as possible, they may get to the airport and discover they were not seated together. They may not even have the opportunity to purchase premium seats – not every flight offers that. There are any number of reasons why a family may find themselves seated separately.

    I take no issue with the concept that 1) nobody who paid for a premium seat should have to give it up, and 2) parents should take every step possible, even if it costs money, to ensure they sit together.

    What I take issue with is the idea that if, having done so, they still find themselves seated apart, nobody seems to feel any imperative to help them out. The attitude seems to be “screw the kid – I’ve got my seat and I ain’t moving, let the kid get hurt I don’t care, not my problem.”

    That’s what I find disturbing.

  • Michael__K

    Which seat do you think Shannon wishes to sit in that has a higher demand?

    When my wife and/or I travel with our (under 4) kids, we’re always prepared to accept ANY seats together.  You can’t tell me that the non-reclining row at the back of the plane is in high demand.

    The premium seats are generally a small percentage of the seats on the plane.  There’s very very rarely (if ever) any reason for a conflict between premium seat holders and families who need to sit with their infants.

    If you want to gripe about parents who act as if they are entitled to premium/bulkhead seats because they have small kids, then be specific and confine your complaint to THOSE passengers.  Not the vast majority  of parents who do not behave this way.

  • emanon256

    But for the government to “not allow” it is going a step to far I think.  I am all for management getting out of their offices and boarding a plane, perhaps they could even work as an FA for a day.  Now that the airlines get the money, I don’t see them going back.  What I would do if I ran an airline is block a few rows to be assigned at the gate only.  That will ensure there is at least some space together.  People who pay for better seats win, families win, flight attendants win.  Why aren’t we already doing this?

  • $16635417

    You’re right. I now also recall seeing that option when I was considering taking in a Diamondback’s game on a trip to Phoenix. It was on the official MLB site for purchasing tickets. 

  • cscasi

    And, I will answer. You might have to get a sitter/friend to babysit and leave the youngster(s) at home. If you cannot or will not do that, then you have to accept what is available and not EXPECT everyone else to bend to your desires. 

  • cscasi

    Ahh, I love the “blame game”. Blame everyone else if things are not how you think they should be.

  • cscasi

    Leave the children at home if you cannot afford what is necessary to take them. Or, if you cannot live with that, then be prepared to accept what seating is available when you decide to fly.

  • bodega3

    I understand your take on this.  What I find disturbing is how the powers that be at the airlines are treating all of us.  I would love to invite one of the exec’s to my house for dinner, but of course that is just an invite.  They will have to bring the meal, the wine, do the dishes and listen to me complain!  There will also be a parking charge.

  • cscasi

    Because passengers get to select their seats in advance and by the time the day before or the day of the flight, arrives,  the agent does not have a lot to work with when the plane is almost full. That’s not too hard to comprehend is it?

  • Bill___A

    – People who pay for premium seats should get to keep them.
    – an effort to seat families together should be made.  However, the passengers asked to move should be asked to move to an equal or better seat.  For example, a passenger in an aisle or window should not be asked to move to a middle seat.  A passenger seated within five rows of an emergency exit should not be asked to move to a seat which is more than five rows from an emergency exit.
    – when passengers are bumped, families or groups should not be broken up unles they agree to it.  A father and one daughter should not be taken off the flight while his wife and other daughter are on the flight.

    Something should be done when there are parents with really bad kids that make noise.  The whole flight shouldn’t have to pay for poor parenting.  They are in the minority but one bad kid can ruin a transcontinental flight for an entire section or more.  At the very least, their names should be marked on a database and they should be monitored on a flight to flight basis and not allowed to continually disturb flights.

  • cscasi

    What parent would take their child if he/she knew there were not seats together avalable? The alternative is getitng a babysitter/friends/relatives to watch him/her/them while you go aand do whatever is necessary.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    You’re missing her point. At the last minute even if money were no object you still likely wouldn’t be able to get seats together.

    So, while I agree with the second part of your statement, a person’s ability to afford it really isn’t the issue.

  • Michael__K

    The airline doesn’t owe you the seat you reserved.  

    Did you read the contract?

  • cscasi

    The choice is yours. If you can’t stand the treatment, then by all means, find some other way to get where you need to go. People complained before when there was just a ticket price. They wanted to know what all was in it. Now they complain because everything is shown to them. I do not like seat fees either, but this is free enterprise and the law of supply and demand. As long as theere are enough willing to pay extra for  choice of seats, it will continue.

  • Bill___A

    I will try to get an aisle seat.  If I cannot get a aisle seat, I will probably book a different flight, take a different routing, or fly a different day.  There are kids on every flight.  I am not ikely to give up my aisle seat to anyone.  I don’t ask other people to give up their aisle seats, I make sure there is one available to me.

    People with toddlers need to make sure their needs are taken care of in advance too.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I’m sorry but your comment doesn’t even make sense. Who, pray tell, am I blaming? My comment doesn’t lay blame on anyone (other than the damn airlines for having this screwed-up system to begin with). It’s certainly not the fault of the parents who may have tried every option available to them to book seats together. It’s not the fault of the other passengers who want nothing more to fly comfortably and undisturbed. It’s not the fault of Grampa, who can’t help it that he died.

    This is not a matter of “fault”. It’s a matter of a screwed-up system that puts families in a position of having to rely on the kindness of strangers to keep their children from being placed in danger.

    But if you want to turn it into some ugly blame game, you go right ahead. I’m not playing.

  • LeeAnneClark

    THANK YOU!  Sometimes I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall trying to explain what I consider pretty simple concepts, to people who refuse to actually read what I wrote.  Good to know somebody took the time to actually read it, and comprehend it.

  • Bill___A

    It is the PARENT who is putting the child in “actual danger” by not getting a suitable booking.  It is not the fault of the other passengers.

  • Some people with PTS have a hard time flying in an enclosed plane so want a certain seat and will book a long time in advance to make sure that they have a seat that should help.  I know it doesn’t show on the outside but it is a real problem.  If I book a seat that I can deal with and someone asks me to move to a center seat, I have to leave the plane and that isn’t fair. 

     I really think it is the parents problem to find a seat early enough to allow sitting together and if the parent is careless enough to not care to book early then it must not be important to them and they are selfish to ask others to change seats.  I understand about the event of a funeral but most of the seat requests are just from families heading to vacations.

  • Bill___A

    Greyhound can get you just about anywhere in the country within that time frame.

  • Michael__K

    I’ve seen that recently too.  But you really CAN’T select just any available seats you want.  For example, you can get error messages like this:

    You’ve left one seat stranded at the end of a row or stuck between selected
    seats. Please leave at least two empty seats together.

  • john4868

    @Michael__K:disqus Delta is one of the carriers that is starting to look at charging more for all aisles and windows regardless of where they are located in the cabin. While I’m not a huge fan of this, it is understandable since aisle and window seats have higher demand than middles (I’ve never heard of a person wanting a middle).

    If you go back to original post, its about having to pay more to sit together. By definition, if she’s paying a premium for those seats, its because DL thinks people will pay more for them. Its one of the many reasons I’ve started avoiding DL but that’s another story.

    So here’s the summary of my entire comment. A parent shouldn’t have the fee associated with a seat waived because they are a parent with child. If those seats cost most, they cost more.

    I’m also a parent. Travel with my family bunches. We either book early to sit together without fees,  I pay the idiot tax to sit together because I didn’t book early enough or I find another flight.

  • Michael__K

    I think the more relevant question is why should the rug rat pay MORE for a seat simply because they are a rug rat who needs parental supervision?

    And why should a passenger who wants to pay extra for extra leg room be SOL because families that aren’t really interested in the extra leg room are pressured to snag all those seats to have a higher chance of sitting together?

    Notice I said a “higher” chance. If they actually expect that the premium they pay means they really will sit together (no if’s or and’s or but’s)  then they are over-entitled bastards who don’t know how to read a contract.

  • People need to quit being such selfish, mean spirited ogres.  Jeez, will it really hurt you all that much to let an 8-year old sit next to their mom?  I flew to New Orleans over memorial day weekend and I gave up my aisle seat so a kid could sit next to her mom.  And, yes, I got a middle seat.  So what?

    It’s a seat on a plane people, and everybody gets there at the same time. And besides, I did something nice for a kid and her mom, and that’s certainly a ‘good karma’ point for me.  

    I feel sorry for people who are such mean, petty snivelers who can’t do something nice if there isn’t something in it for themselves (including those who wouldn’t change seats “for an elderly mother just diagnosed with cancer going to visit her autistic grandchild.”)  

    (I assumed that was sarcasm in backprop’s post, BTW.  I sure hope I was right!)

  • Raven_Altosk

    I will have to respond with my infamous snark for this subject later since I’m currently in the hospital waiting for my daughter to be born

  • Jeez, Bill, get some help for that anger please.  

  • lorcha

    Why is that callous? Sounds perfectly fair to me. Why should you have to leave a seat that you paid for and give it up for free? 

  • john4868

    But they do allow you to pick. What keeps the airlines from doing the same thing?

  • john4868

    You go Daddy… Life as you know it begins today!

  • LeeAnneClark

    Bringing a small child on a flight is not “putting a child in danger”. Not allowing parents to sit with their child – THAT’S where the danger arises.

    As I’ve mentioned ad infinitum – parents don’t always have the option of ensuring they are seated together. Even if money was no object, even if time was no object, even if they believed they had everything all lined up, parents can get to the airport and find out that they are seated apart. It happens. THESE are the situations I’m commenting on. I don’t like having to keep repeating myself, but since you don’t seem to have comprehended my earlier comments: I do not believe anyone should have to give up their premium seat for a non-premium seat.

    And I believe parents should do everything within their power to ensure they are seated together. But that doesn’t always work. Pretty simple concepts.

    Once again, the utter lack of humanity in here is astonishing. But I’m starting to get used to it. Sad.

  • Rosered7033

    I think you are preaching (mostly) to the choir.

  • jet2x2

    I agree with you generally.  However, if all of the seat switching should occur in non-premium to be fair to those who paid more for their seats, and the airlines make most of the aisle and window seats “premium,” doesn’t that create a potentially insurmountable block to your very reasonable solution?   Don’t you think that to some extent the airlines have created this problem and have put the burden on the flight crews to resolve any disputes that arise?  I don’t think customers are completely to blame – it isn’t reasonable to assume that everyone can book months ahead, and they can change your seat selection requests anyway as you note (and as has happened to me).  So they say “You can pay extra for seats to avoid being split up” and then they say “The contract that you had no choice but to agree if you want to fly at all says we can move you to wherever we want for safety or operational reasons, and we don’t have to give your money back, and we can put your kid off the plane if we feel like it.”  Putting entitlement mentality aside, I think some people with kids who want to keep an eye on them during the flight, have a right to be a bit irritated with this.

  • backprop

    It was sarcasm, but sort of a running joke around here about who’s feeling entitled to special treatment :)

  • john4868

    If I want to take my family to a MLB game and there aren’t 5 seats together in the nosebleeds, I end up paying more so my family can sit together or we choose a different game.

    I’m paying the same amount for my child as anyone else sitting in that seat.

    Again, why should the child not have to pay if they are the only seats available?

  • Rosered7033

    Congrats! Hope she gets your brains & her mom’s looks!

  • john4868

    @LadySiren:disqus You said it much better than I could. Why is it that parents of bigger families see it differently than parents of 1?

  • Michael__K

    What keeps the airlines from doing the same thing?

    What “same thing?”  You mean not letting a party of 2 select a window and an aisle leaving a vacant middle?

    No objection from me, but it would be tough to enforce if there’s 2 separate reservations.

  • Michael__K

    Show me a MLB game where only 60% of the seats have been sold and yet you can’t find 5 upper level seats in a row.

    We agree that this happens all the time with flights, right?

  • Bill___A

    They don’t, but if they screw me around, I will fly on another airline.  I am not unreasonable.  I take care of my needs, I expect others to take care of theirs.  If there is a reasonable accommodation that needs to be made, fine.  Otherwise, no thank you.

    As far as the funerals are concerned, they happen every day.  If you have relatives or friends whose funeral you might have  to go to someday, be prepared for it.

  • jet2x2

    The contract argument is getting old.  A valid contract is one that is negotiated between two parties of equal bargaining power.  Contracts between one with all the power and one without any, are called “unconscionable” and frequently invalidated by courts.  So perhaps we should call the airline “contract” something else, like terms of service.  At least there would be no implication that the customer had a choice, because really we don’t.    

  • Bill___A

    It is expensive.  My parents didn’t have money for us to fly.  I took my first jet flight when I was 19.  Maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea.

  • SoBeSparky

    Just as the formerly ubiquitous “Baby on Board” yellow signs no longer dangle from car rear or side windows, children just don’t have the special status that airlines gave them in the past.

    Did New York Central or Amtrak for that matter give special status to parents with children?  Does Greyhound?  Does your local public transportation, including buses or subways, except for those “special needs” seats?

    This usually sorts itself out, as Chris notes, through common courtesy.  But when push comes to shove, then the airline must resolve the situation.  In the example cited, what would it take the airline to ask a passenger without checked bags (quite a lot nowadays) to wait for the next flight so the child could be accommodated with the family?  A $100 voucher, maybe?  That person technically is not bumped, but voluntarily agreeing to compensation to wait for the next flight.

    A good gate agent can resolve these things.  Even ploys like having the dad and kid standing in the aisle and asking if anyone will give up their seat so parent can fly with child will convince someone needing karma or willing to”pay it forward” to give up a seat.

    We do not need more rules, regulations or edicts from the government.  We need some empathetic airlines willing to work these things out.  

  • jet2x2

    Start saving up now so you can buy her a premium seat so you can all sit together…

  •  How exactly do you do that?

  •  I actually don’t mind paying a little extra for a premium seat. For example, on the AA regional jets, the exit row seats have 8-9 extra inches of leg room.  Well worth $25 to stretch out my legs instead of having my knees in my chest for the entire flight.  That charge makes it less likely than someone else will snag it.

  • cscasi

    nobody seems to feel any imperative to help them out. The attitude seems to be “screw the kid – I’ve got my seat and I ain’t moving, let the kid get hurt I don’t care, not my problem.”

    And you are entitled to your opinion, but it appears you are trying to hang a guilt trip on those who would not gladly offer to give up their seats for you, rather than you leaving your young children at home with a sitter/relative or friend to watch them while you attend a funeral. Is it imperative for these young chuildren (who are so young that they cannot sit apart from you) attend?
    I understand the passing of someone dear is not something one can plan for. But, when it does happen, one has to work with what one has and not expect others to accommodate them. If the others do, then God bless them. If not, I do not understand why you would belittle them by saying they are screwing the kid. That’s my point of view.

  • Michael__K

    Somewhere between one-third (3-3 configuration) and one-half (2-4-2 configuration) of the seats on most jets are aisles.

    If 30+% of passengers start paying extra to reserve aisles, then I agree, there could be a conflict brewing.

    I’m willing to bet that nowhere close to 30% of passengers will actually pay a premium to reserve an aisle.

    How should the carrier decide which of the vast majority of passengers who didn’t pay extra to reserve an aisle will sit in an aisle?

    Common sense (and the law) says that disabled passengers come first, — even at the expense of premium seat holders if need be.  After that, common sense says that families with very small children should not be separated (and an aisle seat is not necessarily even needed to achieve that).

    Personally, I generally prefer windows.

  • jennj99738

    That is why *everyone* should check their seat reservations at least on a monthly basis, and as the trip draws closer, weekly.  Equipment can change, computer mix-ups happen so it’s best to be proactive about this.  If you wait until you’re on the plane, there are many people, as you recognize in your quote in the article, who will not give up their seat for a worse seat. 

    I have been asked to switch seats, always to a worse seat, because I travel solo.  Families choose to fly together.  If there are no seats together when they book, they should book a different flight.  Do not expect special treatment from the airline or the passengers, and that is what this is–demanding families be treated specially. 

  • Julie Northrop

    I know, me too.  All the mom would have had to do was switch places with her kid so I wouldn’t get kicked and there would have been no issue after that.  The fact the parent didn’t care, and allowed her child to be rude, really soured me on switching seats for families.  I’ve been lucky enough with my own child that I’ve not been separated from him, but even if we were, he is so good that I never had to worry. Now that he’s 13, it wouldn’t be an issue if we were separated.  In fact, he’d probably prefer being away from mom. Give him a Nintendo DS and some headphones and he’s fine.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Just for the record, my kids are grown. So this doesn’t even affect me.

    My sole point is that parents have a right to fly with their children. They should not be faced with putting their children in danger to do so. As long as no one is being asked to give up a premium seat for a non-premium, I simply cannot understand someone who would refuse to make a move to an equivalent seat so that a child can be safe.

    It’s as simple as that.

    But as I’ve stated before, the lack of humanity out there is no longer a surprise to me. Sad, but unsurprising.

  • Sorry, completely factually and legally incorrect.  It’s a contract if all parties agree to the terms, whether implicit or explicitly. Negotiation is not relevant.  I’ts only unconscionable if one or more terms are so over the top that it shocks or sensibilities.  Its a relatively high standard.

  •  Makes sense to me as well

  • Congrats

  • Michael__K

    Wouldn’t it shock your sensibilities if you paid ~$40 for extra leg room, and then you didn’t get extra leg room or get your $40 back?

  • I have had a situation where a guy was sitting in my First Class before I boarded so as he could sit by his friend who had booked the seat next to mine.  I double checked my ticket to make sure it was my seat and politely asked the attendant to make sure that my ticket was correct and she politely informed the guy sitting in my seat that he was in the wrong seat.

    This guy huffed at me about being forced to move to the seat he had reserved instead of being able to claim mine.  He actually thought that if I saw him sitting there all comfortable and chatting with his friend I would take his seat instead.  I reserved the seat months in advance and that’s where I expected to sit.  His friend ended up moving to the empty seat next to him in the final row of First Class.

  • I didn’t vote in the poll because I don’t necessarily think either group should have priority over the other.

    But I will say that I wouldn’t want to sit next to someone else’s young child. (Heck, sometimes, I wish I didn’t have to sit next to MY child! :) And as much as I feel claustrophobic in those middle and window seats, I’d likely give up my aisle seat if the alternative was to be stuck dealing with someone else’s child for a four or five hour flight.

  • Jennifer Minchau

     I never asked anyone to give up their seat for me. In the original article the question was posed why would people/families pay for premium seat assignments. I responded that we paid for ours for the peace of mind that we would all be sitting together on the flight and that I didn’t want to rely on the FA or gate agent to handle the situation of seating our 2 year old with one of us. My particular situation arose after we were bumped off our original flight and we were on another flight with 3 middle seats scattered throughout the plane.

  • bodega3

    I don’t mind paying either, but it is the principal of it that is annoying. You already pay a price for that ticket based on when you purchased it.  Then to have all these add on is ridiculous.  It is like buying a coat.  You pay for ‘the coat’ but now you need to pay extra for the buttons and the pockets.  Component pricing for airline tickets has gotten out of hand…and it should never have been started in the first place!

  • Joel Wechsler

    Your conclusion is based on the false premise that all parents will have taken every step possible to make sure they are seated together There is no way to be sure that this is the case or is some of the parents have been too lazy or careless about seating. Therfore I would not feel obligated to give up my coveted, free aisle seat to a family. Also, you assume that a child alone is going to get hurt. If such a child were seated next to my kindergarten-teacher wife I assure you he or she would be looked after as well as by the parents.

  • backprop

    At least he had a ticket in First!  At first, I though you were going to say he was a steerage passenger (with the rest of us).

  • LeeAnneClark

    You are wrong. I am not concluding that, and I don’t appreciate you saying that I did. You are putting words in my mouth that I did not say. In fact I don’t see how any reading of any of my posts would cause anyone to assume that.

    OBVIOUSLY not every parent is going to have done all they can. OBVIOUSLY there are going to be irresponsible parents.

    And again (sigh…so tired of repeating myself), I am not referring to children who are old enough to care for themselves. But a 2 or 3 year old is NOT. And if you think it’s inconsiderate to ask a stranger to simply move seats, how inconsiderate is it to ask a stranger to take care of your toddler for 5+ hours on a cross-country flight?

    This is not rocket-science.

  • Julie, you just lucked-out by “drawing” the “right” flight attendant.  This situation could, easily, have gone the other way.  You could have had a flight attendant that would have sided with the obnoxious kid and then threaten you with arrest if you didn’t shut-up.  Kids that kick seat backs, and refuse to stop, are a major problem on long flights.  One solution would be to authorize the airline to impose an additional charge (at least $100), to the credit card used to purchase the kid’s ticket, as a fine.  In a similiar vein, an airline could add-on a “behavior deposit” when selling a ticket for any kid under 8.  If the flight attendant gets complaints, the “behavior deposit” is forfeited.  Another option would be to deny the kid and his parents boarding of their connecting flight–assuming a connecting flight has been bookked.  Southwest Air, according to a media report, has used the later strategy at least once.

  • jennj99738

    I wasn’t singling you out.  As I said, you recognized the issue and did something about.  This is something for everyone to think about. People need to be proactive about their seat assignments because they change.

  • bodega3

    No most travelers didn’t complain.  At some point they will stop bending to the lowest level of traveler and get back on track.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Please get a grip LeeAnne. If anyone is putting a toddler in a dangerous position, it is you.  Not me, not the person sitting next to me – just you.

  • gratianus

    I think that the overwhelming vote for paying passengers over families is not a vote against families or an endorsement of the market determining who is right but an indictment of the airlines for missing the unintended (but obvious) consequence of their ongoing attempts to squeeze every penny out of their customers.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    If you don’t have the extra money, please stay home. 
    You know, like the rest of us do when we are short of cash.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Um, YOU get a grip. I don’t have any toddlers. And I have no intention of traveling with any. I’m quite happy to be long-ago done with all of that.

    I just get offended at the inhumanity I see out there on bold display. But then, it’s not surprising. Just sad.

  • $16635417

    I’m glad to see the site you are looking at does that, the concert venue site I am going to allowed me take two seats, leave a middle and take two more. (Seats 1-2 and 4-5 leaving seat 3 open essentially). …I’ll add that I have them in my cart and am at the point to hit “purchase” and it still indicates the split seats I purchased.

    Still the same scenario if there were only two sets of 2 seats left in the cheaper section I wanted though. Do I pay more to get a better section for all 4 together? If I don’t, do I still expect the good seats for a free upgrade if they are still available upon arrival at the venue?

  • $16635417

    If seating was still included in the ticket, and you booked a flight that was fairly full at the last minute, you probably would have a tough time getting pre-assigned seats together anyway. 

  • $16635417

    Airlines are closer to a 80% load factor. An average stadium holds about 40K.

    5 seats on a 150 seat aircraft is 3.3% of the aircraft.

    3.3% of a 40K stadium is 1320 seats. Try finding 1320 seats together in a 40k seat stadium that is 80% sold.

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Flight attendants now act like the Gestapo.  One wrong move, and off the plane you go.  Especially those cranky, old United flight attendants.  You know who you are ladies!

  • gritchie

    Thanks Margery… I thought I’d read all of Sedaris’ stuff, but this was a new one on me.  :-)

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    Get rid of the guilt!  You have 19 more reasons than most folks not to give up you seat. 

  • emanon256


  • Michael__K

    @mikegun:disqus If it made any sense for 1320 people to insist on sitting contiguously then I guarantee you ballparks would arrange to make that happen rather than forfeit that revenue.

    The airlines genuinely don’t want the family of 5 to walk away from the 80% full flights.

    It becomes a double-talk shell game.  They’ll tell you everything will be fine — just  arrive early and they will work it out (and they do in my observation).  They might slip in a mention of the premium seating option (usually not), but that option still doesn’t guarantee you anything (unlike a stadium seat  purchase).

  • We were asked by a flight attendant to relinquish our premium seats –for comparable ones–so a family could sit together. We ended up in the back in seats that did not recline. When we walked past the seats we had given up we saw that the “children” were well over 21…

  • Michael__K

    The venue is going to want to fix that if people do what you’re talking about and seats go unsold as a result.

  • $16635417

    live nation website. I don’t know if it just the venue I check, or others as well

  • jet2x2

    Yes, sometimes people can’t make arrangements ahead of time.  When my father died several years ago I had very few choices for flights, car rentals and lodging because it was “high season” where he lived. But I did not expect to get what I would have preferred  just because I could not plan the trip ahead of time and was traveling because of a death in the family.  One thing this blog demonstrates frequently is that a lot of people don’t plan ahead, and still believe they have a right to an accommodation because of their “special status.”  I am sometimes willing to trade seats to help out a family or people traveling together, I think kids are pretty great most of the time, and I don’t think that toddlers should be separated from a parent or caregiver during an airline flight.  In fact on the latter I can’t imagine anything more terrifying for a small child.  But I want the decision to give up my seat to be my choice, not a demand or expectation from the parents, or meddling by a gate agent or FA.     

  • bodega3

    How exciting.  Remember to breathe :-)

  • judyserienagy

    More ridiculous political correctness.  If you want to switch seats, please do so and feel good about helping someone.  If you don’t want to give up your seat, you don’t have to feel guilty.  All flyers, individuals or families, need to get with the program when they plan a trip, they need understand the vast changes in airlines over the last few years and know that the rules can vary from day to day.  They to gather information on how to plan a good trip, including how to seat the whole family together (or not).  Personally, I need to get up every 20 minutes or so to stretch my bad knee, so I wouldn’t give up my aisle seat except for another aisle seat.  Nobody in their right mind would give up a premium economy or first class seat for a family who doesn’t know the rules.

    IMHO, the airlines have done something stupid again in their never-ending quest for profits, and once they realize that families are being affected adversely, they will make more changes.

  • jennj99738

    This is what I’m talking about in my post.  Like for like or better.  Why didn’t Mr. Huffy ask the guy seated next to him in the last row to move next to you?  Oh, no, he wanted a better seat than what he reserved.  This is almost always the case, even with families. And always ask first.  I won’t deal with seat poachers.

  • Lynda Lyle

    I am a parent. Now that our son is grown, he can sit anywhere he wants on the plane, as long as we get there together safely. If I had to pay extra to make sure he sat next to me on a plane when he was little, I would have done so. Parents are not exempt from all of these airline premiums. Why should they be? That’s the cost of life and we all pay it. No one should be made to feel guilty for not moving from a more comfortable seat to accommodate children. ESPECIALLY if they paid extra for it. Flight attendants should try to find someone who is in a comparable seat when they have to ask for people to move. I remember many times either my husband or I sat with our son and one of us was somewhere else on the plane. Finally, I have a hard time understanding why the airline decided to bump the 10 year-old. It is stated they were all on frequent flyer tickets. Why didn’t the father just take the kids place and catch the next plane on his own. I am sure the wife and kids would have waited for him. There seems to be something missing from that story. 

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    I don’t suppose this was from SEA to MSP, was it?  FA asked for volunteers so an elderly couple could sit together.  My husband and I felt sorry for them – ended up by the toilets in the last row of the plane – and watched that old man keep moving up, row by row, with no wife in sight.  Oh well, karma points.

  • Joe Farrell

    if someone does not want to move from an aisle seat to an aisle or a window to a window to accomodate a family-  just strap the toddler into the car seat right next to them – and let THEM deal with the kid. . . 

    I would not expect someone who actually paid for a premium enhanced leg room seat in economy to willingly give that seat up – and I would accept the choice of that passenger- then they simply need to accept that the kid needs to sit somewhere – enjoy. 

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    So, what’s a baby Raven called?

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    Question for the frequent flyers here about the topic:  have you ever been offered $$ by the passenger to switch from your premium seat (such as @azevedan:disqus  was)?

  • RetiredNavyphotog

    I have never been offered money.  But now I have a great idea from reading the answers.  If someone wants me to give up my seat, I will tell them to give me $100 in small bills.

  • TonyA_says

    Congratulations! Now you have more shoes to buy.

  • Jeanne_in_NE

    (This is not sarcasm font.  Since you’ve shared about you and your mother’s horrible experiences while flying, I would never dream of being sarcastic to you.) 

    The same thing as I had to do in December and I needed to make reservations 3 days in advance for a funeral – paid for premium seats for all 3 of us, for 2 of the legs of the journey to the funeral.  My seat was the middle seat – still had to pay that premium charge for my middle seat for 2 legs so that I could get the aisle seat for my f-i-l that he required, since all of us were on the same PNR. 

    Also, my children did not go with my husband to their grandmother’s funeral 28 years ago.  I stayed home with them, since I couldn’t get a sitter. They were too young to attend, so all 4 of us going wouldn’t have worked. 

    Sometimes every member of the family just can’t make it to every occasion, and sometimes there’s a premium to pay, regardless of age, when everyone *can* make it to the occasion, joyful or sad.  Capitalism at it’s “finest”.  (Okay, that last sentence needed sarcasm font.)

  • jet2x2

    The airline ticket is a “contract of carriage.”  It originates from maritime law and governments have traditionally interfered with basic contract law – in favor of carriers mostly – thus allowing transportation companies to set terms that would otherwise be unconscionable. IMO it’s disingenuous of airlines to cite the “contract” to justify their business decisions.  

  • Joe Farrell

    This is exactly the issue – 

    After the kerfuffle of booking and getting seats – all that is left generally is the seats saved for the premium pax in the front of economy.  They get upgraded to F – and you are left with scattered seats in the front section that get assigned to the half-wits who buy tickets and forget to get seat assignments, or don’t check them or make no effort to do anything about their seats until they get to the airport – these are the 1-2x a year fliers who have no clue anymore – the airlines would sell air if they could sell air.  

    Look – traveling with kids is a hassle.   It just got worse.  Kids are expensive – don’t look for people to be willing to give up a premium economy or exit row seat for a middle seat in the back of the plane – 

  • madchickenlittle

    No,no, you forget, the per-seat charges are UNBUNDLED cost. It’s not extra to sit together, it’s LESS if you sit apart.

    Clearly someone has forgotten their dose of kool-aid today. :)

  •  Isn’t it more like buying pants and paying to have them hemmed?

  •  new thread

  • @jet2x2:disqus

    The airline ticket is a “contract of carriage.


    You have just enough legal knowledge to get yourself in trouble. :)

    Your statements about contracts remains completely wrong and continues to be wrong.A  “contract of carriage” is still a contract, in the same way a Bill of Laden is, your dry cleaners receipt, etc.

    Different areas of law have different contractual rules.  For example, their is basic contract law with certain rules are implied.  But Intellectual property law, for example, completely stomps on many principles of law, including waiver, laches, etc.

    So the fact that an area does not comport with generally accepted contract principles means nothing.


    Unconscionable is a legal term of art defined by the courts.

  • madchickenlittle

    I think I can sum this up: most folks would move from a free seat to a different free seat to accommodate a fellow traveler. Most people would NOT move from a paid premium seat to a different seat to accommodate a fellow traveler.

    Airlines commoditization of seating has created a two-class flying public. The paid premium buyers and the budget travelers who pay the base fare and argue to get perks or benefits at no charge.

    No one agrees that tickets are less due to the fare and fee structure, people see the fees as extras that they avoid paying however possible.

  • LadySiren

    Congrats, Raven! Hope all goes well. :)

  • emanon256

    Nope, MSY-DEN.  Silly old men.

  • TonyA_says

    Carver, I agree with the following statement of Chris:

    The blame for all this falls squarely on the shoulders of the
    airlines, whose managers obviously didn’t consider the implications of
    selling seat reservations…It’s up to them to find a solution.

    Here’s the problem. Until airlines started selling (or accepting payment) for the ability to reserve SPECIFIC seats (identified by row and seat number), this was not an issue. Previously one merely REQUESTED (free of charge) a seat in advanced. The airline did not have to give you that (or a) specific seat. It was only committed to provide you A seat (any seat it wants to give you).

    But then airlines started to charge for the privilege of booking a SPECIFIC seat early. Whether the seat is an aisle or window is irrelevant; you are PAYING MONEY for a specific seat (row and number). So in a way, by collecting your money the airline has somewhat committed to give you that particular seat. After all WHAT ARE YOU PAYING FOR?

    The airlines cannot have it both ways. If they charge for something then they have to deliver it. If they don’t then they have to return your money. When you pay good money and are given the chance to choose a specific seat on a seat map – then common sense tells me the airline sold you that SPECIFIC seat. They really can’t claim later that you are not entitled to that seat. You paid for it.

    Note that the DOT requires airlines to return baggage fees if bags are lost. Maybe Charlie Leocha can request (on behalf of passengers) Congress to make a law or require the DOT to rule that airlines automatically return your seat reservation fee if they ask you to move out of that seat. Just because you are not GUARANTEED of sitting on the seat you paid for does not mean the airline can keep your money.

  • Joel Wechsler

    Excuse me but you did say that IF the parents had done everything possible and still were separated then other travelers should give up their seats. How, pray tell, are we to determine that the parents had done eveything they could to be seated together? Also, you seem to have shifted your argvumen from concern for the welfare of the child to the selfishness involved in asking a starnger to watch your child.It seems to me that you can’t be on both sides of the discussion.

  • jet2x2

    Well, I think a law degree and 32 years as a contracts attorney is sufficient for me to know the differences between common law contract principles and contracts based on maritime law.  By the way, your dry cleaning receipt is a bailment.  As they say in Texas (snark alert), it’s best not to bring a knife to a gunfight.  :)

  • Joel Wechsler

    Excuse me  but you did say that IF parents had done everything possible to be seated together and were still separated, the someone should give up their seat(s). How, pray tell are we supposed to tell those who did all they could and those who did not? Also, you seem to have shfted your argument from concern for the children to the selfishness of a parent expecting someone to watch their child for 5 or more hours. How can you be on both sides fo the discussion?

  • AirlineEmployee

    Yes, you are right….Well, then, they’ve created a monster that they cannot feed. 

  • @Carver Clark Farrow II:  Yes, Carver, I am well aware of the Contract of Carriage.  However, I think Counselor (jet2x2) will be able to vouch for the fact that there are times when a Contract of Carriage becomes a contract of adhesion.  The term “adhesion,” refers to the fact that the airline “stuck” these terms to the customer.  The customer, under a contract of adhesion, does not have the ability to negotiate its terms.  If an airline exercised its (contractual) option to separate a 2-year old five rows away from the rest of his family; there was an emergency evacuation, and the 2-year old died, the Contract of Carriage would probably be void, as to liability for the child’s death, because the airline imposed an unconscionable condition (“I can move you whereever I like, or else!”)  The imposition of an unconscionable condition, combined with the fact that the customer entered into the contract under “take it, or leave it” terms renders the Contract of Carriage a contract of adhesion.  Accordingly, the airline could find itself paying-out a (civil) wrongful death judgment.  Unfortunately, for the airline, free frequent flier miles, free tickets, and form letters reading “sorry for the inconvenience,” usually don’t work under such circumstances.  Likewise car rental agreements have been adjudged to be contracts of adhesion when the car rental company knowingly rents a defective vehicle and there is a death.  Since liability for death on an international flight is governed, to a significant degree, by the Warsaw Convention–a document not produced by the lawyers of a specific airline–are you aware, Carver, of less stringent seating procedures on international flights operated by US-based carriers?

  • bayareascott

    I’m sorry, but I respectfully disagree.  You think you are retaliating against your employer by not collecting the price, but in actuality you are devaluing the purchases of those people who actually value paying extra to get additional legroom, and also affecting your coworkers who are following the appropriate procedures by colle3cting the fees.  If you worked in a store and gave away a $200 suit to someone who paid for a $100 suit, you wouldn’t consider that appropriate, would you?  The customers pay for **A** seat when buying the ticket, but that is all.  Seats that offer more amenities are worth more, just like any other commodity.

    If those seats are all that is available, then sometimes customers may get lucky, and that is not what I am referring to.

  • bayareascott

    Completely wrong.  This is like buying cheap seats in the upper deck and they only have scattered singles.  You buy them, and then get to the stadium and demand four together behind the dugout for no additional cost because they are available.

  • bodega3

    Airline employees have a lot of leeway and they use it when necessary.  Nothing new as iit has always been that way. 

    It has been my experience that the frontline airline employees think their company’s policies on nickel and diming passengers to be just as disgusting as passengers feel they are. 

  • bodega3

    I certainly get your concern, but if you are booking late/last minute, you have to take the seats that are available.  Just like at the theatre, ball game, concert.  This has always been the case, nothing new on this.  What is new is the charge for aisle and window seating and IMHO, passengers are being screwed…again and again. 

    FYI, when you purchase a airline ticket, you are never guaranteed a seat.  This is something many don’t realize.  If you can’t obtain advance seat asisgnments, you need to decide BEFORE purchasing, if the hassle of no advance seating is worth it.  You also have to hope no plane change happens to screw up even your advance seat assignments . If you do book well out, monitor your seats every few days. 

  • Sadie_Cee

    As was suggested by Chris, blame the airlines every time.  This situation exists because they have no published rules regarding seating and thus have left people with the impression that aircraft seating does not follow the time worn first-come, first-served rule. 

    Extra Fee – No one should be forced or shamed into giving up a seat for which they paid an extra fee just for the convenience of other people.

    No Extra Fee – No one should be forced or shamed into giving up a seat that, even though no extra fee was paid, suits their particular needs.

    Giving up one’s seat on aircraft should be entirely voluntary. 

    As for a seated pax whose flight was “paid” for with miles and who was ordered to give up his seats, even if airline policy allows this, it underlines for me why I have declined to become involved with any sort of frequent flier program.  

    Just try getting on a ground mass transit vehicle and asking/demanding that someone give up a seat!  Why do people believe aircraft should be different?

  • Theodore Rosenberg

    It is partially cultural.  We recently traveled by sleeper from Haikou to Beijing,  We were unable to get bottom bunks, we are both elderly, and and my wife is disabled.  When we got on the train, people in the compartment, and the next one, rapidly reorganized and put two teenagers in the middle bunks and gave us two lowers.  They got off after one dayho and the NEXT group did the same.  I can climb, but both groups insisted that we stay together in the bottom bunks (possibly because of our age)  We knew that we got preferred seating on buses, but they do not charge extra as the trains did.

  • Ann Lamoy

    If you do book well out, monitor your seats every few days.

    THIS!!! I booked my sister’s tickets for our trip to Vegas in September out of SLK via CapeAir/UA. I bought them in March and they’ve changed flight twice since then and her seat assignment three times. My ticket from SEA to LAS has only changed once so I had to re-select my seats (on AB).

    I expect to have to reselect the seats at least once or twice more.

  • Ann Lamoy

    Since you posted this 12 hours ago, I am hoping your daughter has now entered the world.

    Congratulations in advance. And you have about 12 years to buy a shotgun. ;)

  • As a travelling family who traveled to 22 countries in the last year and a half I can tell you that ‘what the reservation says’ is not always what you will get when you try to check-in online (if it is allowable, and at times with a RTW ticket it’s not) or when you show up at the counter. On many occasions, we were separated due to a mix up and people were nice enough to move their seats to accommodate us. I do agree however that I don’t expect people to give up their premium seats and the flight attendants should know to avoid those passengers. Hence, it should be up to the flight attendants to reorganize the seating whenever possible with non-premium seats. Only twice we ended up separated and that was with a discount airline.

  • random_observation_source

    I sympathize with your plight… I used to travel very frequently, and my wife I still travel at least twice year with 3 kids, ranging from 3 to 9, either cross-country (now) or trans-atlantic (3 yrs ago).  We’re lucky in that they are excellent travelers, but we do extensively prepare and have been generally successful:
    1 – Pick non-stop flights when possible, or allow for at least 2-3 hours between flights.
    2 – Pick flights on larger aircraft with adequate seating for a family of 5, or at least 2+3.  Reserve seats at time of booking, and save a hardcopy of your itinerary.  Favor driving over regional jets if you absolutely cannot be separated from one or more of your children. This is pretty easy now since the aircraft type and seat map are listed with flights at selection time.
    3 – Assume that the first 5-7 rows after business class (whether it is explicitly “Premium” or not) are going to go to people buying a higher fare class than you.  After all, why create a conflict?  If you follow step 1, the need to sit at the front of the aircraft isn’t so critical.  The further behind the wing you choose, the less likely you are to be separated.
    4 – Be loyal to an airline and if you are offered an opportunity to upgrade, take it.  If you are upgraded, don’t be a douche and abandon your spouse and/or kids in economy (seen that way too many times when flying solo); stay with your family and use the upgraded seat as currency if your family gets split up.
    Despite these measures, we still get split up.  This isn’t that big a deal with the 8 and 9 year-olds; given electronic entertainment and their soda of choice from the beverage cart, they are generally self-reliant kids who can visit the lav unaided and know how to scream and fight if someone tries to molest them (both are in karate).  If you cause my child to scream, there isn’t anywhere on an aircraft in flight for you to hide.  And there aren’t too many people who want to voluntarily sit next to a 3 year-old.  In general, accept that you will always trade down, and use an upgraded seat as a carrot if you need one.  I did once have trouble convincing someone to trade their middle seat for an business class seat so that I could sit next to the 3 year-old… i did not expect to have to fight for that one :)

  • The only way I’m giving up my seat is if it’s an advantage to me. Meaning that I prefer a window seat in the front of the plane.  If I’m in a window seat in the front of the plane, I’m not moving to the back of the plane, I’m not moving to a middle seat, I’m not moving to a seat that puts me next to or in front of a kid.  I pay extra for convenience and comfort, and I’m not giving it up for someone not willing to pay an extra $25.

  • Extraneededmail

    And, if I give up my seat that I paid extra for, who is going to reimburse me? The airline or the passenger I gave my seat to?

  • Extraneededmail

    What I dont understand in all of this is how many families wait until the last minute to buy a ticket? When I planned a vacation for my family that required air travel I usually made the reservations months in advance and never had a problem sitting together because I chose our seats when I made the initial reservation. I do understand that planes get changed out but you would think computers can be programmed to recognize names that should be re-assigned seats together. Regardless, flying stinks all the wy around and I choose driving over flying whenever possible.

  • What are you babbling about.  Bailments and adhesion contracts are two completely unrelated concepts. 

    A bailment relates to the temporary physical transfer of possession. Probably two of the most common examples are valet parking (but not self parking) and dry cleaning.

    Adhesion related to the imbalance of power between two or more parties to a contract.  Your dry cleaning receipt tends to have characteristics of both as it creates a bailment, but it also used pre-printed forms limiting liability to usually 10x times the cost of the drycleaning.  Every dry cleaners in a given locale uses the exact same form and the customer is in a position of take it or leave it.  Thus, its often an adhesion contract as well.

    Better dust off the old law books :)

  • jet2x2

    I always liked Wyoming.  :)

  • I would not presume to comment on the Wasaw convention as I have only a layman’s knowledge of it. Regarding the rest of  your post, it seems generally correct, but perhaps at 5:22am, I am missing its point. ;)

    My objection is to Jets2x2 two assertions that

    “A valid contract is one that is negotiated between two parties of equal
    bargaining power.” and;

    “Contracts between one with all the power and one
    without any, are called “unconscionable” and frequently invalidated by

    Neither one of those statement is accurate.

    Consider ordinary life.  How much bargaining power did you have when you got your credit card, opened your bank account, bought groceries.  Yet all are perfectly valid contracts.

    The unconscionable part is a little more subtle.   Its correct as far as it goes, but it misses a crucial, non-trivial element. Specifically missing is the part that unconscionable requires

    “…terms which
    are so oppressive that no reasonable person would make them and no fair
    and honest person would accept them.”

  • RITom

    It is 1, 2, 3 or 6 hours on a plane, not a life time. Why do parents have to sit next to their kids when they send them to school for 6 hours a day for 180 days a year? Is there a kiddie lease law on planes? Not like the kid is going to run off the plane!  So what if they are in the next isle or in the seat next to the person next to you.    If this is their first time flying that is one thing but today kids fly a lot and it does not bother them.  To them it is just like being on the bus to school, but with seatbelts.

    Kids need to know how to act like adults on a plane and behave like adults. Parents should not be taking inmature kids on holidays where they do not know how to act properly without M / D telling them what to do.

  • mszabo

    Last time I traveled with my kids age 4 and 6.  I booked my tickets 4 months in advance with seat assignments and a non-refundable fare  (so AA would get paid whether or not I showed up).  I use my smartphone exactly 24 hours prior to the flight to check in, and we still get bumped because the flight was overbooked.  At the point where we finally get on a plane 6 hrs later,  there damn well better have been 4 seats together at that point.

    One of the real problems is your paying extra for those seat assignments and it still means jack as far as the airline is concerned.  

  • Raven_Altosk

    All is well. She is beautiful, and yes, Tony, I will be buying a lot more shoes!

    I might not even complain about it…

    Thanks for the well wishes, everyone! :D

  • First of all, I’m Brazilian, not American.  Sorry for my lousy English.

    When I started fliying with regularity about 20 years ago, a round ticket for a certain destination (CGH-BSB-CGH for the interested ones) was about US$1800 (a 600mi trip).  Now, I can get the same ticket for less than US$400 (some times is possible to get for less than US$200).  I believe that in US the prices had drop significantly too.

    The flights are very cheap now (one of the reasons for the excess of fees and “extra” charges).  It’s amazing see people complaining about the extra 25 bucks for a premium seat now.  20 years ago, they didn’t have this problem – the ticket itself was very expensive, much more than the 25, 30, 60 or even 125 dollars charged for the premium seats now.

  • Helen Hoart

    I was flying from New York to Chicago when I was asked if I would move from an aisle seat to a middle seat so a family could sit together.  I said yes (I’m a mother of three and sympathetic to families traveling).  When I moved the “child” turned out to be a young adult (approx. 17 or 18).  I was steamed and asked for my seat back.  Needless to say, it was a long and uncomfortable flight with the angry parents sitting next to me. 

  • jet2x2

    I was attempting to put complicated legal concepts into simple terms while expressing my own opinion on something.  We can agree to disagree.  Let’s move on and let the nice folks here go back to bashing the airlines.  :)    

  • Carchar

    Why, you do away with them when it’s convenient, of course!

  • Carchar

    A little late for viewing in this thread, but it appears Allegiant will be instituting a policy of having at least one parent sit with a child.

  • Monica Lynn Kennedy

     But you CHOOSE to have a child, thus knowing that your expenses would increase. I fully take responsibility that my annual trips back home have now doubled because I have to bring my child with me. That’s an extra seat, and extra snack at the gate, an extra meal when I eat out, etc. This is just another thing people have to deal with when they have kids.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I generally do not feel guilty when declining. I’ll ask, “is your seat an aisle seat?” If the answer is no, I say, “I’m sorry, but I need to sit on the aisle.”

    The problem I have with most people asking me to move is that it is not a necessity. We’re not talking about a parent with a very small child or a disabled person and a caregiver. It’s usually a couple, or a parent/teen, or some other nonsense.

    My personal favorite was the mother who wanted me to move out of the exit row because I was seated next to her 16ish daughter because “all men are potential rapists.”

    Yeah. Maybe that mother should go on a trip with Rose the Nut from the DR story.

  • And did she ask for the person near her to change seats?  It seems she was looking for the best “changeable” seat, not only to be near her daughter.

  • In Brazil, the companies usually block the first row up to one hour before departure, for families with small children and/or disabled people.  You only need to be in the airport before this deadline.

  • Holly Ellison

    I’m a little confused. Your post makes it seem as though the families aren’t paying customers. All this time I was under the impression that everyone who was flying had to first purchase a seat from the airlines. This is good information for when I take my daughter on a trip, at least now I know I don’t have to pay for her seat ;-).

    That said, I don’t think anyone should be “forced” to give up their seat but, at the same time, I think special consideration should be given to families whose children are under a certain age. Most airlines charge an extra fee for unaccompanied minors, I believe it’s for anyone under age 12. If families are traveling with children under the age that the airline would require special ticketing for, they should be given priority to sit together. 

    This is something that should have been figured out prior to boarding time. The fact that the airline knew, before the passengers even boarded the plane, that there were families on the manifest who did not have seating with one another, tells me that they did not care about the comfort of the passenger sitting in a “premium” seat. Perhaps it was a money grab, the airline gets the money for a premium seat and it’s the family that’s on the plane’s fault that they weren’t able to take advantage of that. 

  • Lindabator

    Or honeymoon couples, or caregivers, etc… its just that families somehow feel they trump everyone else’s rights.

  • Lindabator


  • Lindabator

    Yep – they just expect they should STILL be seated for free because they’re “special”

  • Lindabator

    Then don’t fly – EVERYONE has the same charges to pay – just because you CHOSE to have children shouldn’t put everyone else out to accommodate your greed

  • Lindabator

    But its fair to expect the honeymoon couple who DID pay it to split up becuase THE FAMILY chose not too?  Rediculous!  You can’t afford it – DON’T GO!!!!!

  • Freehiker

    I know I’m in the minority, but if a parent wants to have their whole family sit together, they need to book it that way.  If the airline charges extra for it, their argument is with the airline, not me. 

    I have never given up my seat for a family, or because someone’s child wants to sit by the window and not in the middle.  Want to exchange your window for my window?  Fine.  My first class for your first class?  Fine.  Want me to move to the back of the plane, or to the middle seat so you and your precious angel can sit together?  Nope.

  • reuvenavram

     You are an evil, evil person. Requiring companies to confiscate goods and services that have already been paid for. Perhaps you’d be happier in a totalitarian country?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Um…EXCUSE ME??? Are you insane? Please show me where I said a SINGLE THING about companies “confiscating goods and services that have already been paid for”? If you’re referring to premium seats, then clearly you didn’t bother to actually READ what I wrote…I specifically stated numerous times that nobody who paid for a premium seat should have to give it up. I have ONLY referred to switching to an equivalent seat.

    Or maybe you’re just f’ing nuts. Whatever the case, please don’t respond to my comments anymore. You’re obviously not well.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Oh, and I can’t help but point out that it’s REALLY bizarre that you would ascribe the term “evil” to a person who has simply stated that she feels it’s wrong to place a child in danger.

    “Evil”?  Really?  Wow.  You need help.

  • ctporter

    Travel is something to be planned, carefully to ensure as much as possible a successful and comfortable trip. Which flights to take, how short your connection times are, how many stops, what times your plane departs and arrives, the prices, AND which seats are available are all things that should be thought out and considered before making a purchase. If the only concern is price then sitting together is obviously not worth paying for. 

  • kanehi

    If I paid for a premium seat which the airline forced me to pay for then I would not give up the seat.  Parents should plan ahead and reserve seats if they want to sit together and pay extra if necessary and not take chances coming late.  Why would someone’s right be inconvenience because of a parent’s poor planning?  Parents with kids do not have more rights than any other passenger!  And people shouldn’t feel guilty about it either!

  • kanehi

    I agree.  People are blaming other people but it’s the airline that caused the problem in the first place.  Parents should plan ahead and call the airline regarding seat assignments.  It’s common knowledge to check-in way ahead of time and if people disregard the rule and expect to be catered to when they arrive they’ll have a shocking revelation!

  • Raven_Altosk

    Of course not. She wanted that exit row aisle. The FA offered to move the daughter b/c everyone wants an exit row, but the mother refused. “Why should WE move?!”

    Yeah, bottom line, the poor girl looked so embarrassed…

  • zlensman

    Airlines not being allowed to charge for seats with extra room means that we will end up with only seats with less room. While we’re doing this can we eliminate houses with more than one bathroom? Can’t have any evil companies charging extra for luxuries like that. Best eliminate air conditioning while we’re at it…

  • I was thinking… If we reduce all the dicussion for only money, somebody who bought the ticket at the last time, problably paid more than the person who bought the premium seat with a lot of advance.  But even so, the person with the premium seat  has the right to remain there – he planned, he spent at that time more money than we could spend if he had bought a regular seat.

    Be able to planning, have money, even luck are competitive advantages – I don’t know why I must give up my better seat because someone weren’t so good at planning, collecting money or because has less luck.

    And sometimes, the person who is willing to change was more able than me to buy in advance or has more money than me – he was just lazy or cheap.

    Regarding luck, you may help it – several times at the check-in I was able to change for a better seat – I just did it earlier.

    A personal story: this year, my wife and I went to Spain.  We bought our tickets with about 5 months in advance (a very good fare), and we refused to pay the extra 50 bucks each to be able to assign seats prior check-in.  The online check-in will start 24hs prior departure (our ETD was 1:30am).  I awaked up 2:00am, logged on the website, and I was able to assing an aisle and a window, in front of the wing (Airbus 340 2-4-2 configuration).  Did I payd extra money? No.  Did I make an extra effort? Of course I did.  Did I have luck? Probably yes, because a lot of people could pay the US$50 fee to prior assignment, or they could logged on earlier than me and got the best seats. I worked to have the best possible seats, in this case paying the less possible.  I don’t think I should change it to accomodate someone who didn’t do the same.  And even he did, sorry – I got it first.

  • If I have a window seat, why should I have to give it up and sit in the middle. I fly very rarely, and I love to look out the window and look at the clouds and the landscape below. That’s at least 90% of the thrill of flying for me.

    By the way, I have kids, and I would not book a flight without making sure their seats were next to mine. If parents want to sit next to their children, they can buy seats together.

    Of course, that doesn’t address the issue of flights booked with miles. Common sense would dictate that you don’t bump a 10-year-old because she needs to be accompanied by an adult. Most airlines refuse to allow children under 15 or 16 to fly alone without paying extra for the airline to babysit them, so they are well aware of the difficulty they are causing by bumping a child.


  • i was being sarcastic before. woud it hurt qanyone to change seats for a personel reason? It just might make the person who was the “the bigger man” feel good.

  • wittal1000

    It doesnt matter how much you are paying for the seat  but according to me if situation demands like old people,small children etc..wants the seat then its better to give the seat to them……thanks alot….

    cheap flights manchester

  • kanehi

    Some parents think they have the God given right to sit wherever they want because they have kids.  Their so called ‘rights’ are infridging on my ‘rights’.  Sue the airline for putting you in this dilemma or at least get compensation!

  • Crissy

    I go with those who pay extra, if I paid extra for a seat then the airline should give me that seat.  If they can’t manage families, then they need to adjust their policies to accomodate them.  If allowing passengers to pay for seats is a problem with seating families together then they should reconsider that policy.

  • gigitravel

    In addition to “people who pay extra” you can also add that “people who plan ahead and/or arrive to the airport on time.”  Flying SWA, i either pay for EBCI or get online at the exact 24 hour mark (including when on a cruise and leaving my shore excursion early so i could connect wirelessly) to get those coveted low number boaridng passes.  And without fail, as we are seated and my 6’4″ husband in is the row in front of me/my two youngest, and next to my teen daughter, along comes a family at the back of the boarding (either last number or late for flight) asking to rearrange the whole plane for them.  My husband is asked to move as there is often a middle seat separating him/my daughter, and while it would be benevolent of him to say yes (and he has, often), it leaves me in a lurch with no help, no parent to escort one kid to the potty while i stay w/the other, grab something from overhead bin, fetch diaper or bottle out of the bag, etc; plus it leaves my daughter in a row w/out a family member (although she’s okay with this now), but that family is not separated from their child!

    Ergo, failure to plan on their part, should NOT constitute an emergency on mine!

  • gigitravel

    you’re not being forced to pay extra… because you are not being forced to fly!  it’s a choice… if you don’t like the price, then find another way! (and i’m a mom of three who travel by air A LOT!)

  • aberdeen40

    This happened to me on British Airways several years ago.  I was asked upon boarding was I single which I found odd then was asked if I would mind giving up my seat for a family with a special needs child.  I said sure as long as I get another window seat.  Mind you I am in Business Class and am being moved to Coach.  I get the window seat in coach and a few minutes later am asked if I mind moving again so another family could be together. Am I the ONLY single person on the flight to London??  Ok no problem. So they move me again this time back to Business Class  The flight attendant tells me oh see because of your generosity you get to up grade for free. I show her my ticket and I am 2 rows back from where I originally started in Business Class.  I got a bottle of the worse champagne known to man for my generosity. Don’t get me wrong I did not mind helping the families out at all, heck I willingly went from comfy to coach and BA did offer compensation other than the crappy champagne, however, I chose not to take it – I was glad I could help these families out,

  • Rosered7033

    AMEN! Your last line says it all.

  • rybashka

    I hope that you at least offered to pay these people the premium that they had paid to reserve the lower bunks. 

    The one time that it happened to me, when I gave up a bottom bunk to a family with young children, the Chinese family offered to pay me the difference in cost.  However, I declined their kind offer.

  • rybashka

    Congrats!  Looking forward to your witty comments the next time Chris posts an article about traveling with babies.

  • BMG4ME

    As a father of five I wouldn’t expect someone who has paid more for a seat to give it up for me.  On the other hand I would think it reasonable for the airline to put a family ANYWHERE in the plane if through a mistake it separated them – even if that ANYWHERE is upstairs or at the front.

  • Nica

     I agree, but I still feel that it is kind of unfair that people feel that you have to pay more in order to sit with a little one that is unable to care/defend for him/herself.  You would think in that instance that the airline agent would see you coming up with a little one and make the appropriate arrangements to find seats together if you did not have them.  That should not be policy – that should be just common sense.

  • arealityho

    I wish I could “like” this more than once.

  • arealityho

    It is the responsibility of the parents to reserve their seats IN ADVANCE so they can sit together. I book my flights 3 months IN ADVANCE and reserve my seat 3 months IN ADVANCE so I can sit where I want. Why can’t parents do the same??

  • arealityho

    I agree. It is the parents fault for not arranging appropriate and safe seating for their child.

  • arealityho

    Thank you. You are clearly a responsible parent.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Um…because they didn’t know Grampa was gonna die 3 months ago? :::rolling eyes:::

  • Not sure if you have flown lately, but on my flight which is more than a month away, there are only middle seats available, about 20 of them, so the airline is blocking out pretty much all the window and aisle seats for customers willing to pay. 
    I guess its a shock to most people, me included as I do not know of any other business where you have to pay extra to seat next to your family or friends.  I reserve a table at a restaurant, book a hotel room, buy theater tickets, I expect to sit with my companions.  I don’t expect to pay extra for that privilege.  Not sure why people just accept this from the airlines.  I don’t think this should even be a family issue, it is a common sense issue. 

  • I just booked a flight that is more than a month away and there are nothing but middle seats left, over 20 of them.  It is very hard for me to believe all those window and aisle seats are already taken, as this flight is to Hawaii, so I doubt that many singles fly to Hawaii.  I am guessing all the window and aisle seats are being put on hold for people willing to pay.

    What I get from this is no matter how early you reserve, it does not matter anymore.  If you want to sit together with your family or friends, you will be charged.  So as a family, no matter how early you plan, you are still stuck unless you are willing to pay extra.  These are not cheap fees either.  You can easily pay an extra 50% on top of your ticket for this. 

  • Rosered7033

    Airlines are getting very cagey about how they extract more $ from passengers!

  • Rosered7033

    Another possibility is that couples have reserved aisle & window seats, hoping to discourage another passenger from sitting in the middle, thus giving them more room. Have to add, though, it’s been my experience almost every flight I’ve been on has been booked solid, so this strategy doesn’t work as well as it used to.

  • The_One_Eyed_Jack

    Would you have felt guilty if by refusing to move, you prevented this kid from sitting with his parents?

    Given the number of Paterno apologists out there, I suspect the answer is ‘no’ for many of you.

    But let me tell you a story: I was flying back to the US from Asia with several family members. Our seats were scattered through no fault of our own – our scheduled flight was cancelled. My grandmother got very ill during on board and had to be tended to by a doctor who happened to be on the same flight. The FA offered to help get her seated by my parents and started to ask other passengers if they’d be willing to switch. She politely asked one guy and before she could even finish, he interrupted her and defiantly declared “I’m not moving.” Other people started giving him dirty looks because he was being such a jerk about it. So she asked the guy next to him, and he agreed. So the FA said loudly, “Great, thanks, I’ve got a seat for you up in first class.” This was met with snickers and light applause from everyone within earshot.

    So the moral of the story is, if the FA ever asks you to move from your precious, premium, pre-paid seat for the benefit of another, at least ask where you’d be moving to before refusing.

  • elemenoh

    I’ll only give up a seat I’ve reserved if the airline offers me a better seat. Sometimes I just have to ask, “Is there an empty seat in First that you can move me to?” and voila I get out of coach altogether. Then someone who doesn’t know how to plan their travel in advance gets out of an awkward situation they created for themselves. If I can’t get a better seat, I stay put. 

    Same thing in a movie theater: I get there early for a good seat so I’m not going to move for a group who shows up five minutes before the film starts.

    “Poor Planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

  • Nica

     Hi, I actually do not have children.  :o)

  • arealityho

    I am usually flying to Florida and people asking me to give up my seat are families going on vacation. They have never asked me to switch seats because they are going to a funeral and were not able to reserve seats because of the short notice.

  • arealityho

    As you can see, my post was in response to Monica Lynn Kennedy….not you.

  • Let the 2 yo sit by herself and tell her seat neighbors that you’ll be happy to switch with whomever caves first. I’ll bet it won’t take long.

  • I move if asked. Last time I was in a window seat with a lady (and Baby on knee) next to me and unrelated man in aisle seat. Aisle guy refuses to move to allow father to join his wife and baby. I volunteer ( FA and family very grateful, aisle guy looks sour) and move down the back (next to another mum and baby, darn it!) Just before take off flight attendant dashes up and takes me back to the front to a better seat than I started with. Karma rules. Be nice if you can and sometimes good things flow.

  • Here is how I solve that problem when I travel with my child. I PAY for those enhanced seats. That way, I get the good seats, AND I have plenty of space for my child. I don’t expect anyone to cater to me because I have children. If we are on Southwest, I’m hitting the reload button at 24 hours prior to our flights to get an “A”. Pretty much if you have an “A” you are fine on Southwest. I did refuse to move one flight on Southwest. I had an A, was at the plane plenty of time, and got the front aisle seat. I was pregnant, and wanted the room. The plane was delayed leaving for a disabled gentlemen. Frankly I was quite ticked that he was so late, and I saw his boarding pass and it was a C. He didn’t plan ahead, but expected people to move.And No, he wasn’t a plane change that was delayed, that would have changed my attitude. He was late, plain and simple. And being pregnant the free beer was ZERO incentive. Thankfully the other guy moved, but I wasn’t moving.

  • Yeah, I’m not moving from an aisle into the middle seat. They should be talking to the person in the middle seat next to them offering to give the better seat.

  • Marco Smoliner

    I’m 6’10” tall. Whenever I fly, I try to get legroom. Unfortunately I can’t always fly business, as my company won’t pay for it.
    In some planes rows are just too narrow to fit my legs, so I physically don’t fit in. Canadian airlines decided on one flight, when I refused to sit down in a seat I didn’t fit, to unload my luggage and bump me off the flight.
    I wonder what would happen if they do that to a wheelchair driver…

  • marissa

    I think paying customers have more rights, however, I was recently on a plane to Miami with my husband and 3 y.o and we got split up despite booking seats together weeks in advance. He had a window seat towards the back of the plane and DS and I had a middle and aisle seat. The woman refused to switch for a seat towards the back of the plane because she ‘didn’t want to have to wait any extra time to get off the plane’ and my DS was totally inconsolable the entire flight- he wanted to sit with his mom and dad like we had told him. I was really pissed.
    The second time I flew this year, my DH was supposed to come so we booked a row of three seats to include aisle, middle and window. DH had a work commitment and couldn’t come and obviously didn’t check in. I am pregnant and asked for the aisle seat we had booked my DH to sit in. They had given it away even though they had no notice DH wasn’t coming til that day and certainly didn’t give us a refund on the flight. I was forced to climb over my DS and a passenger every hour to walk up and down the plane. Just aggravation all round.

  • Elaine Walkden

    Not giving up an aisle seat I’ve taken pains to secure. Sorry, parents.

  • Seth

    It’s amazing how seldom they want to seat the family together in the worse seats and request that somebody move from E- to E+ to accommodate them.

    As for the 10-year-old being bumped, “I guess you’ll have to fly him as an Unaccompanied Minor on your next flight. We’d better start the paperwork now, it could take half an hour to complete it all.” (And there should be IDB compensation for at least 1 or 2 of the people.)

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