New Guidance Now Allows Parents To Sit Next to Their Kids on Flights Without Paying Extra

Sitting next to your kid on a plane: Priceless. At least it should be according the Department of Transportation.

Mom and child riding on the airplane
Photo: Getty

There's a saying out there that vacations with kids aren't exactly vacations. They're more like business trips. From long lines at Disney to meltdowns that force you to head back to the hotel from the beach earlier than planned, traveling with kids is not always for the faint of heart.

It can be fun to watch children discover the world, so parents continue to plan family business trips. But over the years, parents have gotten a rude awakening courtesy of airlines: An extra fee to sit next to their own children.

Yes, really.

Guidance from the U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a statement urging airlines to stop charging adults accompanying children ages 13 and under fees for adjacent seating. The guidelines, issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) last week, state:

"The Department has determined that it is appropriate for each U.S. airline providing scheduled passenger service to have and implement a policy that enables a child, who is age 13 or under on the date an applicable flight is scheduled to occur, to be seated in a seat adjacent to the seat of an adult family member or other accompanying adult over the age of 13, to the maximum extent practicable and at no additional cost."

OACP says it receives a limited number of complaints each year about seating policies for children but wrote, "even one incident is one too many."

OACP has built a section on its consumer website to provide additional seating assistance for families traveling with children.

There are some catches, though. The guidance does not recommend seating the whole family together, just one accompanying adult with the child. Families traveling with multiple adults will have to flip a coin to determine which grown-up gets to nap and which one is on kid duty. Airlines are also not required to upgrade seats. And children over the age of 13 are not included in the guidance.

OACP will begin monitoring for compliance in four months to give airlines time to adjust to the new guidelines. The Department will consider further action, including rules prohibiting fees for adjacent seating, if airlines continue to create barriers preventing accompanying adults from sitting with children 13 and under.

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