In ‘junk fee’ fight, US details airline family seating rules

The Transportation Department is rolling out a “dashboard” to let travelers see at a glance which airlines help families with young children sit together at no extra cost.

The announcement Monday comes as the department works on regulations to prevent families from being separated on planes.

It’s the latest salvo in the Biden administration’s efforts to clamp down on what it calls ” junk fees ” and to put pressure on airlines to improve service.

The dashboard rewards airlines with a green check if they guarantee that an adult family member can sit next to their young children if seats are available. On Monday, only three of the 10 U.S. airlines listed on the website received a green check: Alaska, American and Frontier.

The site also includes links to each airline’s customer policies.

“Parents traveling with young kids should be able to sit together without an airline forcing them to pay junk fees,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a release announcing the dashboard. He gave his department credit for pressuring airlines, “and now we’re seeing some airlines start to make this common-sense change.”

Airlines say they try and usually succeed at seating families together, but they have stopped short of making iron-clad promises. This year, several carriers have pledged to make changes in their seating policies.

Last month, Frontier Airlines said it would automatically seat at least one parent next to any child under 14.

Last week, American Airlines updated its customer-service plan with a guarantee that children 14 and under would be seated next to an accompanying adult at no extra cost.

United Airlines said it would let families with children under 12 to pick adjoining seats at no extra cost starting in early March in certain fare classes. The announcement seemed to fall short of Transportation standards however, because the department issued a notice last July that it intends to ban extra charges to have a family adult sit next to children up to age 13.

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