United Airlines is updating its family seating policy so it’s easier for families to sit together for free. This is made possible by a new seat map feature that finds available adjacent seats when a family books a flight.
“In an era where more families are working in a hybrid environment, they’re traveling more often — and they’re flying United,” said Linda Jojo, chief customer officer for United. “We’re focused on delivering a great experience for our younger passengers and their parents and know it often starts with the right seat. We look forward to rolling out more family-friendly features this year.”
United’s New Policy
United’s complete policy change goes into effect in early March, but families with children under 12 years old will see more adjacent seat options immediately when booking their next flight. The new online seat engine is available regardless of what type of ticket is purchased. The feature will review all available free Economy seats, and if no seats are available, it will open free upgrades to available Preferred Seats.
If there is a case where adjacent seats are not available when booking because of last-minute purchases, full flights, or unscheduled changes to flights, the new policy will let families switch to another flight for free to the same destination with seating availability in the same cabin. They will also not be charged if there is a difference in price between the original flight and the new one.
United Polaris®, United First Class®, and Economy Plus® seats are separate products and are not available with this family seating policy change.
This new seat map feature is part of United’s investments in its technology and tools. The airline says, since last summer, it has improved its ability to seat families together by using this seat engine to prioritize families who didn’t have seats together before their travel day. It also prioritizes adjacent seating for schedule changes, airplane swaps, or irregular operations.
Pressure From President Biden
Airline passengers have had many complaints about not being seated with their children, and then having to pay to sit together. This has caught the attention of the President. In a statement from the White House in the beginning of February, President Joe Biden called for a ban on airline fees for family members to sit with young children.
“Many airlines today charge a fee to select a seat in advance, including for those traveling with children. Parents can find themselves unexpectedly not seated with their young child on a flight or paying large fees to sit next to their children. The President believes no parents should have to pay extra to sit next to their child.”
The President is calling on Congress to fast track the ban on family seating fees so the Department of Transportation can crack down on these practices.
Other Airlines’ Policies
American Airlines says its system will detect that you’re a family traveling together and will automatically search for seats together before your flight. If seats are limited, the airline says it will assign seats so children under 15 years old are next to at least one adult in the party.
Delta Airlines says it will try to seat family members together upon request. If a family is unable to get seats together when booking, they’re asked to contact Reservations to review available seating options.
While Southwest Airlines does not have assigned seating, it offers Family Boarding. Two adults traveling with a child 6 years old or younger may board after the A group and before the B group. Passengers can choose EarlyBird Check-In to get the convenience of automatic check-in before the 24-hour check-in. This gives the benefit of being among the first to board the flight with more seating options together.
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