The Department of Transportation on Friday issued a stern warning to airlines – stop charging extra fees to travelers with young children so that they sit next to a family member, or the agency will issue regulation prohibiting carriers from doing so.
The story was first reported by Reuters News Service.
Airlines for years have reveled in what are known as ancillary fees, the extra costs on top of regular airfare that include such things as baggage fees, overweight bags, and paying extra to select your own seat. When you don’t choose the seat option, a traveling party might be scattered across the cabin away from each other – including small children.
The DOT said airlines should “make immediate adjustments as needed to ensure young children are able to be seated adjacent to accompanying adults.” That does not include being upgraded to a more premium seat.
As recently as last September a consumer group had been pressuring the White House over family seating arrangements on flights.
The agency based its communication to airlines on a 2016 law on family seating policies, which started that airlines were urged to seat children ages 13 or younger next to an adult from their traveling party.
The DOT even stressed that carriers who use seat-blocking technology on their reservation systems should make sure enough seats are available to those traveling with young children.
Airlines for America, the main lobby group for the U.S. aviation industry, told Reuters in a statement that “U.S. airlines have always worked to accommodate customers who are traveling together, especially those traveling with children, and will continue to do so. Each carrier sets their own policies that fit individual business models.”
The DOT plans to reveal formal rules on the matter next month.