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Parents will no longer be charged extra money for sitting next to their kids on airplanes

The Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) issued a notice to airlines to seat young children who are 13 or younger next to a parent at no extra charge.

Parents will no longer be charged extra money for sitting next to their kids on airplanes
Representative Cover Image Source: Getty Images/Marko Geber

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is taking measures to stop airlines in the United States from charging families extra fees to sit together on a flight. In a press release, the department stated that its Office of Aviation Consumer Protection (OACP) has issued a notice to airlines to seat children who are 13 or younger next to a parent at no extra charge. The OACP explained in a statement that although the number of complaints it receives about this problem is relatively low, "there continue to be complaints of instances where young children, including a child as young as 11 months, are not seated next to an accompanying adult."


"In four months from the date of this Notice, OACP plans to initiate a review of airline policies and consumer complaints filed with the Department. If airlines’ seating policies and practices are barriers to a child sitting next to an adult family member or other accompanying adult family member, the Department will consider additional action consistent with its authorities," the statement added. The notice comes more than two years after Consumer Reports launched a petition requesting that major U.S. airlines seat families together for free.


"Children 13 or under should sit with their families while flying, and should not be charged extra fees to do so. Complaints have been filed against your airline for separating children as young as age 2 from their families. This is a security hazard for the child and a safety threat to all passengers during emergencies. It also puts an inappropriate burden on customers who sit next to an unaccompanied child," read the petition that was signed by more than 163,000 people. "I expect you to put safety over profits, and seat children with their families without charging them extra for it."


"Children need a responsible adult around and whether it's just so they can go to the bathroom in the middle of the flight or if there's an emergency, it's not safe to have a child without somebody there to take care of them," Anna Laitin, director of financial policy for Consumer Reports' advocacy arm, told CNN at the time. "And no business traveler or solo traveler wants to be put in charge of a 3-year-old they don't know, and no parent wants to be seated, strapped in unable to move, that far from their child." In the event of an emergency situation where a child is seated 10 rows behind their parent, "no one believes that parent is going to calmly move forward and get off the plane" without their child, Laitin added.


In its press release, the DOT also announced that it has published the first-ever Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights. The bill is "an easy-to-use summary of the fundamental rights of air travelers with disabilities under the Air Carrier Access Act, [that] will empower air travelers with disabilities to understand and assert their rights, and help ensure that U.S. and foreign air carriers and their contractors uphold those rights," the department stated. According to the DOT, customer complaints against airlines have climbed more than 300% since before the COVID-19 pandemic began, with refunds being the most prevalent issue, followed by flight difficulties. 


"Today's announcements are the latest steps toward ensuring an air travel system that works for everyone," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. "Whether you're a parent expecting to sit together with your young children on a flight, a traveler with a disability navigating air travel, or a consumer traveling by air for the first time in a while, you deserve safe, accessible, affordable, and reliable airline service."

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