Parents flying with small children have a new advocate in Washington. Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) has introduced new legislation to help keep families seated together on commercial flights. The Families Flying Together Act of 2012 would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to direct each carrier to "establish a policy to ensure, to the extent practicable, that a family that purchases tickets for a flight with that air carrier is seated together during that flight; and (2) make the policy ... available to the public on an appropriate Internet Web site of the air carrier." The legislation would help to ensure that children are not separated from their families and seated alone on flights.
Parents often have to rely on the kindness of strangers to switch seats, if they were not able to reserve seats together on a flight. Now that some airlines are charging additional fees for certain aisle and window seats, it's less likely fellow passengers would be willing to relocate. The Families Flying Together Act takes the onus off of parents to ensure their family is seated together (either by reserving extra early or incurring fees) and onto the airlines.
"Air travel is complicated and expensive enough for families without adding new stresses," says Nadler. "Families should not be stuck paying hidden fees, or buying 'premium' seats, simply because they wish to be seated together on crowded flights. It is positively absurd to expect a two or three-year-old to sit unattended, next to strangers, on an airplane. It is up to air carriers to make their seating policies clear and easily accessible to the public."
Back in May, Senator Charles Schumer requested Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issue rules that would prevent airlines charging parents more to sit with their children. He also asked Airlines for America, an industry trade group, to persuade carriers to voluntarily waive fees for families flying with young children. Schumer was successful in his bid to get five major airlines to promise they would not start charging for overhead carry-on luggage after Spirit Airlines introduced their fee for that back in 2010.
Corinne McDermott is a Family Travel Expert and the founder of Have Baby Will Travel, an award-winning family travel website.