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Family Seating

The Department recognizes the importance that families place on sitting together when flying.  To make sitting together easier when flying within the United States, the Department offers the following practical tips that families may use before, during, and after air travel.

If you are dissatisfied with an experience related to family seating, you can file a complaint with the airline or DOT. Click here file a complaint with the DOT.    

Before and During Booking

Understand your airline’s seating policies.

  • You can obtain information about an airline’s family seating policies directly from the airline.  This information may be available on an airline’s website.  If you cannot find this information on an airline’s website, you may also contact the airline through its reservations to request this information.

    • Online travel agents and other third-party websites might not provide specific seating information for individual airlines

  • Many airlines allow consumers to reserve seats next to each other without paying an additional fee.

  • To best ensure that your family sits together, make sure the ticket that you are purchasing allows you to reserve specific seats on your flight.
    • For example, basic economy fares are often lower fares and may not provide consumers with the ability to select a seat.  These tickets may not meet the needs of families with young children.
  • All airlines may allow a child under two years old to be held on a person’s lap during the flight.  Please contact your specific airline for more information on its policy as the required age of the person holding the child varies by airline.
    • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) encourages all passengers traveling with children under two years of age to use a government-approved child safety restraint system or device.  For more information, please visit the FAA’s Flying with Children page.
  • FAA regulations prohibit children under 15 and passengers caring for small children from sitting in exit row seats.  Please contact your specific airline for more information on its exit row policy.

Book your ticket as early as possible. 

  • The earlier you book your family’s travel, the more likely it is that you will be able to reserve seats that are next to each other.  
  • If you tried to book your tickets early, and seats are not available together, contact the airline through reservations to ask whether additional seats will become available later.

Book children on the same reservation as adults. 

  • Airlines generally know travelers belong to one party only if all the passengers are on the same reservation record.
  • Airlines assigning or reassigning seats give priority to parents and children on the same reservation.

After Booking

Contact the airline directly through reservations if your family was not able to obtain seats together or if you are unsure about the status of your seats. 

  • Ask the airline how it may be able to accommodate your family in advance of your flight or at the airport.
  • Discuss with the airline your concerns about a child being seated alone.  Even if the airline is unable to seat the whole family together, they may be able to assure you that each child is seated next to an adult family member.
  • If you booked parents and children on different reservations, contact the airline as soon as possible to ask if the party can be put on the same reservation record or have their reservations cross-referenced in the booking notes.

Confirm reservations that are not booked with the airline. 

  • If you did not book your travel directly with an airline, obtain or confirm your seat assignments directly with the airline as soon as possible before the day of travel.  This can be done either on the airline’s website or over the phone by contacting reservations.

Before Travel/Airport

Confirm reservations and seat assignments before going to the airport.

  • You may wish to confirm your seat assignments before you would normally go to the airport as your seat assignments could have changed after booking due to an aircraft substitution with a different seating arrangement.  If your seat assignments have changed, you can contact the airline to ask for help.

Plan to arrive at the airport early on the day of your flight

  • Arriving early will give your family and the airline more time to address any seating-related issues.

  • Airlines will do what they can at the airport to help families who self-identify to their agents as needing to sit together.  Even if the airline is unable to seat the whole family together, they may be able to assure you that each child is seated next to an adult family member.

After Travel

Share your experience with the airline and DOT. 

  • If you should have a problem during your trip, you may file a complaint with the airline or DOT.
  • The feedback you provide to the airline may influence the way an airline interacts with families traveling together.  The feedback you provide the Department will better inform us on what is and is not working.
  • The Department also sends every family seating complaint it receives about an airline to that airline.  Airlines must respond to written consumer complaints.  Your comments or complaint will be reviewed by the Department and the airline.  Click here to find out more about the Department’s review of airline family seating policies and complaints.

Large U.S. Airline Family Seating Policies and Practices

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File a Consumer Complaint

DOT Relaunches Air Consumer Website

Last updated: Wednesday, March 4, 2020