DOT’s Review of U.S. Airline Family Seating Policies
- Section 2309 of the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 directed the Department to review airline seating policies and determine whether to direct airlines to establish specific seating policies.
Initial Review (June 2016- June 2017)
In response to the statute, the Department reviewed the seating policies of the largest U.S. airlines.
- As part of its review, the Department also searched its consumer complaint database for family seating complaints filed with the Department from June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2017.
- Fewer than .5% (.005) of over 10,000 complaints received by the Department against U.S. airlines during this period involved family seating. No single airline received a majority of the complaints.
- Through this process, the Department learned more about when families tend to experience problems in being able to sit together and how family members could best ensure that their child is seated next to an adult family member.
Based on the low number of complaints received and review of airline family seating policies, the Department determined that it was unnecessary to direct airlines to establish policies on family seating. However, the Department found that families could benefit from practical tips to make sitting together easier when flying within the United States.
The Department added a family seating page to its consumer website containing practical tips to help families obtain seats together and be better informed when choosing among transportation options. The Department's family seating webpage is available here.
Follow-up Review (July 2017 to June 2019)
The Department reviewed family seating complaints filed directly with the Department from July 2017 through June 2019. This review revealed that the Department continued to receive a low number of family seating complaints - approximately .5% (.005) of the aviation consumer complaints received by the Department against U.S. airlines.
- The Department also conducted a follow-up review of the family seating policies of the largest U.S. airlines and found that since its initial review some airlines had enhanced approaches applicable to family seating. For example, certain airlines use automated systems to better ensure young children are seated next to at least one adult family member.
- After this follow-up review, the Department updated its family seating webpage to provide consumers with additional information to make sitting together easier when flying in the United States. This includes more detailed information on the seating policies of each of the largest U.S. airlines.
Family Seating Complaints (2020)
Because of the significant interest in family seating and recent increases in the number of family seating complaints filed with the Department, the Department will provide information about family seating complaints each month in the table below. The recent increases in family seating complaints correspond with an advocacy group's efforts to encourage air travelers to file complaints with the Department if they are dissatisfied with an experience related to family seating.
Complaints Filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation
(U.S. and Foreign Airlines)
|Month||Number of Family Seating Complaints||Total Number of Complaints|
The Department will post information for subsequent months as complaint data for the month is published in the Department's Air Travel Consumer Report (e.g. The Air Travel Consumer Report with January 2020 complaint data was published in March 2020).
- The Department continues to monitor and review family seating complaints on a regular basis. It plans to update the family seating webpage to include new and helpful information for families as airline business models, practices and procedures evolve.