US President Joe Biden has stepped up the pressure on the US airline industry to offer families traveling to be able to book seats on commercial flights without having to pay additional fees to sit together. The president took to his official X account (formerly known as Twitter) calling on all airlines to offer “fee-free family seating” when booking flights on US carriers.
“You ought to be able to fly with your child, and sit next to them, without paying an additional fee,” he wrote in the post which appeared on X on February 5, 2024.
This latest salvo isn’t the first time that the president has become involved in this issue which is being interpreted by some to be a small but important part of his early drive to appeal to the electorate before the upcoming US election in November 2024. The election is almost certainly to be a re-run of the 2020 vote, which saw Biden go head-to-head with Donald Trump.
Biden has told airlines in the US to stop charging travelers additional charges to book seats together when flying with their children. In March 2023, the president unveiled a new family seating dashboard via the US Department of Transportation (DoT) website that shows consumers which airlines offer fee-free family seating, and which don’t.
The dashboard, which you can find here, is shown in an easy-to-read format and indicates which US airlines ensure that travelers under 13 can sit next to their parent or adult travel companion for no additional fee.
According to the DOT family seating dashboard at the time of writing, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, and JetBlue all ensure that travelers under 13 can sit next to their parent or adult travel companion for no additional fee.
Allegiant, Delta, Hawaiian, Southwest, Spirit, and United all charge some form of family seating fee, although the applicable ages and charges differ between the carriers’ policies.
Some airlines, such as United, had already made some adjustments to their policies before the March 2023 announcement. The changes implemented by United made it easier for families traveling with children under age 12 to find and select multiple seats together during the booking process. However, the DOT dashboard uses the strict ‘under 13’ guideline.
Frontier Airlines also changed its policy in February 2023, ensuring that children under a certain age will always be paired with at least one family member when they fly. Following in September 2023, JetBlue followed suit by making subtle changes to its family seating policy.
The US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg submitted a bill in early 2023 to make it mandatory that airlines do not charge family seating fees for children 13 and younger. The bill has yet to be passed, however.