A few days after the White House announced it was going to crack down on airlines charging families with underage members for the option of sitting together, United Airlines has announced a change in its policies.
From March 2023, it will be free for passengers under the age of 12 years old to sit next to an adult in their party on the airline’s planes. This change was made possible after United implemented changes to the business rules regulating its booking software.
At the time of booking, families with a child younger than 12 will be offered a choice of adjacent seats, even when flying on the most basic of fare tiers, which until now didn’t have seat choice options. If, for whatever the reason, there is no availability, families will be offered the possibility of switching free of charge to another flight on the same route and, if there’s any price difference between the two, won’t be charged for it.
Seat allocation charges for families are one of the items targeted in an upcoming piece of legislation being pushed forward by the Biden administration. The “Junk Fee Prevention Act to Eliminate Unfair and Costly Junk Fees” aims to save American consumers about $9 billion by banning certain pricing practices in areas such as credit cards, telecom contracts and airline tickets.
Although many airlines claim to strive to seat families together where possible, in most cases there is no guarantee unless you pay extra for seat allocation (which, for a family of several members, can increase overall costs significantly). The US Department of Transportation (DOT) already issued a notice last July 2022, urging airlines to do more to ensure families can fly together without facing extra charges.
Some airlines, such as Breeze Airways, have highlighted that they had never applied these sorts of fees.