Family Seating

Information for Traveling with Young Children

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 has issued a Notice encouraging U.S. airlines to do everything that they can to ensure the ability of a young child (age 13 or younger) to be seated next to an accompanying adult (over age 13) without charging fees for adjacent seating. In addition, 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. 

Before and During Booking

Understand the 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.  Some airlines provide important advice on their webpages about what to do or not do when booking a flight to best ensure young children will get a seat next to an accompanying adult.  If you cannot find this information on an airline’s website, you may also contact the airline through its reservations to request this information.

  • To best ensure that your family sits together, shop for tickets that allow you to reserve specific seats on your flight.
     
    • Note, 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.
  • If you are traveling with a child with a disability who you are assisting during the flight to perform a function that is not required to be performed by airline personnel, for example assisting with eating, and you self-identify to the airline, the airline is required to provide you a seat next to your child in the class of service that you purchased. Airlines may not charge for such adjoining seats.

    • Advance notice or early check-in requirements may apply, so check with the airline about its policies as soon as possible before your trip if you plan to request a seating accommodation on the basis of disability.
  • 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 and you are not satisfied with how the airline addressed this problem, 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.  

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