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United Airlines Is Making It Easier For Families To Sit Together For Free

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United Airlines has announced that they are making changes to make it easier for families to sit together on flights. The new program incorporates upgrades to the airline’s seat selection feature as well as a policy to offer more options when adjoining seats are unavailable. The changes will come into full effect early next month.

A family of four walks towards an airplane pulling their suitcases

This announcement is welcome news for anyone who travels with children under 12, as many airline seating policies make it difficult or costly for families to sit in adjoining seats.

United’s New Seat Map Feature

The core of United’s changes comes in the form of an upgraded seat map feature. Now, when selecting seats, the booking tool will find available seats that are next to each other. If multiple adjoining free economy seats are unavailable at the time of booking, passengers will be offered a complimentary upgrade to Preferred Seats. This will ensure that families with young children will have the option to sit together when flying.

But what if the flight is nearly full and there aren’t any adjoining seats available? Don’t worry; United has a plan for that too.

A family sits together on an airplane

Offer Of Alternative Flights

Whether it is a popular route, a last-minute booking, or an unscheduled aircraft change, it is not always possible to find seats next to each other. In the instance where no adjoining seats are available, families will be permitted to switch to an alternative flight headed to the same destination. Customers won’t be charged a change fee or need to pay any fare difference between the two flights.  

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A woman pushes her children on a trolley through the airport

Why A New Policy Is So Important

United’s new changes will be a big draw for families. Typically, parents flying with young children either have to pay extra to guarantee seats together or wait until check-in and hope for the best. Passengers without children will also benefit, as oftentimes they are asked to switch their pre-booked seats to help a family sit together once onboard. The new policy will make that much less likely to happen.

A small child looks outside the window of an airplane

No parent wants to be separated from their child on a flight (unless they are screaming the whole way, but that’s another story…), and the uncertainty or extra cost can cause undue stress when planning flights.

In a statement, Linda Jojo, Chief Customer Officer for United, said, “We’re focused on delivering a great experience for our younger passengers and their parents and know it often starts with the right seat. We look forward to rolling out more family-friendly features this year.” There were no hints as to what those new features might be.

Passengers Checking In For A United Airlines Flight At An Unspecified Airport

How Does This New Policy Stack Up?

United’s new policy will be the most progressive of any U.S. airline and, hopefully, pave the way for other airlines to follow suit. Currently, Most airlines charge passengers anywhere between $20-$100, depending on the class, to select their seats during the booking process. These fees really add up when traveling as a family, leaving many passengers to risk it, and hope agents can accommodate them during check-in.

Interior of large passengers airplane with people on seats and stewardess in uniform walking the aisle.

While other airlines generally try to accommodate families, they have not yet made significant technological or policy investments to this scale.

Delta and Alaska Airlines will work to seat families together “upon request”.

American suggests booking well in advance for the best chance at securing seats together.

JetBlue says they ‘will always “do our best” to seat children with an adult family member', but also suggest booking early.

Passengers flying on Spirit need to purchase adjoining seats if they want to sit together.   

Happy family traveling by plane and taking a selfie with a cell phone while smiling

Many of these airlines might be forced to follow suit if President Biden gets his way. At last month’s State Of the Union address, the president spoke of eliminating these and other so-called junk fees. The president stated, “We’ll prohibit airlines from charging up to $50 round-trip for families just to sit together, baggage fees are bad enough – they can’t just treat your child like a piece of luggage.”

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