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United Introduces Family-Friendly Seating Policy

Published by FareCompare on February 21, 2023

family flying together

This week, United Airlines announced a new seat map feature that will assist families with children under the age of 12 find seats together at no extra charge.

More About United's Family-Friendly Seating

The seat map technology, which will cover Basic Economy tickets, will dynamically find available adjacent Economy seats at the time of booking. Complimentary upgrades to other available seats as needed will also be included, according to the airline.

If side-by-side seats are unavailable, travelers will have the option to switch to another flight that services their destination in the same cabin at no extra charge. No fare difference will be charged in these applicable cases, United confirmed in a press release.

More adjacent seat options will be available on United Airlines immediately. The complete policy change is set to go into effect in early March, the airline 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," said Linda Jojo, Chief Customer Officer for United.

Take note that United Polaris, First Class, and Economy Plus seats are not included in the new family seating policy change.

An Announcement Long Overdue

Airline customers in the United States have complained for years about seating policies that separate young children from their parents on flights. Added costs associated with purchasing seats in order to sit together have also been the source of stress, headaches, and general discontent.

A July 2022 notice from the Department of Transportation called on U.S. airlines to make seating children next to accompanying adults available at no additional cost.

However, while this news is a welcome update to United customers, other airlines were quick to remind travelers of their already-flexible family seating policies.

Earlier this week, Delta that it "does not charge family seating fees and regardless of the ticket class purchased, will always work with customers on a case-by-case basis to ensure their family seating needs are met."

That airline's website refers to family seating "upon request," referring passengers who are unable to secure seats via the Delta website or mobile app to contact reservations. Delta’s seat map technology blocks off some areas for family seating up to 48 hours before a flight.

American Airlines offers booking tips on its website for families traveling with children under 15, noting that "the farther in advance you book, the better."

"Our current policies regarding family seating are designed to allow families to sit together without having to pay extra," American Airlines said in a statement.

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