I think every frequent traveler has been in a situation where you find a great deal on a flight, only to get buried by fees on the day of your flight when you try to carry on bags or choose seats for your family that are next to each other. While it would be easy to suggest that you be wary of basic economy fares and budget airlines because of these fees, there are some really, really great fares out there that are just too good to pass up. Instead of passing on these fares in the future, there are some tips that I can provide you to help ensure that you sit next to family on flights.
Let’s face it, the flights that you book for your travel will be one of the largest investments that you will make for your trips These flights can also be one of the most stressful and taxing parts of travel, so understanding how to save money on your flights and fly without overtaxing yourself is important. If you are looking for some additional resources to help you book airfare and survive long haul flights, I have included some links for you to review below.
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Understand the Airline Seating Policies
One of the most important things you can do to ensure that you sit next to family on flights when booking airfare is to understand the airline’s seating policy. For airlines like Southwest, there are no seating assignments assigned with your ticket. Instead, customers get to choose their seats when they board the plane. However, you are able to increase your odds of getting the seat that you want by upgrading your ticket class or by checking in early.
Most budget airlines and the economy fares of other airlines require you to pay a fee to reserve a seat. The great airfare you found might dissolve at the airport after you pay fees to sit by your kids. So when you are shopping for low fares for your trip, you will want to factor these costs into your decisions. Reading and understanding the airline seating policies should be a critical step you take before purchasing any airfare. For an overview of the basic economy and seating policies of the major US airlines, please see the links below.
- Delta Airlines Basic Economy Policy
- American Airlines Basic Economy Policy
- United Airlines Basic Economy Policy
- Southwest Airlines Seating Policy
- Alaska Airlines Saver Fares Policy
- Frontier Airlines Seating Policy
- Hawaiian Airlines Basic Economy Policy
- JetBlue Airlines Basic Economy Policy
- Spirit Airlines Basic Economy Policy
Communicate With the Airline Early and Often
The most crucial step that you can take to make sure you sit next to family on flights is to be in contact with the airline. If you don’t reach out to the airline with your questions and concerns, it will be impossible for them to assist you. Most often, if you have reasonable requests, airlines will do what they can to accommodate you. The following situations are some of the many reasons why you should reach out to the airline early when booking airfare.
Always Check With the Airline When Booking Thru Apps
When booking airfare thru other sites, you may not have the option to choose your seats. This can even be true if the class of fare your are purchasing allows you to choose your seat. If you purchase your airfare thru a site like Orbitz or Expedia, you will want to contact the airline afterwards. Even if you can’t reserve seats in the 3rd party app, the airline may be able to help you do so.
Even if the Airline Website Shows No Seats Together, Give Them a Call
Sometimes when booking airfare on an airline website or app, the seating chart won’t be available immediately. Even if it is, there are occasions on full flights where seats together won’t be an option. If this should happen, I would strongly recommend reaching out to the airline to see if they can assist. Often times, they will be able to re-arrange automated seating assignments to find you seats together.
Let the Airline Know that You are Traveling with Children
Even when booking basic economy, there are still ways to sit next to family on flights when flying with kids. When possible, airlines will try accommodate seating so that each of your children sit next to a parent. While you may not all sit side-by-side or together, at least your kids will be with a parent. Again, communication with the airline early and often is critical in allowing them to accommodate these requests.
Double-Check Seating Assignments Before Check-In
Another important tip that I can give you to ensure you sit next to family on flights is to check your seating assignments before check-in. Even though you may have selected seats previously, there is no guarantee those assignments won’t change before your flight. On more than one occasion, I have selected seats for a flight, only to have those seating assignments change.
Typically, I will log onto the airline app a week before my flight to ensure our seats haven’t changed. This will give me plenty of time to reach out to the airline should the seat assignments need adjusting. If you wait until the day of your flight, you may not have time to reach out to the airline or they may not be able to help.
Arrive Early to Ensure You Sit Next to Family on Flights
For travelers who are trying to sit next to family on flights, it is always good to arrive at the airport early. This is especially true if your attempts to work with the airline previously haven’t gotten you the desired seating assignments. Often times, the gate agent for the airline will have more flexibility in assisting you with seating assignments. However, if you don’t show up at the airport early, they may be too busy or unable to assist.
If I have any questions about my seating assignments or carry-on luggage, I try to get to the gate a few hours early for that flight. This allows me plenty of time to speak with the gate agent. It also gives the gate agent plenty of time to work on solving my issue before boarding. The gate agent will often be able to call up other passengers to see if they would be willing to switch seats. If they don’t have a lot of time, they won’t be able to do this.
Summary of How to Sit Next to Family on Flights
With more airlines offering basic economy fares, finding cheap flights and choosing your seats is becoming rarer. However, that doesn’t mean it always has to be and either-or proposition. If you communicate with the airline you are flying with and are flexible, they will often work with you. However, if you don’t reach out to the airline and arrive at the airport the day of your flight expecting to change seats, you might be out of luck.
On our way back from a domestic trip a few years ago – I think it was San Antonio? – I was called to the desk while waiting at the gate. I was asked if I would switch seats so that a woman could sit by her child. I agreed out of kindness, but I will admit to being somewhat irked by the request. I agreed because it was a short(ish) flight – maybe 4 hours. If it had been an international flight or long domestic flight (e.g., to Hawaii), there’s no way I would have given up my seat next to my husband, especially as a nervous flier. After all, I paid to sit next to him. I booked early to be able to sit next to him. I realize that things happen and people have to book last-minute flights, but sometimes you gotta live with the consequences. There. Rant over.
Thanks for the comment! I have been in that situation as well. However, I was traveling alone for business when I was asked. I am surprised they asked you to move and not a solo traveler. Perhaps there were none? I totally understand your point and agree that you shouldn’t have to give up your seat if you don’t want to, but that was so nice of you to do so. 😀