WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — If families want to fly together without paying an extra fee, they have a new tool to help them. On Monday the Department of Transportation rolled out a new dashboard that shows travelers which airlines guarantee fee-free family seating.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg says this is part of an ongoing effort to pressure airlines to let families sit together without paying fees. “So far three airlines have agreed to do it, Alaska, Frontier, and American. We’re calling on all airlines to do that,” Buttigieg said.
Bill McGee is a Senior Fellow for Aviation with the American Economic Liberties Project. He’s been working on this issue for years and says he knows of situations where kids as young as one were assigned seats away from their parents. “This is ridiculous, it’s absurd,” McGee said.
He says he’s pleased to see federal leaders making some progress on fee-free family seating. “We certainly want to give credit to the Department of Transportation for taking action on this, but we also want to make it very clear that this will not be enough.”
McGee points out the guarantees from the airline so far aren’t necessarily permanent. Instead, they’re just voluntary changes they’ve made to their customer service policies. “They can be amended on an hour’s notice. So it’s sort of written in sand.” McGee wants to see both federal legislation and regulations from the Transportation Department requiring fee-free family seating.
Secretary Buttigieg says his department is working on those regulations. “My message to the airlines is don’t wait for our regulations to be complete to do the right thing, just do it now,” Buttigieg said.
Right now, McGee advises families to be vigilant about securing seats together. “The onus for now until we get these regulations in place is on the passengers,” McGee said.
Meanwhile, Sec. Buttigieg promises to continue working to make travel more affordable and easier. “We’re going to keep pushing to make the passenger experience better,” Buttigieg said.