Airline advance seat assignments are something that many people value, as evidenced by the fact that people are willing to pay for them, and elites consider it a benefit worth their loyalty when they receive the ‘best’ coach seats without paying a premium.
And clearly enough families consider them to be important such that Mommy Points is wondering whether government should get involved to make airlines give those assignments to parties traveling together, for free and a member of Congress is grandstanding on the issue to boot.
Most airlines offer advance seat assignments. If you can’t get seats together, book a different flight where you can.
If there are seats together at a price premium, pay the premium to the extent it’s worth some amount of money to sit together.
This may sound cold-hearted but there are plenty of things that families need while traveling that cost extra, from car seats or harnesses to extra bags and diapers, issues that Mommy Points has written about before. The whole point of her blog is that family travel has certain needs, can be much more expensive (not the least of which because you’re buying more tickets!), and so she helps folks to figure out how to make their travels more affordable.
Seat assignments are a product that in some cases comes at a price, and families need to plan for that. In the case of the “Families Flying Together Act” that asks the government to redistribute from airlines to families but not other passengers.
Most people don’t realize that by many measures Southwest Airlines is the largest domestic airline. They don’t do advance seat assignments which means that seats for families remain available at boarding time. Check in online, plan ahead, get seats together.
The point here is that families do in many cases have a choice to fly the airline whose policies best fit their needs.
In any case, how are airlines supposed to comply with a requirement that families be seated together? Are they supposed to build projection models for the number of business travelers versus families on a given flight, e.g. set aside more “family seating” on weekend Florida runs than Thursday 6pm flights between major cities? And then build out the IT infrastructure to determine passengers under age 12 on an itinerary with older passengers and then open up premium seating to them? And what if the flight is already full? Or there are more families than expected onboard? Or a flight cancels and a family has to be re-accomodated, would offering to seat families apart on the next available flight constitute a violation of the regulations, and should families thus only be offered the next flight on which they might travel together? Or should passengers with confirmed seat assignments be bumped from those in order to seat families together?
One way to solve this would be to eliminate advance seat assignments altogether but that would be destroying value, we’ve already seen that advance seat assignments are something people in general want and are willing to pay for.
But why impose an additional regulatory tax on airlines, already one of the highest taxed industries and one which while profitable in 2012 has not earned a net profit over the course of the entire last century?
It’s equally plausible that one might start a program to redistribute general tax revenue to families to reimburse seating fees. That at least wouldn’t carry nearly the same unintended consequences.
Except that advance seat assignments are the kinds of things that families can and should plan around. They can read the Mommy Poiints blog and watch her Travel Channel videos and be prepared to make their travel easier.
None of which requires an act of Congress.
Ultimately the Families Fly Together Act says more about that august body than it does about the airline industry…
As the 501(c)4 issue ads on television might close with, “Contact Jarold Nadler. Tell him he’ll never out-Chuck Schumer Chuck Schumer, and that he shouldn’t even try. Vote No on H.R. 6124.”