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Families separated on flights during busy holiday season

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Posted at 6:53 PM, Nov 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-27 21:12:25-05

PHOENIX — Traveling during the holidays is stressful enough on your own, but for parents, that stress level is much higher.

With so many travelers during the holiday season, finding adjacent seats for large families can be difficult, and some parents who take pre-flight preparation lightly, or are running late, can be subject to separation from their kids on the flight.

Reseating can cost money more money and is sometimes unavailable.

"A lot of families don't know that a lot of airfare classes don't allow them to specifically book the seats that keep them together on a flight," said Richard D'Ambrosio, Director of Communication for the Family Travel Association.

"They may say 'look we can get you guys together, but each one of your tickets is going to cost an additional 75 dollars.'"

Consumer Reports Magazine found that between March 2016 and November 2018, 136 complaints had been filed to the department of transportation about family seating. Many of the complaints about children as young as two-years-old sitting apart from parents.

"Especially during the holidays when planes are fuller, the agents at the airport don't have a lot of latitude," said D'Ambrosio. "The flight may already be heavily booked."

If you are a parent who finds themselves in a situation where you are not seated next to your child, the first thing to do is talk to a travel agent at the airport.

If the agent is unable to seat you, flight attendants on the plane may ask other passengers whether or not they are willing to change seats in order to have the family sit together. There isn't any legislation that helps passengers in these instances, instead, family boarding and seating are controlled by each airline individually.

Southwest Airlines has family boarding for families with children six years old or younger that occurs between boarding the “A” and “B” boarding groups.

According to a spokesperson at United Airlines, "United strives to seat children under age 15 with an accompanying adult family member.

To have the best likelihood of children being seated with an accompanying adult, we recommend booking early and selecting seat assignments when you book."