WASHINGTON, DC (release) - United States Senator Charles E. Schumer called on U.S. airlines to allow families with children to sit together in consecutive seats without having to pay a premium for an aisle or window seat assignment. Over the last year, airlines have begun to charge additional fees for aisle and window seats, which if not paid can result in children and families being separated from each other on flights. With the busy summer travel season set to begin for families this week, Schumer is calling on the major airlines to allow families with children to sit together without an extra fee and is asking the United States Department of Transportation to regulate the practice.
"Children need access to their parents and parents need access to their children," continued Schumer. "Unnecessary airline fees shouldn't serve as a literal barrier between mother and child."
Major Airlines, including American, Delta, and US Airways charge for "preferred seats" at the window or on the aisle, or both. American charges upwards of $25 for a preferred seat, Delta can charge up to $59 and US Airways charges up to $30. A recent Associated Press report pointed out the growing trend of charging more for aisle and window seats and noted that on a July flight from Dallas to San Francisco only 28 seats out of 144 that were available to passengers without having to pay an extra fee and 21 were middle seats.
Schumer made the case that a family of four, traveling on a traditional McDonald Douglas MD-80, with two seats on the left side of the plane and three seats on the right side of the plane, would have to either separate or pay an additional $100 total in order for the family to sit next to each other for the round trip flight. If the flight has a layover in both directions that cost could skyrocket to an additional $200 on top of the base price and fees for checked baggage.
Besides the cost implication for travelers, Schumer raised concerns with the U.S. Department of Transportation over the safety implications of children being forced to sit separately from their parents because of onerous fees. Schumer noted that a single parent, traveling with two children could well wind up having one child seated out of direct sight and next to strangers. Schumer questioned whether airlines that charged fees for consecutive seating on an aisle or window would assume liability for the safety of a child who wasn't seated next to their parent because of onerous airline fees.
In his letter to the airlines, Schumer called on the carriers to voluntarily reconsider their pricing scheme, particularly for families traveling with children. He also questioned whether it made sense for the airlines to push a pricing strategy that would require additional attention of airline crew and flight attendants who would have to respond to children who could otherwise be accommodated by their parents.
"Requiring parents to pay an additional fee to make sure their kids are sitting next to them and in sight is ridiculous and simply over the top," said Schumer. "This ill-conceived ploy to foist more fees on travelers could have profound implications for the safety of children on airlines and it needs to be revisited."