By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“The family that prays together, stays together,” the old adage goes. But what about the family wishing to sit together on an airplane during a cross-country flight? It is often difficult, especially on crowded flights, for members of the same family to find seats near each other.
In a move designed to help families that wish to be seated together on flights, US Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan) introduced legislation on May 23 that would require the US Department of Transportation to direct each airline to establish a policy on family travel and to make the policy accessible to the public on the carrier’s website.
The legislation, called the Families Flying Together Act of 2013, would help to ensure that children are not separated from their families and seated alone on flights, according to Nadler, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“Air travel is stressful enough for families without adding new worries,” Nadler said. “Families should not be stuck paying hidden fees, or buying ‘premium’ seats, simply because they wish to be seated together on crowded flights. It is positively absurd to expect a two or three-year-old to sit unattended, next to strangers, on an airplane. It is up to air carriers to make their seating policies clear and easily accessible to the public,” he said.
As airlines change policies and increase fees for a variety of basic services, it’s becoming harder for families to sit together on commercial flights, according to transportation advocacy groups. In recent years, airlines have been charging fees to make advance seat assignments and for window or aisle seats. Airlines have also eliminated advanced boarding for parents with small children.
Nadler said there are increasing reports of people being separated from their children when they arrive to board the aircraft. When this happens, the only recourse is to rely on another passenger to willingly change seats," he said. It is also potentially unsafe and traumatic for the families involved, he said.
But a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a lobbying organization for the country’s airline industry, disputed that federal legislation is needed.
“The ability to sit together on flights without additional charges exists today without needless legislation. Airline seats, much like tickets to sporting events or concerts are at their greatest availability when purchased early, which is when most families book travel,” said Victoria Day, managing director of corporate and member communications for Airlines for America.
“Airlines have always worked cooperatively with their customers to seat parties, including those traveling with children, together. The great news for consumers and families is that the airline industry is hugely competitive, and customers have choices of airlines and different products within airlines. As with all other products and industries, it is the market that can—and should—determine how air travel is priced, not the government,” Day said.