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Airlines Not Seating Families Together Is A Scam

The airlines will try to extort us any way they can. This is one of their worst grifts.

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ASTORIA, NYC- Some years ago I was on a flight in the US with my wife and two kids. One daughter was seven, the other was two. The gate agent assigned us seats that were not only not next to each other but my two year old was given a seat that was on the other end of the plane … by herself.

We looked at our boarding passes and were like, what the fuck? How could they do that? And then had a discussion about what we should do about it. Should we do the laborious and annoying leg work of asking multiple passengers to switch seats with us? No, it’s not their responsibility to ensure that minors are seated with parents.

My idea was to just sit our two year old between two random people, move to the back of the plane and take our rightful seats, and then let the airline take care of her for the entire flight. They sat her there. Fuck them.

But my wife was more diplomatic than I, and told me to be a grown up and just take her seat and she would figure out how to get the kids somewhat near her in the back of the plane.

It wasn’t really that big of a travel riddle to solve, but I’ve always remembered this. Gate agents know the ages of passengers and they intentionally sat a two young kids away from their parents. To me, this was the airline trying to teach us a lesson: “You better pay us to select your own seats in advance next time, buddy.”

It’s a threat. It’s extortion. Apparently, it’s also a safety risk. And we’ve flown multiple times before and after that where our kids have been separated from us. It shouldn’t happen.

I’ve been going after the airlines in the US lately, and for good reason. It’s one thing to limit services to cut down on expenses in order to offer cheaper prices, it’s another thing to cut corners to the point that passengers are severely inconvenienced, harmed, or outright scammed.

One of the ways that airlines have been trying to gain a little additional revenue is by charging passengers to select their seats. It’s annoying, but fine. If you don’t want to pay or don’t have a strong preference for seating you still get a seat randomly assigned by a gate agent. You may get a middle seat but oh well … the ultimate objecting of flying is to get to where you’re going.

However, airlines have been taking this one step too far when they — seemingly purposely — assign families who are traveling together seats that are away from each other. The airlines know when families are traveling together because of last names and ages … a five year old is probably traveling with at least one relative. It seems as if they are doing this to pressure families who wish to sit together to pay more for what the airlines want to establish as a privilege.

Being able to take care of your kids on a flight is not a privilege, it’s something necessary for the smooth operation of the flight.

I’m writing about this because I came across a blog post written by a fat lady who had enough of being asked to switch seats on flights by families who have been seated apart. She says she likes the window seat and puts in the effort to get one, and they when she boards the plane and finds her seat there’s often some brat sitting in it with their parents refusing to move them. I think this lady needs to get some balls and demand her seat. That’s her right. Instead, she moves and then writes blog posts complaining about it.

I like aisle seats and if some kid was in my seat I would tell him to hit the road. It’s not my responsibility to ensure that kids are seated with their parents, it’s the airline’s.

This scam has only grown worse since the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Department of Transportation, complaints from families not being seated together on flights have grown 300% over the past couple of years, which has resulted in petitions and the Biden administration begging the airlines to operate with a sliver of decency or face regulation.

For decades airlines have been able to seat families together without any difficulties. You’d board a flight and not even think about the possibility that you could be seated apart from your kids. I don’t believe that anything has changed other than the fact that the airlines simply found another way that they can extort money from passengers.


Filed under: Air Travel, Travel With Family

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

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