American Airlines has become the latest U.S. carrier to update its family seating policy in the wake of President Joe Biden’s criticism of ‘junk fees’ in the airline industry.
The Fort Worth-based airline updated its customer service plan on February 28, which outlined its new policy on allowing families to be seated together on its flights at no extra charge. American Airlines said its “goal is to have families seated together” and will now “guarantee children 14 and under will be seated adjacent to an accompanying adult at no additional cost,” as long as certain conditions are met.
These qualifying conditions require that everyone in the family is booked under the same reservation, adjacent seats are available in the cabin at the time of booking, no changes are made to the seats once they’re assigned, the plane’s layout can accommodate the number of children under one reservation, and the original flight isn’t switched to a smaller aircraft. However, American Airlines states that even if some of these conditions aren’t met, it will try to accommodate families as best it can.
“American Airlines lets families sit together at no additional cost,” said Amy Lawrence, a spokesperson for American Airlines. “We are proud to offer industry-leading, customer-friendly policies that ensure a positive travel experience for families traveling together.”
“Our current policies allow families to sit together without having to pay more, and we are pleased to update our Customer Service Plan to provide additional clarity to families traveling with us.”
The Dallas-based carrier updated its family seating policy as the U.S. Department of Transport (DOT) plans to force airlines to allow families to be seated together for free before it launches a new dashboard revealing which airlines are doing so. But despite American Airlines’ recent changes to its policy, it claims it has been seating families together since at least 2019.
Next week, @USDOT will publish a family seating dashboard to show which airlines guarantee families can sit together for free. I appreciate American Airlines becoming the first U.S. airline to commit to putting this guarantee in its customer service plan. https://t.co/5bOaZPhsKa
— Secretary Pete Buttigieg (@SecretaryPete) February 28, 2023
The airline’s policy update was welcomed by Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who tweeted: “A parent should be able to sit next to their child without paying extra fees, asking other passengers to swap seats, or facing a last-minute scramble at the gate. That’s why @USDOT is moving to require airlines to guarantee fee-free family seating.”
“Next week, @USDOT will publish a family seating dashboard to show which airlines guarantee families can sit together for free,” he added. “I appreciate American Airlines becoming the first U.S. airline to commit to putting this guarantee in its customer service plan.”
Other airlines have recently announced plans to update their family seating policies, including United Airlines and Frontier Airlines. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and low-cost carrier Breeze Airways all have varying policies which aim to accommodate families, such as designating certain parts of the cabin for family seating or allowing families priority boarding.
The rush from U.S. carriers to update their policies comes after President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address last month, in which he took aim at airlines charging families to sit together.
“Baggage fees are bad enough,” said Biden. “They can’t just treat your child like a piece of luggage.”