United Airlines: Parents no longer have to pay extra to sit with their kids

The airline says it’s making changes that will make it easier for parents and children to stay together on flights.

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Travelers at the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare Airport.

Travelers at the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare Airport.

Sun-Times file

United Airlines is rolling out booking technology changes it says will help families sit together more easily on flights without paying an added fee.

According to the airline, new seat-mapping software will automatically find adjacent available seats in the free-to-select section of the economy cabin first and then will allow passengers to choose preferred seats, which usually require non-elite flyers to pay an added fee to select if no other options are available.

United said the new seating policy applies to families with children under 12 years old and that it expects to fully implement the change by early March.

The airline’s move comes as the Biden administration is pushing to crack down on airline fees it sees as extraneous. During his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden specifically called out carriers that charge families to sit together.

“Baggage fees are bad enough — they can’t just treat your child like a piece of luggage,” the president said.

And Democratic senators have offered legislation to block airlines from charging extra for families to be seated together.

“Children and parents shouldn’t have to choose between unaffordable fees or the separation anxiety of flying alone,” said U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who was among those introducing what they called the “Families Fly Together Act.”

United’s new booking policy also includes more flexibility for families unable to get seats together.

“In instances when adjacent seats are not available prior to travel — due to things like last-minute bookings, full flights or unscheduled aircraft changes — United’s new policy also lets customers switch for free to a flight to the same destination with adjacent seat availability in the same cabin,” the airline said. ”Customers also won’t be charged if there is a difference in fare price between the original and new flight.”

Read more at USA Today.

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