Airlines are Now Charging a "Family Fee" for proximity Seating

The advent of extra-legroom seating has created a new class of reserve seating arrangements within the economy class that will make it even more difficult for families to sit together during a flight. To make way for passengers willing to pay extra fees for extra legroom seating, the common courtesy practice of seating families together when possible will become more difficult to do, or extinct altogether.


Modern airlines introduced new extra-legroom sections of the cabin as a result of years of passenger complaints about cramped seating conditions. In a move to maximize profits and to take as much financial advantage as possible, more and more airlines are designating significant portions of unassigned economy seating as extra-fee enabled reserved seating. In addition, several airlines are publicly embracing the so-called, “family fee,” charge or promoting the family fee charge in their official advertisements.


On Delta Airlines about 16 percent of all available economy seating has been converted into preferred class extra-legroom seating. On United Airlines, the number is even greater, with about 25 percent of the economy cabin converted into extra-legroom seating sections. Frontier Airlines publicly endorses the family fee on their official website by encouraging passengers to pay extra money for proximity seating to, “keep your party together,” while traveling. There are a few airlines which have altogether abolished the ability for passengers to reserve a place on the cheapest seat in the cabin. Allegiant Airlines, British Airways, Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines all charge a fee for advanced seating reservations. In other words, airlines are now trying to create ostensible first-class seating arrangements within the economy section of the airplane.


The result is that there are now less and less unassigned seating options in economy available for reservation in advance of a flight. Unless economy passengers are willing to pay even more money in reservation fees, that is. If more and more passengers are willing to pay for reserved, extra-legroom seating in economy class, then there will be even more incidents of families with children having to sit separately on flights. Unless travelers with children pay the family fee or nag fellow passengers to switch seats, family proximity seating may become a thing of the past. Passengers who pay extra money for extra-legroom seating will become a new class of first-class economy fliers unwilling to move for the sake of strangers wanting to sit together as a family unit.

Wrapping Up

The United States Senate recently proposed affixing a legislative caveat to annual Federal Aviation Administration funding bills that would mandate airlines seating families together. The proposal is not expected to come under any serious consideration for passage. 

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