Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) urged U.S. airlines to allow families with children to sit together in consecutive seats without having to pay a premium for an aisle or window seat assignment. Schumer also urged the Department of Transportation (DOT) to regulate the practice.
"This ill-conceived ploy to foist more fees on travelers could have profound implications for the safety of children on airlines and it needs to be revisited," Schumer said. “Children need access to their parents and parents need access to their children. Unnecessary airline fees shouldn’t serve as a literal barrier between mother and child.”
Major airlines, including American, Delta and US Airways charge for “preferred seats” at the window or on the aisle, or both, Schumer said. American charges upwards of $25 for a preferred seat, Delta can charge up to $59 and US Airways charges up to $30, he said in a letter to the DOT.
He cited a recent Associated Press report pointed out the growing trend of charging more for aisle and window seats and noted that on a July flight from Dallas to San Francisco only 28 seats out of 144 that were available to passengers without having to pay an extra fee and 21 were middle seats.
Schumer made the case that a family of four, traveling on a traditional McDonald Douglas MD-80, with two seats on the left side of the plane and three seats on the right side of the plane, would have to either separate or pay an additional $100 total in order for the family to sit next to each other for the roundtrip flight. If the flight has a layover in both directions that cost could skyrocket to an additional $200 on top of the base price and fees for checked baggage, Schumer argued.
In his letter to the DOT - and to Airlines for America (A4A) - Schumer called on the carriers to voluntarily reconsider their pricing scheme, particularly for families traveling with children.
He also questioned whether it made sense for the airlines to push a pricing strategy that would require additional attention of airline crew and flight attendants who would have to respond to children who could otherwise be accommodated by their parents.
“Requiring parents to pay an additional fee to make sure their kids are sitting next to them and in sight is ridiculous and simply over the top,” said Schumer. “This ill-conceived ploy to foist more fees on travelers could have profound implications for the safety of children on airlines and it needs to be revisited.”