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Apologies upfront for this post having a slightly less than Polyannaish-tone. I don’t normally like to get negative toward travel related topics, so I’ll at least partially blame minimal sleep last night. With that out of the way….
I’m sure you have seen the stories on TV or online about families who simply put, think airline suck. They think that airlines treat families poorly on many occasions, and view air travel as a necessary evil at times, but certainly not something to be enjoyed. This perceived or real less-than-ideal treatment takes many forms, but a common complaint from families comes in the form of seat assignments.
In my view, everyone on the plane benefits when families are seated together. For one, hopefully no one else then has to sit next to the little ones. For another, there is a greater chance of the kids being kept happy when the adult caregivers are all nearby and available rather than scattered around the cabin. Except in cases where the kids do better apart due to bickering, there is no real winner when families are split up. While my focus is families, this isn’t really just a family issue. Couples, friends, etc. all are likely happier on-board when seated next to their traveling companion.
However, on many flights you often see family members and flight attendants trying to beg and bargain during boarding to get folks to trade seats in order for family members to sit together. The attitude I see and hear often during these situations is that the family is somehow to blame for their situation. The assumption is often that they took seat assignments for granted and didn’t take the necessary steps to be seated together ahead of time. I’m sure that is true sometimes, but other times, many other times, it simply isn’t the family’s fault.
Here’s our recent example…we are getting ready for a trip in a few weeks to Aruba (more on that soon), and I was checking on some trip details today, including seat assignments. We are flying US Airways, an airline I don’t frequently fly, and have no status on. When we booked the tickets many months ago we were assigned seats together (as shown below), but we all know stuff happens to reservations so I wanted to make sure we were still all squared away as departure neared. If not, since the flight was still a few weeks away, I hoped we would be able to get any issues fixed in advance.
Well, the flight back from Aruba to Charlotte had changed from being operated by an A319 to a 757 since we booked the tickets. In addition to a schedule change, our seat assignments had been messed up on one segment, which can happen with equipment swaps. My husband and daughter kept their same seats, but I had been moved from their row where I was originally assigned to several rows away.
Luckily, I logged on and saw the seat I was originally assigned next to them was still available, so I picked up the phone to call US Airways and try to get my original seat next to my family back. I couldn’t do this online for free as the seat I used to be in is apparently now a “Choice Seat” that sells for $44. For those not familiar, these seats do not have extra legroom, they simply are designated “Choice” as they are toward the front of the plane. I had hoped that common sense would prevail, and since the seat was still available, and I was originally seated next to my family pre-equipment swap, that the agent could simply put me back there without charging a fee for a change I didn’t want in the first place.
After a few minutes on hold a nice agent came on the line and explained that my only option to sit in the same row as my family as of right now was to pay the $44, or hope that the day of departure it is still available and can be assigned for free at the airport. The fact that I originally had that seat before I was moved involuntarily via the equipment swap didn’t matter, and wasn’t a reason for the fee to be waived.
Now, the world would obviously keep turning if the three of us weren’t seated in the same row for this four hour flight. It has certainly happened before for various reasons, but in this case it just seems like a totally unnecessary thing. If a family (or anyone for that matter) has seat assignments together, and then is scattered by the airline for whatever reason, it seems reasonable for the airline to be willing to put them back together without an additional fee if the seats are still available.
There is no reason to make the flight less enjoyable or add to day-of-departure seat assignment antics when the problem could be solved in advance very easily. However, while the agent was very nice, that is not what happened. I was told the problem can’t be fixed now without us paying more money.
I can “hang-up, call back” and try again with someone else, or ask to speak to a supervisor, and maybe I will eventually get a different answer. That is the advice I would give to someone who really wanted the issue resolved without being charged anything additional. Seriously though, who has the time and patience for that kind of stuff just to keep the seat next to their family they had in the first place? I’ll likely end up just paying the $44 to avoid additional time investment and frustration…which of course is exactly the resolution the airline wanted in the first place.
This is why families sometimes think airlines suck.