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American Airlines Becomes First U.S. Carrier to ‘Guarantee’ Families Can Sit Together For Free… But There Are Catches

American Airlines Becomes First U.S. Carrier to ‘Guarantee’ Families Can Sit Together For Free… But There Are Catches

American Airlines has become the first U.S. carrier to ‘guarantee’ that families can sit together for free after the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline published some changes to its official customer service plan on Tuesday.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg thanked American Airlines for being the first and currently only carrier in the United States to place its fee-free family seating guarantee in its customer service plan.

Other airlines, including United and Frontier, have recently rolled out new technology to make it far easier for families with young children to sit together without paying for the privilege after the Biden administration made moves to ban junk fees.

American said on Tuesday that its “goal is to have families seated together” and that it will “guarantee children 14 and under will be seated adjacent to an accompanying adult at no additional cost, including Basic Economy fares”.

AA is the first to codify its fee-free family seating policy in its customer service plan, although the guarantee does come with some catches.

The biggest catch is that the guarantee only applies if an adjacent seat is still available at the time of booking – something that might be an issue for last-minute ticket purchases when seat assignments have already been made.

The guarantee also doesn’t apply when the flight is swapped at the last minute to a smaller aircraft or if the plane’s layout simply won’t allow adjacent seating due to the number of children booked on the flight.

In these circumstances, AA said it would “still try to seat children adjacent to an accompanying adult” – although that could mean a scramble at the gate to get adjacent seats.

The Department of Transportation is due to publish a dashboard which will show various family seating policies next week. The DOT has already published a similar dashboard which shows the customer services policies of various airlines in the event of a delay or disruption.

United Airlines made headlines last week when it unveiled an updated seat booking tool that allows families traveling with children aged 12 to select adjacent seats for free. The tool even applies to families who have booked a Basic Economy ticket.

The news from United was quickly followed by an announcement from Frontier Airlines which announced it had implemented an IT system update last October that automatically assigns adjacent seats to families traveling with children aged 14 and under before the check-in window opens.

The DOT is expected to ban the practice of charging families a fee to sit together, although the rulemaking process could take years to run its course.

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