The U.S. Department of Transportation introduced a new online tool for airline customers on Monday -- a dashboard that aims to cut down on and ultimately eliminate extra fees families often pay for young children to sit with an adult family member, relative or caregiver on a flight.
"To receive a green check on the dashboard, an airline must guarantee that parents can sit next to children age 13 and younger for free if adjacent seats are available when they book. And they must include that guarantee as part of their customer service plan so that it is backstopped by USDOT enforcement if they fail to deliver," the DOT explained in a news release.
Other features include viewing which airlines charge for rebooking or meal vouchers in the event of a flight cancellation that is "controllable" by an air carrier, as well as links to carriers' customer service plans.
"Parents traveling with young kids should be able to sit together without an airline forcing them to pay junk fees," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement. "We have been pressing airlines to guarantee family seating without tacking on extra charges, and now we're seeing some airlines start to make this common-sense change. All airlines should do this promptly, even as we move forward to develop a rule establishing this as a requirement across the board."
So far, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Frontier Airlines have voluntarily announced they would guarantee families sit together on flights with no extra charges. In a Feb. 21 notice, Frontier said at least one family member would be able to sit and fly together with a child 14 and under. American updated its customer service plan in February as well to make similar accommodations across all flight fare types -- including Basic Economy tickets.
Alaska made an announcement last Friday and said it would guarantee kids 13 and under would get to sit with at least one accompanying adult passenger.
"As a dad of eight, I understand the challenges that come with taking a family vacation. Traveling with kids is stressful enough -- you shouldn't have to worry about being separated from them on your flight. All of us at Alaska take pride in caring for your family, which is why we guarantee that children under 13 are always seated with you. It's the way we've operated for years because it's just the right thing to do," Andrew Harrison, executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Alaska Airlines, said in a statement.
The DOT previously released the Airline Customer Service Dashboard online tool in September 2022 to provide information to passengers about flight cancellations and delays.