More news for the “flying is hell as a parent” file: Delta airlines sat a four-year-old 11 rows behind his father on a recent flight, then charged the father $88 to change the seat at the airport. It may seem crazy that an airline would have no problem making a very small child fly without their parent by their side, but in the article’s comment section, several people were sharing stories about similar experiences. By not making this necessary accommodation, airlines are putting the responsibility on the shoulder’s of other travelers to accommodate parents by switching seats. That’s unfair for everyone.
Lesson: as a parent, never make the assumption that an airline will prioritize seating you next to your small child. And always try to book way in advance.
Frank Strong was traveling last month to take his daughter to visit her grandmother in Montgomery, Alabama. When he booked the tickets, there were no seats together. He decided that rather than book two seats that weren’t together, he would wait until he got to the airport to ask the ticket agent to put them together. Nope. The agent informed him that the only way she could accommodate his request was if he paid an $88 fee. After $1,200 for tickets, and another $88 for seat changes, Strong boarded the plane only to see that there were plenty of empty seats. Well, that’s infuriating. He wrote a blog post about the experience.
I don’t want to sit next to an unattended four-year-old, and I’m a mom — of a four-year-old. This arrangement is bad for everyone: the scared toddler, the panicked parent, and the unsuspecting seat-mate who is now a default babysitter for the duration of the flight. When airlines refuse to make accommodations for parents to sit next to their small children, parents are put in the very awkward position of having to ask other passengers to switch seats. That is good for no one.
If you’re flying with children, it’s not always possible to book a flight far enough in advance for this not to be an issue. If you can’t get seats together while attempting to book, your best bet is to call the airline and ask for guidance. Don’t leave the seat assignment up to chance, hoping you will get a compassionate ticket agent who will understand your quandary. That’s never a guarantee.
When you book a flight, airlines are always aware there is a child in your reservation: Jet Blue and American Airlines have specific drop-down tabs for children, Delta requests gender and date of birth when booking, etc. This shouldn’t need to be a juggling act for parents or anyone else traveling with companions who have special needs. But the reality is — it is. So if you want to avoid a flight nightmare, make sure you have any questions about seating arrangements answered before you board your flight.