United Airlines Responds To Criticism On Parent-Child Seating Policies


Partially in response to being called out for so-called “junk fees,” United Airlines has announced it is introducing improved reservation technology that makes it easier to ensure families buying economy tickets will be able to sit together. Airlines across the board came under criticism by President Biden during his State of the Union address for charging extra, not only for luggage and other amenities, but also for seating small children in the same row as their parents.

Starting early next month, children under the age of 12 will be covered under what Linda Jojo, United’s chief customer officer, called “family-friendly features.” She said in a statement, “We’re focused on delivering a great experience for our younger passengers and their parents and know it often starts with the right seat.”

“Baggage fees are bad enough,” Biden said during his address, “[but] they can’t just treat your child like a piece of luggage.”

The Department of Transportation website advises, “The Department recognizes the importance that families place on sitting together when flying. To make sitting together easier when flying within the United States, the Department has issued a notice encouraging U.S. airlines to do everything that they can to ensure the ability of a young child (age 13 or younger) to be seated next to an accompanying adult (over age 13) without charging fees for adjacent seating.”

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

Other AVwebflash Articles


  1. So perhaps this explains my issue trying to book a United Airlines flight from IAH to Tampico, Mx for July!
    2 adults, 1 infant on lap, and one child age 2-4 comes to $2290
    If I merely change the one child ticket to age 12-14 or 15-17, the total is $1897
    If I change the child ticket to age 5-11, it’s $2290

    Seems there’s a nearly $400 surcharge in this case if a traveler is under 12 years old.

    • What changed is that almost every US airline now charges for almost everything above the price of the ticket. You want to check a bag? $30 – $40. You want to select your seat? $10 – $20. You want to be in the early boarding group? Pay. And on the real “economy” airlines, like Spirit, Frontier, Alegiant, etc., you pay for your carry-on, and even your “personal item”.
      And with all of them, the amount of space you have in which to sit and put your personal item has gotten smaller and smaller and smaller.

      • But why does that cause kids getting split from parents which used to only happen when they were standby?

        • Because paying for multiple seat reservation charges sucks. And it’s possible that not enough seats are available next to each other.

          • So they now charge you extra to get your seats together? And, the result of that is parents just do not pay?

            I haven’t flown commercial in years, but last I did, you chose your seats when you bought them. I’m lost.

  2. Another reason to not fly commercial. It’s a shame that the country has allowed rail travel to decay and diminish. Actually, imho, travel should be an integrated service, that is private companies should offer both modes in integrated packages. Possibly include bus service, with the same level of comfort as well. People need to move efficiently across varying distances. Airlines are best suited for medium to longer distances, as are trains. Trains and busses offer the convenience of “downtown” arrival and departure, as well as “neighborhood” stations…options that reduce time wasted on commuting to large airports and then more time wasted on long boarding procedures further exacerbated by doubling or tripling the time consumed by trying to connect to other flights. I won’t even begin to talk about the compromises inflicted on passengers by deregulation and chasing profitability. The fact is that aviation is expensive, and will continue to be so as fuel becomes more precious. The inexpensive and quality air service in the 1970’s and 1980’s was a one-off confluence of events. Current conditions prevent that level of service for those fees to occur now. However, quality of service should be held to those previous years standards, and then priced accordingly. Hence, my suggestion of integrating travel modes.

    • Agreed Rich. A seamlessly integrated transportation system would be extraordinarily efficient as long as the system remained a free and private enterprise. Given your ideas, I would ask that you run for some sort of political office in order to perpetuate your ideas. I would vote for you. But, after your hypothetical election, your position would be counterproductive to the ideas expressed in your original comment…and the world keeps turning.

  3. I have not flown commercial in 3 years. The less than welcoming treatment from the airlines and the TSA was bad enough before Covid. Since Covid the unruly passengers, abusive flight attendants, delays, etc. I will pass. Until things change I will fly myself or drive.

    • Agree with You. My problem, however, are the trans-oceans travels. Hard to fulfill with a one engine a/c.

  4. This is a direct result of the traveling public purchasing the cheapest fare possible to get from points A to B and then complaining that they are not seated in first class and served champagne at engine start. When one purchased a Yugo, they did not expect to get a Lexus. Same goes for air travel. The times I travel commercial, I pay a bit more for better seating and am given the option to select seats so that we are all seated together. It really does boil down to “you get what you pay for.”

    • You’re right, No one should expect the same simplistic high standards as a GreyHound or Trailways bus trip. 🚌 🙃

  5. I used to look at destinations and be excited about getting to fly there. Now I look at destinations and turn them down because I do have to fly there. From arriving at the airport until destination, like going to the dentist (nothing personal you dentist out there). And the multitude of extra fees, which this is all about, not even…………

  6. from a purely Safety standpoint…. FARs should Require that families travelling with children..(which by the way is ANY minor, i.e., less than 18)..MUST be seated together.
    Why? Because during an emergency-evacuation/exit children are more likely to create a log-jam trying to re-unite with parents than to follow the instructions of strangers…even uniformed strangers.

  7. It’s been my experience that people will suffer an amazing amount of discomfort and humiliation to get a cheap price on something. People want cheap airfare, because they feel they have a god given right to travel far from home for a vacation (it’s probably in the constitution, somewhere).
    Say a company wanted to start an airline that restored the old model (no charge on checked bags or on-board food, plenty of leg room, etc.), but they said “our minimum ticket price will be three times higher than every other airline to cover the cost and make a profit”. Do you think that company would stay in business long, or even get off the ground?

  8. I live in New Zealand. Air NZ has only four fares on domestic flights: Seat only, Seat+bag, Seat+bag and the ability to change flights, Seat+bag fully refundable. I’ve got no problem with the seat-only fare. If I’m going on a weekend trip, I don’t need to check a bag; my carry-on will provide enough space for my stuff. If my wife and I were going on a one-week trip, we might buy one seat-only ticket and one seat+bag ticket. Simple enough; you have the choice. The important thing is that you know about the different choices ahead of time.