It looks to be a tough summer for traveling families, as group seating on planes becomes increasingly scarce.
To boost profits and combat rising fuel prices, airlines are reserving a greater number of window and aisle seats, which passengers can book for an extra fee. On busy flights, this leaves mostly middle seats available, making it near-impossible for traveling groups to sit together.
Unless they’re willing to cough up the premium. Passengers can pay upwards of $25 each way to reserve their preferred seats. For a family of three, this adds $150 to the price of a round-trip journey – not exactly small change. But parents who don’t pay risk being separated from their children on crowded flights.
The scarcity of group seating is expected to worsen this summer, with thousands of vacationing families taking to the skies. Analysts predict higher travel numbers compared to last year, putting extra pressure on airline capacity.
Many carriers reserve their best seats for “elite” customers, usually frequent business travelers. Another block of seats is held for fee-paying passengers, leaving everyone else with limited options.
If you’re unable to secure two or more seats together when you book your flights, it’s worth checking again closer to departure. Frequent fliers are often upgraded to first class, freeing up previously unavailable seats in coach. This typically happens five days before the flight.
Failing that, you can ask the boarding gate staff to seat your family together. Airlines are generally accommodating, especially if you have small children, but it all depends on seat availability. As a last resort, ask some kind soul on the plane if they would mind switching places.