If you’re planning to travel with family, friends, or colleagues this summer, here’s something to keep in mind: getting seats together isn’t as easy as it used to be.
In the face of rising fuel prices, airlines are looking to squeeze extra revenue from each flight any way they can. To that end, most of them are setting aside an increasingly large number of window and aisle seats and assigning them only to passengers who are willing to pay an extra fee. On busy flights, this means that its primarily just middle seats that are available for no extra charge, making it nearly impossible for traveling groups to sit together unless they’re willing to cough up the premium.
And those premiums are not insignificant. The price for a preferred seat varies from airline to airline and flight to flight (longer flights cost more), but generally fall somewhere between $10 and $50 for each person, each direction. For a family of four, that figures to add at least $80 to the trip, sometimes a lot more. But parents who don’t pay risk being separated from their children on crowded flights.
The situation is expected to be particularly challenging this summer, with thousands of vacationing families taking to the skies. With more people expected to travel this year than last, and fewer planes flying due to mergers and capacity cuts, flights should be especially crowded.
If you’re an “elite” member of your favorite airlines’ frequent flyer program, you can usually get the premium seats for free. But where does that leave the rest of us?
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 between 72 hours and 4 hours before flight time.
Failing that, you can plead your case to the boarding gate staff, and politely request that they seat your family together. Airlines are generally accommodating, especially if you have small children, but it all depends on seat availability and sometimes they can only do so much.
As a last resort, ask some kind soul on the plane if they would mind switching places. But understand that someone who paid extra for the seat they are in may not be too willing to give it up out of the goodness of their heart.
If you prefer not to chance it, and you’re willing to pay a fee for some good seats, go to your airline’s website and find the section where you can view or manage your itinerary. Put in your confirmation number there and, when your booking comes up, find the link to choose seats. Keep in mind, the confirmation number the airline needs is different than your CheapAir booking number, but you should be able to find it on your CheapAir e-mail confirmation under the section “Airline Confirmation Numbers”.
If you’re confused and need assistance, feel free to contact one of our travel advisors.