[February 18: Read out latest update about this: We Didn’t Get All the Way (Yet!) to Helping Families Flying Together.]
The Family Travel Association has thrown its weight behind a congressional effort to make flying more friendly to families.
This week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is marking up changes to the FAA Reauthorization Bill (also known as the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act), which, among other things, funds the Federal Aviation Administration. At that markup session, during which recommendations to the law are presented, special interests will push to include their amendments.
Included in the mix are U.S. Representatives Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Rodney Davis (R-IL), both members of the Committee, who want to ensure that families who fly together sit together. Specifically, they have proposed language, now officially included in the Reauthorization Bill and similar to last year’s H.R. 3334, the Families Flying Together Act of 2015, that directs commercial airlines to notify adults traveling with small children when they may not be able to sit together, all before tickets are purchased. It additionally calls for the Department of Transportation and each air carrier to establish a policy ensuring, to the extent practicable, that a family is seated together during flight.
Father and son sitting together on a plane. Photo courtesy of doublethegiggles.com
“As a parent, seeing dads and moms struggle to get a seat next to their young child on a flight is always frustrating,” said Davis. “This only adds unnecessary stress to families and other travelers. We’re simply asking airlines to accommodate, as best they can, parents flying with young children. Our language would require airlines to provide more seating information at the time of purchase as well as a dedicated policy that guarantees they receive greater consideration when flying.”
“Air travel is complicated and expensive enough for families without adding new stresses,” said Nadler. “Families should not be stuck paying hidden fees, or buying ‘premium’ seats, simply because they wish to be seated together on crowded flights. It is positively absurd to expect a two or three-year-old to sit unattended, next to strangers, on an airplane. It is up to air carriers to make their seating policies clear and easily accessible to the public.”
According to consumer travel advocate, Christopher Elliott, there has been some coordination between passenger advocates and legislators “The bill is important because it represents the best opportunity to upgrade the flying experience since the passage of the last FAA funding bill in 2012,” he wrote in a recent Washington Post article about it.
Upon learning about this proposed amendment, the Family Travel Association contacted Representative Davis to lend its support. Rep. Davis told FTA’s president, Rainer Jenss, that the motivation to include the language in the bill originally came from a staffer. As she was checking in to a flight with her children, she was told that they would not be seated together.
When asked if he thought the airline industry might push back or lobby against this proposed regulation, Rep. Davis replied that his conversations with airline representatives were not contentious. In fact, most conceded that customer service is a priority, especially when it comes to families, as was perhaps demonstrated by United’s decision last week to allow families with small children to board first (the last major airline in the United States to do so).
If you support language like that of the Families Flying Together Act (H.R. 3334), please reach out to your local congressional representative and explain why you believe it is important.