As traveling continues to ramp up amid summer travel, parents are continuing to grapple with the stresses of flying with kids. It doesn’t matter how prepared you are, there will always be some drama when flying with little ones. But the Biden administration is trying to make it easier by urging airlines to make one subtle change that will probably have a big impact if you’ve ever had to rely on the goodwill of strangers to sit next to your kids or family. Here’s what you need to know.
According to ABC News, the Transportation Department sent a notice to airlines urging them to change a policy that would make travel for parents far simpler. The department asked that the carriers “do everything that they can to ensure the ability of a young child” to sit next to an older family member. Specifically, they requested that kids 13 years old and under be seated with their parents during the flight whenever possible.
The Transportation Department, per ABC News, said it received more than 500 complaints over the past five years from families who complained because they couldn’t sit with their children during air travel. While it may just sound like a small inconvenience, it can be really challenging for parents to care for their kids when they’re not seated next to them, or for one parent to be seated somewhere else while the other has to care for the kids.
Airlines for America, a trade group, said that carriers have always tried to seat families with their minor kids. Saying they’ve “always worked to accommodate customers who are traveling together, especially those traveling with children, and will continue to do so.”
But the Biden administration says the airlines need to do more. For example, when you book flights and you’re trying to get a specific group of seats together, you have to pay extra to do so. That’s an unwanted cost. And sometimes, that option isn’t available, meaning that parents have to ask strangers next to them if they’ll swap seats just so they can be with their families. That doesn’t always work out, either, of course.
As ABC News notes, Congress tried to push airlines to let kids sit with their families at no extra charge on flights in 2016. However, the Transportation Department under former President Donald Trump did not push to make those changes either and no rules changes were drafted at the time. The Biden administration hasn’t done anything official yet either, but this is a first step that could make a major change.
The agency said starting in November it will monitor airlines in regards to seating kids near their guardians. And given what they observe then, they might propose new regulations that make it a lot easier to be traveling with the kids.