Unraveling Hawaii Airfare Secrets: Inside Dynamic Pricing

Four Of Six Airlines Flying To Hawaii Aren’t DOT Compliant

This week’s DOT Airline Customer Service Dashboard update advises everyone on which airlines are family-friendly and which are not. Of course, our interest lies in the six airlines with flights to Hawaii, which include Alaska, American, Delta, Hawaiian, Southwest, and United. But if you think this is all straightforward, think again.

According to the government dashboard, only Alaska and American guarantee that children under 13 can sit beside an accompanying adult for free.

The government has been trying for months to bring the airlines into compliance on a request basis, and since it apparently isn’t working as they’d like, they are using this new technique to try to shame or cajole the airlines into an agreement. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT) dashboard:

Airlines must adhere to their commitments. DOT will hold them accountable if they fail to do so. If you believe an airline has not fulfilled its customer service commitment, contact the airline to ensure it gives you what is owed. If you are not satisfied with the airline’s response or conduct, you may file a complaint with DOT.

This all comes as the government’s aviation gurus are in a mess in light of the widespread travel chaos that has plagued the industry since the COVID-19 pandemic and even more so recently.

Hawaiian Airlines’ Take On DOT Request.

Beat of Hawaii contacted Hawaiian Airlines for their response, given that the new “Airline Customer Service Dashboard” shows them and three other airlines with an in-your-face red X regarding family seating.

Alex Da Silva, Hawaiian Airlines’ Director, External Communications, gave us the following:

“As you know, we are a leisure carrier, and we understand how important it is for families to sit together. We have always had robust processes in place to ensure that families are seated together. Guests booking our Main Cabin Basic fare product should be aware that they will not have access to seat selection at the time of booking, but we will accommodate them on the day of travel or offer them alternative options for travel.” Alex also pointed out that “there is no DOT rule mandating families to sit together so the use of the term noncompliant can be misleading.” See BOH clarification below.

That comes after Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, “Parents traveling with young kids should be able to sit together without an airline forcing them to pay junk fees.”

As we understand, to obtain the dashboard’s “green checkmark,” an airline must guarantee that parents and kids can sit together for no additional cost if seats are available during the purchase process. That statement must be included in their customer service plan. Thus far, that has only happened at Alaska, American, and Frontier (which doesn’t fly to Hawaii).

BOH: First, when we read that statement “…if seats are available during the purchase process,” it feels like there’s a potential loophole here for the airlines. If you buy Basic Economy, seats are by definition, not available in the purchase process. So where does that leave families? Second, while the Dashboard seems to have as its goal to shame airlines into compliance with their request, there is no actual DOT rule in effect at this time with which airlines can be required to comply. It sounds like a lot more clarification is needed by DOT.

Delta does not charge for family seating but only works with customers on a case-by-case basis.

United just upgraded its family seating but also remains non-compliant. They now allow switching flights to the same destination when adjacent seating isn’t available. And there is no charge or fare difference for that change.

From what Hawaiian Airlines told BOH, their plan appears similar to United.

Southwest is also non-compliant. They do offer “Family Boarding, which occurs after the “A” group has boarded and before the “B” group begins boarding.” Southwest also says that “families with children ages seven and older, parents can seek assistance from a Flight Attendant for help with finding a seat adjacent to their child.”

The DOT dashboard strategy

DOT said, “The dashboard will serve as a bridge to help families while the Department advances a rulemaking to ensure airlines seat young children adjacent to a parent or other accompanying adult.”

It appears that DOT’s tactics are working. They said, “Prior to urging, none of the 10 largest U.S. airlines guaranteed meals or hotels when a delay or cancellation was within the airlines’ control, and only one offered free rebooking. Now, all 10 airlines guarantee meals and rebooking, and nine guarantee hotels when an airline issue causes a cancellation or delay.”

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23 thoughts on “Four Of Six Airlines Flying To Hawaii Aren’t DOT Compliant”

  1. I find it Laughable that they refuse to issue a decree. Are they planning on slapping hands if there’s no compliance to a non order? 🤔 Early and Proper Preparation for a Family would eliminate the problem for the most part, don’t inconvenience others because You Wouldn’t Plan. Don’t fly if You don’t have seats reserved, choose another flight and do what’s necessary. Too many people believe that they are “privileged!”

  2. As a parent, this is ridiculous. The rules are clear, if you want a guaranteed seat you either pay more like everyone else and don’t fly southwest.

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  3. This is complete nonsense. Calling these airline non-compliant is just wrong. It looks to me like Secretary Buttigieg is sending up a smokescreen to hide his exceedingly poor performance. Time for him to go away.

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  4. Usually if I fly Southwest and pay for A boarding the airline let’s families with kids board 1st before A boarding not after.

    On airline basic economy it states no seat assignment until you get to airport. So I think if you are flying with kids then you need to purchase a reg coach ticket.

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    1. You haven’t flown SWA much have you. Pre-boards (“handicap”) go before A. Families Always go after A and before B. Always.

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      1. Families that hold A Boarding Passes can, of course board with the A Group. They don’t have to wait for Family Boarding which is after the A Group.

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  5. The problem with SWA is their boarding pits passengers against passengers . No guarantees and some people are winners and others losers. Really like knowing what I’m getting in advance.

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  6. The Southwest flights we have been on in the last 4 months, (7 flights)including flights to Hawaii and interisland, have all called for families with young children to board after the A group boarding which means 2/3rds of the seats are still unoccupied. On one flight a family with young kids arrived at the gate after most people were seated. The stewardess compensated several passengers for moving so the family could all sit together.

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    1. No telling how the passengers “compensated” felt, or where they were moved to…again, the ideal situation is everyone knowing and counting on where they are sitting. I’m amazed some people put up with SWA’s competitive boarding procedure. Give me a choice in advance with a known price and I’m good.

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    2. Southwest has defined “young” as under the age of 6. Their “family boarding” policy doesn’t help parents of elementary school kids.

  7. If I don’t have airline status that allows me to reserve the seat I want w/o paying extra, then I generally pay for the better seat because it’s that important to me. I don’t see it being any different for families, i.e., if it’s that important to sit next to your children (and of course that’s important!), then you should be willing to pay for it if necessary. I realize that could cost a lot of money if you have several children. But flying isn’t cheap. The Southwest option for families to board between A and B groups is a very enviable boarding position, and families shouldn’t have an issue sitting together. If you want a guaranteed seat, don’t fly Southwest.

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  8. Southwest is by-far worst offender in this. In the past, I’ve always had to factor in the additional cost of Early Bird check-ins to the cost of Southwest flights in order to give myself a better chance of not being separated from my kids. It’s still not a guarantee, but I’ll have a better chance.

    Frankly, I’d rather pay for checked bags than for early bird check-in…because families typically don’t have to check a bag for every person…but SWA does make everyone pay the early bird fee.

      1. Separate early-bird requires a separate reservation, which complicates check-in and if anything needs to re-routed due to airline issues.

    1. If you board at family time, after A and before B, how can you Not sit all together?! As one poster mentioned, 2/3 of the plane is still empty.
      And you say “everyone has to pay for Early Bird Boarding”?
      You may be paying for stuff you don’t need.

      1
  9. For the last several years we have chosen to purchase a third seat because my service dog is large and takes up floor 3 seats wide. My husband is 6’4″ so we upgrade to exta legroom. We pay the upgrade on the dog’s “seat” because of our choices.
    I would think if guaranteed sitting with your children were important enough to you, you’d pay for seat selection areas.

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  10. It seems to me if I want my family to sit together on a flight to Hawaii, then it is my responsibility to plan ahead, and it is simple: I choose an airline that has a seat map showing the seats I can pre-purchase that will be assigned to me, and I pay the fares for those seats. In my world I do not need the DOT arm-twisting the airlines to force them to accommodate me with special procedures or regulations when I can make my own choices (your opinion may differ). Let’s not ask a government agency to intrude to solve a perceived “problem” that already has available solutions. Do family train and bus passengers always get to sit together? Hmmm …?

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    1. Paul took the words right out of the mouth. Wake up public . Please pay for what you want and not belly up to the government for all your needs. What next can I see if Pete B has an open seat on his private charter jet. Can I ask for my senior discount also.

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  11. We fly Hawaiian Airlines quite often. When selecting seats one can certainly select seats for children, if available, adjacent to each other without additional charge. However, Hawaiian has now gone to charging extra for almost all of their seats. Therefore, if the adult(s) have chosen seats in one of the many sections of the plane with extra charges then they most probably will also have to pay extra for the children that are sitting in the adjcent seats.

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  12. This is not up to date. A month ago Southwest airlines has a new policy where families can sit together. Restrictions apply

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