Last month we had the first inklings of these big changes for families traveling to Hawaii and elsewhere. First, it emanated from Southwest. This followed the US DOT asking US airlines to “do everything in their power” to keep kids 13 and under seated as a family group when flying without extra cost. The DOT said it would follow up, and at virtually the specified time, the airlines started caving.
This was critical for Southwest Hawaii flights, which include a large percentage of family travel and without seat assignment as part of their paradigm.
It started when we saw on Twitter, “Just heard a @SouthwestAir gate agent at @IFlyOAKland clearly announce that family boarding between A and B on my flight is for up to 2 adults and kids under age 13. New policy? Test? In any event, awesome. Of course, it happens when I don’t have my kids but still exciting.”
Next came United Airlines family seating.
United is a critically important airline with many flights to and from Hawaii. Late last month, UAL introduced a new seat map feature to help passengers traveling with children sit together without cost. That even includes their cheapest basic economy tickets. It works by finding available adjacent seats and even offers complimentary upgrades when necessary to provide family seating. This is available for Economy and Basic Economy only. Business, First Class, and Economy Plus are not included.
UAL CEO Scott Kirby said, “As a father of seven, I understand this and have sat away from our kids on many flights.”
Delta family seating is on request.
Delta also came on board, saying it “does not charge family seating fees and, regardless of the ticket class purchased, will always work with customers on a case-by-case basis to ensure their family seating needs are met.” Delta calls it “upon request,” which means you may need to contact them to obtain family seating.
American Airlines is less clear by admonishing, “the farther in advance you book, the better” in terms of obtaining family seating.
Today, Alaska Airlines, Hawaii’s second bellwether, joined the new family seating Paradigm.
Alaska said, “At Alaska, we’re proud to be ahead of the curve when it comes to keeping families together when they’re flying with us.”
Here’s how it now works with Alaska Airlines family seating:
“Select your seats free of charge when provided the option on alaskaair.com. It’s a step many of our guests skip. It’s the best way to make sure your family is seated together.
If seats are unavailable at booking or Saver Fare seats are purchased, our system starts working and continues to work behind the scenes beginning 180 days before departure to guarantee families are seated together and automatically prioritize sitting any children 13 and under with an adult on the same reservation. At the airport, our customer service agents also work to make sure families are seated together on the day of travel.”
Before this change, Alaska Airlines had said to book as early as possible and reserve seats together. They did not recommend basic economy tickets for families that want to sit together, and children should be booked on the same reservation as adults.
Where’s Hawaiian Airlines with family seating?
Hawaiian Airlines hasn’t yet come on board in the same way some of the other airlines have. But we’d say that is only a matter of time. Hawaiian says it will attempt to seat children with at least one adult family member before arrival at the airport, even for those who have purchased basic economy tickets. That requires that those traveling are on the same reservation.
Furthermore, Hawaiian Airline’s website says, “We want your and your child’s flight experience to be a positive one, with safety and comfort in mind… If you are traveling with an infant or child, please contact our Reservations department to make your infant or child reservation.USDOT Notice on Seating Young Children Adjacent to an Accompanying Adult July 8 2022
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