Good News For Hawaii Flights: Industry Caves On Family Seating

Good News For Hawaii Flights: Industry Caves On Family Seating

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 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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16 thoughts on “Good News For Hawaii Flights: Industry Caves On Family Seating”

  1. I understand that families especially with young children should sit together, but especially on long flights, if I make my Family vacation in advance enough to sit together, then my family should not be split up regardless of the age. In families that have younger children if you have at least one adult with the children, then if you have to split two/two or three/two and so on as long as ONE adult is with the kids, that should be enough. Not the whole family. My husband has extreme anxiety when flying but we still fly … We book Well in advance to ensure we can choose our seats together, We would not be able to fly if he had to sit alone.. That is just a Fact. Plan ahead is what I have to say.

  2. Southwest has been doing the family boarding between A and B groups for years. No new news there. I sort of enjoy being seated directly after the families are seated so I know where Not to sit near. This may not be a popular opinion, but I think that families need to think ahead a little more when traveling and perhaps pay for assigned seats if it’s that big of a deal that they all sit together. It’s not like having a family was forced on them.

  3. Paid to select seats on hawaii air and they went and changed our seats splitting up my family (with toddlers). Called their reservations and their only solution was for me to pay more. As a hawaiian, very sad to see this happen to a local airline.

  4. Shamefully most of the Airlines had to wait for “Guidance” from the FAA before implementing policies, those who are Resisting should be Boycotted. Announcing that “Early” Booking, 6 Entire Months Prior, will help in being placed together isn’t good enough, neither is “Trying” to place a child/children with at least 1 Parent! It’s already time to Replace “Guidance” with a Solid Edict, then there’s no question about acceptable practices.

  5. As an older couple, 80 y/o with severe hearing loss and 76y/o who fly a lot, we book economy with seat selection. We must sit together. We’ve been bumped out of our assigned seats several times since families get priority. Twice on Hawaiian flights we found we’d been resigned to separate rows and had to try to get seats together at the gate which is stressful. Flying is stressful enough without this added anxiety. We usual board A on Southwest but once we got B & C lines. We waited as almost the entire plane filled up with “families”. Not only 2 adults with 2 children under 13y/o but families with hulking teenagers and families with multiple extended family members of all ages. Dept of Transportation is forgetting needs of elderly..

    1. As a “younger than elderly” and verified disabled passenger I know all too well your frustration and plight. My wife is my “caregiver” and we have encountered much the same problems, typically not with families but with others who want to be together. I need an aisle seat, my wife does also in order to assist me, we have found that contacting the airline directly and describing the situation has Guaranteed us not to be moved. Some people don’t book their seats and then expect to get what they demand, let them be placed by their ticket! I hope that this helps you on future flights. My Best wishes to you both.

    2. Based on what you said about hearing loss, please request being seated together due to disability related issues. This is an ADA concern and can be addressed during booking as an accommodation and when seeking seating assignments. Please consider asking.

  6. Don’t book your flights with a 3rd party that doesn’t let you choose a seat. The price is about the same booking directly with the airline where you can choose your seat for free. There’s no reason your family can’t sit together. Most Hawaiian trips are planned far in advanced. I agree with Joerg, if you can’t afford to pick your seats, find another vacation.

    1. We have booked flights through 3rd parties and also directly through the airline at times. Despite what Jorge has interjected into the conversation, he’s wrong with his “assumptions” and advice. No matter Who you book through You Can Call the airline and they Will make accommodations, happily I may add, for the Verified Handicapped and Disabled, we have done it Many Times! Sorry Joerge but disputing this information from you may help others that are verified and in need of help.

      1. I’m confused Enrie S. were you referring to my comment? If so, it had nothing to do with the elderly and the disabled. As you point out, the airlines already make a lot of accommodations for them. My problem with the proposed accommodations is that they discriminate against people who don’t have children flying with them. I would prefer to sit next to my wife, for example, isn’t that family seating? Should we be able to board before others on Southwest just like those folks with kids? So, as you see, I think that this is a slippery slope. The elderly and disabled have, in my opinion, a very good reason for special accommodation. “Families” on the other hand, can handle the problem in a different way by booking assigned seats together.

        1. Joerg H Thank You for Clarifying your Comments, sometimes what We Comment, including mine, are not entirely clear. I totally agree with you about the ability to sit with your wife or whomever it is. We choose our seating to assure that we are together, once chosen No One should undo it. Families should, and can, make the appropriate reservations as we do so their family will be seated together If they do it Early Enough. If they book too late, that is Their Problem and Shouldn’t Effect anyone else! I Agree with your Comment Totally. Thanks Again Joerg H.

  7. I don’t get it, all you have to do is book with an airline that lets you pick your seats. Problem solved. If you can’t afford that, then perhaps a Hawaii vacation with all your kids isn’t something you can afford.

  8. All airlines should have a family section and keep them all in one place!! Once it’s sold out it’s sold out! No special accommodations period!

  9. In my experience, Hawaiian Airlines has been perfect. I always book the cheapest tickets possible (Economy Basic/no seat selection), and they’ve never separated my family of 6.

    1. That’s fine if the seats are available. I do think it’s a problem when as couple who booked specific seats together get separated by your lack of planning ahead of time.

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