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United Airlines announces new family seating policy

The airline will allow families with children under age 12 to sit together at no additional charge.

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A United Airlines jetliner taxis for takeoff from Denver International Airport.

A United Airlines jetliner taxis for takeoff from Denver International Airport, on Thursday, May 26, 2022, in Denver.

David Zalubowski, Associated Press

United Airlines announced Monday that it would no longer charge an extra fee for seat selection for families with children under the age of 12.

The airline tweeted: “Big news for families! Now when you make a reservation that includes children under 12 and there aren’t enough open seats next to each other, select adjacent Preferred seats will automatically become available at no charge.”

This news comes as a relief to many families who previously had to face the costs and stress of making sure their children felt safe on flights.

United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, “As a father of seven, I understand this and have sat away from our kids on many flights.” He believes this change in policy will “take a lot of the stress out of the up-front process. So you book your ticket, you know you have a seat, instead of having to wait to get to the airport and cross your fingers and hope that you could get a seat (next to your child.)”

Earlier this month during the State of the Union address, President Joe Biden criticized airline companies for their additional fees for passengers traveling with children, saying, “Baggage fees are bad enough — they can’t just treat your child like a piece of luggage.”

According to CNN, “The American Economic Liberties Project advocacy group praised Biden’s leadership on the issue and called on the government to permanently end family seating fees.”

“Under intense scrutiny, United has now publicly acknowledged that family seating fees are a problem — something many other U.S. carriers deny. But the devil is in the details, and while United’s voluntary actions may prove helpful, they are not a replacement for government regulation,” William McGee, senior fellow for aviation and travel at the American Economic Liberties Project, said in a statement.

United’s news release says that “in instances when adjacent seats are not available prior to travel — due to things like last minute bookings, full flights or unscheduled aircraft changes — United’s new policy also lets customers switch for free to a flight to the same destination with adjacent seat availability in the same cabin. Customers also won’t be charged if there is a difference in fare price between the original and new flight.”

Economy Plus, First Class and Unite Polaris will not be included in the airline’s new family seating policy.

The new policy will go into effect in early March, the airline said.