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Airlines making it more difficult to sit with your family
Your Flight's Hidden Seats - photo by Megan McNulty
Sitting next to your family on an airplane is becoming more difficult due to airlines charging an extra free to guarantee assigned seating.

"Frontier Airlines, which since 2014 has charged for all advance seat assignments, has an illustration of two people with a child on its website recommending travelers pay to 'keep your party together,'" The Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the Journal, the pay-for-seating assignments puts families in the awkward position of either paying an extra fee on top of their fare or waiting until after boarding to negotiate with other passengers on the plane to switch seats. Neither is preferable.

British Airways is another example. The airline charges fees anywhere from $51 to $58 per flight for assigned seating, the Parent Herald noted. That can cost a family of four an additional $204 to $232 per flight.

The backlash to the seating charges and other fees appears to have gained the attention of the U.S. Senate. In April, the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous Fees Act, or FAIR, was introduced, according to Time. The bill would prohibit airlines from charging fees that "are not reasonable."

Families can get hit particularly hard with additional fees, according to this ABC News report.

"A spokeswoman for British Airways defended the family fee and said it has become really popular among passengers," according to the Parent Herald. "Those who don't want to pay extra fee can secure a seat 24 hours before departure, while families with young kids can get seating arrangements 72 hours before departure."

It can be stressful to wait 72 hours to guarantee your seating, though. "To me, just knowing where you are sitting, that is the normal thing. You buy a seat and it seems fraudulent to charge more money for a regular seat, Jane Rogers of Tyler, Texas, told the Journal.

American Airlines will attempt to seat families together three days before departure, Joshua Freed, an American Airlines spokesman, told the Journal. If this can't be done at that time, additional checks will be made closer to departure.

According to Family Studies, there are a variety of ways airlines can accommodate parents with young children. These include allowing parents with small children to pre-board, offer an on-board mom kit with supplies for parents and including better amenities for families in airport lobbies. Many airports don't have an area where mothers can nurse their babies.

While many airlines are charging for amenities that were once free, there are ways to avoid hidden fees.

According to Huffpost Travel,"While booking flights is generally easy online, sometimes you want to speak to an agent about routing and flight options. While you can call the airlines for free, if you book while on the phone, you may be charged a fee." These fees may be waived if you are a frequent flier.

Some airlines charge for checked and/or carry-on luggage. It varies in that some airlines charge for a second carry-on bag while some charge for even one bag. "Avoid this fee by redistributing your luggage so you won't need to bring a carry-on," Huffpost Travel suggests. "Women can also get away with carrying a bigger purse."
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