Air travel with small children is stressful enough already — both for families and passengers traveling alone. But new airline practices are making the situation worse. Many airlines have recently begun charging passengers extra for window seats, setting choice seats aside for frequent fliers, and even levying fees for the privilege of reserving seats at all. Those policies can sometimes oblige parents to sit separately from their young children — a problem that will probably grow worse in the crowded summer season.
There are reasons to sympathize with business travelers who pay more for their seats, only to be surrounded by squirmy kids on their way to grandma’s. But hard-and-fast seating rules are unlikely to solve that problem. If families don’t get accommodation in the reservation process, they’ll probably get it on the plane itself, when the reality of very young children sitting alone sets in, and flight attendants start asking other passengers to switch seats.
Airlines should come up with a workable solution that respects the needs of business travelers, brings in some extra revenue, and still allows parents to sit with their kids. Why not sell those window seats at the front of the plane, but set aside “family zones” in the rear? Such zones could expand and contract according to the destination (more family seats to Orlando, fewer to Buffalo). And most families with kids wouldn’t mind a longer walk down the aisle. Heck, the back of the plane is closer to the bathroom, anyway.