Congress and DOT Must Permanently End Family Seating Fees

February 21, 2023 Press Release

Washington, D.C. — After President Biden called out the airline industry in his State of the Union address for forcing families to pay unnecessary junk fees to sit together, United Airlines yesterday announced it would be updating its family seating policy. In response, the American Economic Liberties Project released the following statement.

“Thanks to President Biden’s leadership, family seating junk fees may soon be a thing of the past,” said William J. McGee, Senior Fellow for Aviation & Travel at the American Economic Liberties Project. “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. The U.S. Department of Transportation and Congress must now move forward to permanently eradicate family seating fees.”

Earlier this month, President Biden addressed junk fees in his State of the Union address, and specifically called out airline family seating fees: “Baggage fees are bad enough—they can’t just treat your child like a piece of luggage.” For many years now advocates have been pointing out the obvious health, safety, and inflight assault threats from seating kids apart from families, and Congress even addressed this in 2016. Support for eradicating ALL fees for families to sit together inflight is growing, and the DOT deserves credit for proposing new rules. Last week American Economic Liberties Project offered support for the Families Fly Together Act, and stated: “Nickel-and-diming families with young kids to sit together is the most egregious of all airline junk fees.”

Yesterday United updated its website to state: “If you’re flying with children under 12, we’ll make sure they can sit next to an adult in your family for free.” While basic economy seating is finally included, many questions remain on how United will implement such a policy during events like flight disruptions and how this will change the passenger booking process.

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The American Economic Liberties Project works to ensure America’s system of commerce is structured to advance, rather than undermine, economic liberty, fair commerce, and a secure, inclusive democracy. Economic Liberties believes true economic liberty means entrepreneurs and businesses large and small succeed on the merits of their ideas and hard work; commerce empowers consumers, workers, farmers, and engineers instead of subjecting them to discrimination and abuse from financiers and monopolists; foreign trade arrangements support domestic security and democracy; and wealth is broadly distributed to support equitable political power.