Families who travel together often wish to sit together. However, knowing how to sit together on a flight is not always clear, as different airlines have different policies in place. If you are travelling with a toddler or need to sit next to your travel companion, booking flights early and reserving your seats in advance are two straightforward ways.
Other ways to ensure you get to sit together with your family or travel buddies are listing everyone under the same reservation or trying to group two seats together instead of looking for three or more. Here is a complete guide on ways that you can try to ensure that you all get to sit together on your next flight.
How To Sit Together On A Flight
If you are travelling with friends or as a couple, sitting together guarantees a more rewarding flying experience. If you are travelling as a family or with a toddler, sitting together on a plane is almost a must for many. Here are the practical ways that you can try to ensure being seated together.
Book Your Flights Early
Booking early offers travellers a myriad of benefits, especially when you are flying internationally, there are different prime booking periods depending on your destination. Booking early means there are more seats available for you to choose from.
Moreover, many airlines allow passengers to select their seats for free during the booking process (most likely about 24 hours in advance). Overall, the chances that you get to sit together are more likely when more seats are available, so do not wait until the last minute or rely on your gate agent alone.
Note: Lower-tier fares such as Basic Economy on United do not allow seat selection. You can only sit at where they tell you to, so consider purchase better fares before booking.
Choose Your Seats And Make Use Of Seat Map
There are usually seating options such as window seats, aisle seats or seats with extra legroom for passengers to choose from. Some airlines charge fees for certain seats, like those with extra legroom or near the front of the plane.
If you couldn't find seats together initially, check the seat map regularly, especially as the departure date approaches. Passengers might change their seats, or the airline might adjust the aircraft type, freeing up different seating options.
Before confirming your booking, view the seat map to see the available seats. Sites like SeatGuru are a great starting point. A visual representation will give you a better idea of where you and your companions can sit.
Depending on your flights, sometimes check-in online is an option, normally available 24 hours prior to departure. Getting to the airport early can also give you time to ask gate agents for your preferred seats in case other passengers recently change their seats.
Book on One Reservation
In most cases, airlines set aside a group of passengers on the same reservation together whenever possible. It is a good idea to book your children or your other travel companions on the same booking as you for this reason. However, if passengers in your group are booking different fare classes (e.g., economy vs. premium economy), this could affect the ability to sit together.
If you have a different reservation than your travel companion, you can select your seats during booking or during check-in by checking the seat map and selecting available adjoining seats in different sessions.
Choose Priority Seating Services
Depending on your chosen airline, priority seating services can mean more legroom, easier access and guaranteed seating with your travel companions. You might choose priority seats located in the front rows for more space or near the aircraft's exit doors to get off the plane more quickly.
Think About Your Chosen Airline
Some carriers sit families together for no additional fee (we’ll talk more about this later). It is worth noticing that low-cost airlines and basic economy fares tend to have additional fees for seat selection. You can use flight search engines to find the best prices for your desired routes.
However, if you must sit together with your family members or travel companions, you should choose airlines with low seat selection fees. It is recommended that you give advance notice to the airline before finalising your booking as well.
Ask For Help From Your Airline or A Gate Agent
If you are unsure of your seating arrangements after booking or have trouble obtaining seats together, you should contact the airline directly. Depending on individuals' cases, a gate agent or a flight attendant might ask passengers to change seats in order to help families sit together. Other cases are to accommodate airline employees or air marshals.
Use Your Airline Elite Status
Some carriers save good seats for their frequent fliers. If you have elite status with your frequent airline, be sure to take advantage of it. If you plan to travel often as a family and sitting together is important to you, consider upgrading to an elite status to receive extra benefits in the long run. Who know, maybe you can even get a first-class seat.
How To Choose The Best Seats With Children and Seniors
Flying with a child or an elderly is a different travel experience than flying alone or with another adult traveller. Many airlines offer special programs and privileges for senior travellers. With extra attention, here are ways to keep your children happy, and your old travel companions relaxed throughout the journey by selecting the best seating options.
Understand Seating Policies For Children
Even though most airlines will try to seat young children with at least one parent, it is best that you understand their seating policies before selecting seats. You can get information about airlines' family seating policies directly via their websites or helplines.
There are specific policies to consider, such as children under 15 should not be seated in an exit row. If you select your seats in advance while booking, be aware of this to avoid being swapped last-minute during boarding.
Flying with children requires special practices to ensure safety. For instance, the Federal Aviation Administration strongly suggests using a Child Restraint System (CRS) instead of in-lap holding for children under two.
Once your children are over two years old, they cannot be a lap infants and require their seats. Therefore, we suggest getting an extra seat for your infant during long-haul flights.
Understand Seating Policies For Seniors
Some airlines and flight routes have senior discounts for travellers over 65 years old. For instance, British Airways’ AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) members can save up to $65-200 per flight depending on their fares.
Additional assistance services such as wheelchair services, portable oxygen concentrators, and assistance for low vision and difficult hearing are available at the airport or on the aeroplane. Be sure to inform the airlines as soon as you finalise your booking.
For seating, senior travellers might get to sit near the front of the aircraft as it is more accessible to the restroom. Senior travellers who travel with wheelchairs might require early boarding, thus being assigned more accessible seats for this reason.
Even though these seats are not guaranteed without seat selection services, it is always best to ask the airlines when purchasing your tickets. The recommended seats for senior passengers are aisle seats with movable armrests. They should also avoid emergency exit row seats.
Airlines That Offer Free Family Seating
Each airline has different policies on seat selection. By knowing them in advance, you can pick the airlines that best suit your travel needs. You can follow for more information here.
The major American airline assures that children aged 13 and below will be seated adjacent to a minimum of one adult companion. This perk comes without any extra charges, even for Saver fare.
With the right timing, travellers can book their kids under 15 to seated near them for free. If your fare is Economic Basic, or you can’t find your preferable seat arrangement, you can choose to “skip seats”. They say “It’s better to skip seats than to choose just a few seats or seats scattered throughout the cabin”.
Upon doing so, their system will automatically group families travelling together. If the seats are limited, at least one adult will be given a seat next to a child under 15.
While Emirates aims to let a young traveller enjoy the flights alongside their family members, they can’t promise if that’s 100% the case. The good news is that:
- Those travel with infants in the same booking don’t have to pay for seat selection if they opt for regular seats and adjacent seats on bulkhead rows (bassinets also included).
- Children travelling with adults can enjoy a 50% discount on regular and preferred seats selection.
- Preferred and Twin seats, on the other hand, incurs fees.
Frontier guarantees adjacent seats for at least one accompanying adult and children under 13 years of age, for all fare types and at no additional cost with specific conditions applied.
The New York-based carriers also go with flow with their Family Seating Guarantee since Oct 2023. Even for Blue Basic fliers, Jetblue passengers and their kids under 13 can sit next to each other at no extra cost.
Do note that this automatically applies to families who book outside 24 hours of their departure time. What if you are within the 24 hours mark? No worries, you can make arrangements with the airport staff.
As of Oct 2023, 4 out of 10 major U.S. carriers has a free family seating policy. Photo from U.S. Department of Transportation.
In Feb 2023, they introduced a new dynamic seatmap feature, one which allows familities to sit together easier. For travellers who travel with a child under 12 years old, they can choose to sit with a family member for no additional charge. Yes, it works even if your fare is Basic Economy.
Other Airlines And Their Policies On Family Seating
Most of these carriers have different ways of manage parents sitting with their children. Commonly, they will try to seat you and your child together, although there’s “no guarantee” that will happen. Furthermore, families booking the lowest fares such as Basic Economy won't get to choose their own seats.
The general rules of thumb here is try to check in together and as soon as possible. Your chances of sitting together will increase. If you wait too long, you’ll be assigned with whatever seats left.
They will assign you a random seat unless you reserve seats in advance. In the airline’s words, “while we will do our best to accommodate families, the availability of seats together cannot be guaranteed”.
It is recommended that travellers reserve seats as soon as possible to get preferred seats. Depending on individuals’ circumstances, travellers might have to pay for preferred seats or reserve for free. British Airways always do their best “to seat your family together based on flight seat availability”, whether it’s “in adjacent rows or across the aisle”.
On Delta’s Family Seating Policy page, the carrier claims to “strives to seat family members together upon request”. In case your can’t book a family seating via their website or app, you should contact their Reservations for further assistance.
EasyJet stated that their “seating system will always try to seat families together”. However, seats are “allocated on a first come first served basis”. Thus, It’s important to check in as early as possible and tell them the number of kids you’re travelling with and their ages so they can arrange your sitting together. If you select your seats too close to the departure time, you may have to pay anywhere from £0.99 to £12.99 or higher.
Travellers can select seats in advance during booking or at any time before flying. Like others, they advise everyone to select your seats soon after booking if you want to ensure your family are seated together.
Depending on seat types, an additional fee might be applicable. Qantas Frequent Flyer, Platinum, Platinum One, Gold, Silver members will receive a complimentary standard seat selection.
An infant without a seat can fly for free on Australian domestic flights. On international flights, you must buy a seat/ticket for them. You can request a seat with Bassinet, but conditions apply.
Ryanair offers both free seats and reserved seats with additional fees. Per the carrier’s policy, with every adult reserved seat, up to 4 children (aged 2-11) can sit beside them for free. So you have to pay money first to be able to fly together on the same rows.
According to the UK-based airline, they will always try to seat you “within arm’s reach” of your kids, whether that's next to, across the aisle, in front or behind them. Each parent can accompany a maximum of two infants.
How To Save Extra Fees From Seat Selection
According to IdeaWorksCompany, eight major airlines in the U.S., including Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit, and United, generated $4.2 billion in 2022 from seat selection fees for their domestic networks. Feeling overwhelmed? Here are ways for you to save on extra seating fees on your upcoming flights.
Book At The Same Time
An airline system typically group seating for people who travelling in the same party. Thus, it’s wise to check in online as soon as it becomes available (typically 24-48 hours before the flight). This increases the chances of finding seats together without paying extra.
Furthermore, booking directly through the airline's website or customer service might offer more flexibility or perks for families than booking through third-party sites. If you see the “group booking” feature, make use of it.
Accept Randomly Assigned Seats
Consider the idea of sitting apart and letting the airline arrange your seats. Unless you are travelling with young children or adults who need extra assistance, you can contact the airline in advance and explain your situation.
Chances are, many airlines will put in extra effort to handle your situation as it helps them avoid potential bad press while ensuring a positive flying experience for everyone on board.
Get Help From A Fellow Passenger
If you have a better seat, such as an aisle seat located near the front of the plane, chances are your seat neighbours might agree to switch. Even though it depends on the other passenger, it is worth the shot to be respectful and explain your situation while asking for help. Good manners go a long way. However, note that not all airline allow seat switching between passengers.
Boarding Last to Your Flight
If your flight is not full, you can try boarding last to have empty seats in your fare class visible. Then you and your family or travel companions might sit in the empty seats. It is better to ask the flight attendant politely to ensure that it is allowed. Explaining your situation calmly and communicatively is helpful as well.
1. Do Airlines Try To Seat You Together?
Most airlines' seating policies state they will try to seat families together. For instance, American Airlines has a system in place which ensures families can sit together for free.
However, there is no guarantee. Low-cost carriers tend to require extra fees for guaranteed seats, and seating policies are subjected to different airlines' policies. If you book under the same reservation or make a special request to a gate agent, your chance of being seated together is more likely but not guaranteed.
2. How Many People Can Sit Together On A Plane?
Depending on the size of your plane, the space available for adjoining seats varies greatly. A seating map with high density will maximise the number of adjoining seats available as well. There are regional planes, narrow-body planes, wide-body planes, high density or spacious configurations planes.
On the same row, you can sit two persons together on regional planes and three persons together on bigger aircraft. Wide-body aircraft have up to 9 passengers on the same row and are divided into three separate rows of adjoining seats.
3. Do Families Get To Sit Together On A Plane?
Even though final seats are primarily based on airlines' arrangements, there are regulations and guidelines in place to assist passengers. For example, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has guidelines regarding young children and disabled travellers to be seated with their accompanies.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has submitted a legislative proposal that requires airlines to provide family seating options at no additional cost. Overall, some airlines guarantee family seating while others do not.
4. Which Airlines Let Families Sit Together?
According to the Airline Customer Seating Dashboard published by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the carriers who guarantee adjacent seats for children and accompanying adults with limited conditions are Alaska, American Airlines, Frontier, and Jetblue.
The good news is more airlines are considering family seating options, such as United Airlines has upcoming free family seating policies. Emirates also don’t charge seat selection fees if you are flying with infants and choosing certain seats.
How To Sit Together On A Flight: A Complete Guide
There is a lot to worry about when planning trips for your family or group of friends. Knowing how to sit together on a flight can be a way to lower your stress levels while planning. One of the practical family air travel tips is knowing how to select seats. There are both free and paid options for reserving flight seats. Depending on your travel needs and individual circumstances, be sure to use the above tips strategically beforehand.
Next time, before you fly to your next dream vacation, use this guide to get your preferred seating arrangements. If you find it helpful, forward it to a friend and ensure you get to sit together with your travel companions regardless of the flight.