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Mommy Dearest: Family Assigned Separate Seats on Flight

Mommy Dearest,

We recently returned from a short vacation and traveling home was a nightmare. Our flight was canceled and my husband, son and I were put on a different flight — all three seats were in separate rows. The customer service agent told us the flight attendants would move people so at least one parent could sit with the child. But, once we boarded that didn't happen. One attendant told us to just ask passengers to swap seats. Thinking people wouldn't want to sit next to a four-year-old boy we inquired, but no one budged. The people sitting next to my son said we should have never boarded knowing we were separated. Luckily, another attendant persuaded a man to move after I told her the alternative was to have my son sit on my lap. What would you have done?

– Recovering From Flight

To see the response from Mommy Dearest,


Recovering From Flight,

I am glad that everything ended up working out for your family. I would have assumed that a sympathetic traveler would have aided you in your situation sooner. Perhaps, you'll consider writing a letter to the airline so this doesn't happen to others in the future.

—Mommy Dearest

Submit a question for this feature at the Mommy Dearest Group on TeamSugar.

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Join The Conversation
phatE phatE 7 years
it's not up to the people who also purchased a ticket to offer their seat.. it's up to the airline to deal with it,and ask those people on your behalf and if they are getting a crappy seat in return, offer some sort of compensation.. obviously, they aren't going to do that b/c they are tanking and can't afford to, however it's between the parents and airlines, and the flight attendant, and check in people should have handled it.
skigurl skigurl 7 years
i cant believe someone would have said you shouldn't have boarded in the first place...common what were you supposed to do? stay in the airport with the poor kid? flight delays suck as it is...those people were just evil
hausfrau hausfrau 7 years
people are so bitchy. i've seen so many people not want to give up their seats because its an aisle... really?? it makes THAT much difference? people who are that desperate in life can keep thier aisle seat.
lccc lccc 7 years
Unbelievable. The flight attendants should have helped you in that situation. Customer service is dead on airlines these days.
Sarana Sarana 7 years
Very strange that no one offered to switch! I also find it strange that the attendant wanted you to arrange that yourself, it's something they should do for you or at least help you with.
runningesq runningesq 7 years
I cannot imagine (although it clearly happens!) an adult who wouldn't say "oh, of course I'll switch seats so you can sit next to your 4 year old"
katiekat katiekat 7 years
definitely write a letter to the airline.
sarahinparis sarahinparis 7 years
Wow, I've never been on a flight where someone didn't move to keep parent and child together. In fact, every flight I've taken a flight with my daughter (and its been a few) I've had people volunteer their seats (without asking) so my husband could sit with my daughter and I. I just can't imagine people would be so selfish. I would like to think my experience is more the norm and this poor woman's was a fluke. Though all that being said, when I was eight months preg. and ready to pop, I did once have a METRO train full of teenagers sit and stare at me while I tried to balance myself the whole trip home. . . but I just chalked it up to them being so young and having no idea what its like to be exhausted and front heavy.
lickety-split lickety-split 7 years
that is absurd. what if the child had been disabled? the airline most certainly can switch seats, they can cancel the flight and bump people as well. people are so selfish! a 4 year old needs to sit by an adult that they know, and what about all the "don't talk to strangers" prepping parents do????? it isn't even legal to leave your child unsupervised at that age and who would just hand their child off to a stranger and say "here ya go! see you a few hours".
MartiniLush MartiniLush 7 years
Actually, I had the same happen to my family on a flight a month ago. The gate agent told me when I inquired about getting seats together that it is against FAA regulations to have a child that young (my son is 5) be "supervised" by someone other than the parent unless they sign a waiver. She says that they are required to accommodate the seat change. She proceeded to page the passenger sitting next to me and told her that she had two choices: she could swap seats with my son or she could give up her seat and go on a later flight. The lady happily swapped. I don't know if what the agent told me is true or not, but you should maybe check that out. The airline seems really irresponsible.
Mel475 Mel475 7 years
I am surprised that the customer service agents didn't try to maneuver the seats prior to boarding i.e. offer some incentives to those inconvenienced by moving but willing to do so to help out the family. It's not the family's responsibility to figure out the seating situation once on board - it's the airline employee's responsibility. And while it's probably correct nothing will come of it, I would still encourage the family to write a letter to the airline. Who knows? Something may come of it and even if not, at least you can say you tried (and vented!).
Chouette4u Chouette4u 7 years
"I can't believe that the airline would not make sure that at least 2 of those seats were together! I'm sure when the original flight was booked, the airline was told that there would be a 4 year old flying and the seats needed to be together, so why is it ok to change that because the original flight got cancelled?" These days, you generally get to pick your seats when you buy your ticket, so the new flight already had most of the seats assigned. Once someone has a seat assigned to them, the airline just can't take it away.
Read2me Read2me 7 years
I am so surprised someone didn't offer to switch seats! Something similar happened to my husband and I when we were traveling with our infant daughter. The two of us were separated but people actually volunteered to move so we could sit together so I wasn't dealing with a baby all by myself. I agree with the other poster that writing to the airline probably won't do much good because they won't change their process for assigning seats but you may get a voucher out of the deal so it's worth a shot!
Chouette4u Chouette4u 7 years
I don't think there was anything else you could have done. I'm assuming all three seats were middle seats, and the people switching would have had windows or aisles which are much better, but it's pretty crappy that no one wanted to move! I just can't see how sitting in a middle seat would be worse than sitting next to an unattended four-year-old. As for writing to the airline, I don't really think there is much they could have done either. They can't magically make seats appear next to each other, and it sounds like the flight attendants ultimately got a passenger to move for you.
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