Traveling on a plane with a young child can be difficult, with seat-kicking, crying or shouting, and getting through security with all the paraphernalia required when kids travel — and things can go further south when a parent has to ask a fellow passenger to switch seats so that he or she can sit with the child, writes Katherine Shaver for the Chicago Tribune.
But now Congress is considering a way to take away some of the stress. The Senate amended the Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill by adding that parents would be allowed to be with their kids when passing through security checks and to sit with their little ones on flights at no extra cost.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) proposed the amendment, which would also require that airlines accommodate pregnant women in ways such as preboarding convenience.
Purchasing side-by-side seats is getting harder to do as airlines have begun to charge fees for "premium" or "preferred" coach seats. This policy would create fewer seats for passengers who wish to reserve seats next to each other without paying more.
If a family includes more than one child, booking premium seats together along with paying ticket prices can get expensive. Then parents are forced to beg strangers to switch positions or ask gate agents or flight attendants to help convince the travelers to move.
Most passengers are willing to move, even though they may have paid more for their premium seat or reserved it months ago.
Airlines for America, a trade group for several US airlines, says creating a law is not necessary since travelers can currently sit together without paying additional fees.
"Airlines have always worked to accommodate customers who are traveling together, including those traveling with children, and will continue to do so – without unnecessary federal mandates," said spokesman Vaughn Jennings. "We believe that customer service decisions are best left to the dedicated and experienced airline employees who interact with and receive feedback from their customers every day – not the government."
Senators unanimously voted to add the amendment, but there are no guarantees that it will be kept in the bill as it travels through debate and negotiations.
KCNC-TV quoted Sen. Bennet as he explained the importance of the amendment:
"It tries to make it a little easier for families traveling with kids to know that before getting to the airport that they're going to have seats together when practicable."
But some parents would like to see restrictions.
"I don't think that a 20-year-old needs to sit with their family but I think younger kids absolutely need to sit with their family members," said parent Bill Levinson.
If the bill passes, thoughtful parents will want to find ways to keep their children entertained and to help them be less likely to bother other passengers.
Skyscanner.net suggests dividing the flight into fifteen-minute slots and planning an activity for each time period. Take-offs and landings are easy to fill since time can be spent looking out the window. The rest of the time slots can be spent reading, drawing, snacking, and playing card games which are the easiest activities to gather and pack supplies for and to supervise.
Other suggestions included a pillow for sleeping, stickers, and coloring books.