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How Airlines Like Delta Hold Parents Hostage


One of the first questions I remember Delta’s website asking me when booking travel was my daughter’s age.  She’s 4.

One fact of that experience I won’t soon forget was that despite having her age, Delta assigned my daughter a seat on our flight 11 rows away.

For a mere eighty-eight additional dollars, the airline was kind enough to reassign us in a row together.  And by additional dollars, I mean on top of the $1200+ I had already spent for the trip and not counting the additional $25 baggage fee (each way) for which carriers have become notorious.

There were plenty of empty seats on that flight and this should never have happened in the first place.

In fairness to the ticket agent, who traded knowing glances with a work acquaintance when I broached the issue at the counter, she suggested I might ask the gate agent at boarding to make the switch at no cost.

Faced with a dilemma of handing over ransom money to Delta in exchange for certainty, or taking a risk that an agent might fix the problem at the gate, I opted to pay. 

No parent holds a higher responsibility – or more deeply visceral instinct – than keeping their child or children safe.  That’s hard to accomplish 11 rows away when the fasten seat belt sign is glowing.

The airlines are counting on it, indeed, I’d contend airlines, including Delta, prey on such emotions to separate a few more dollars from the consumer wallet.



Other Airlines Prey on Parent Emotions Too

Delta isn’t the only airline that will book a young child or a toddler several rows away from a parent or guardian.  In my recent history, US Air pulled the same page from the airline customer service playbook, albeit my daughter was even younger then.

Although US Air’s social media team at least attempted a response – Delta didn’t so much as acknowledge my protest (and still hasn’t) [Update 5/12/15:  Delta reached out to me today; there’s a note about it in the comments below].

American Airlines also, has earned a reputation for targeting parents. My mother flew for American for some 30 years and when I relayed the story, she shook her head and noted the airline made it a habit throughout her career.

She resented it because it put her – an employee – in the crossfire of a rightfully upset parent, but left her few options to deal with it. In the spirit of adaptation, she did, however, develop her own playbook. She’d gently take the parent aside and give them advice like this:

Approach the passenger sitting next to your child and explain that while your child is sweet, she (or he) frequently becomes nauseous during air travel; I hope you won’t mind cleaning up.  

More often than not, my mother reports, after hearing that, a fellow passenger would volunteer to change seats to avoid sitting next to a sick kid. I’d like to believe most people would do it willingly anyway.

Anyone that knows a flight attendant can probably attest to the fact these professionals can rattle off a dozen similar anecdotes off the top of their heads.

It does not, however, excuse an airline, or the broader industry, from what amounts in my mind, as calculated exploitation.


Update 5/7/15: An aviation enthusiast pointed out the image here shows two different aircraft. Exactly. Four legs, round trip. Then you begin to understand my frustration. There was no choice to select seats together upon purchase, and this image reflects my options at online check-in. What did Delta expect? That I’d spend more money for the privileged of sitting separately, with a little more leg room?

 “Misery” as a Business Strategy

If such a story were the exception, it might pass as an oversight.  Unfortunately, it is not.  The airlines have been systematic in the pursuit of driving revenue by making their customers miserable.

The carriers have artificially inflated demand by cutting the supply of flights. The airlines have continuously added seats to an aircraft to the extent it borders on torture for even the average sized citizen. Airlines were quick to add fuel surcharges and very slow to remove them — despite the decline in oil prices (and expiring contracts).

Then there are the upsell techniques.  These are something akin to intrusive pop-up ads you can’t close, only it’s in-your-face real life. There’s a long list of “comforts” the airlines have carved out and packaged as an additional revenue stream:  bag fees, bonus miles, food, drinks, movies, headsets and exit row seating.

Another airline staple that fails to serve customers well is gaming departure times.  This is usually rendered in the form of closing the door on an aircraft, pushing away from the gate and calling the flight “on time.”  

It’s a farce that might look good on a plaque but is about as meaningless a metric as likes on a brand’s Facebook page.  The whole charade would be downright humorous — an SNL skit — if it weren’t so egregious, true and more to the point, impacting so many travelers.

It’s not merely that the airlines are trying to earn more money – businesses should try to earn more profitable business —  it’s that these items are sold to a (literally) captive audience in an effort to capitalize on misery.  In other words, the airlines are artificially designing a miserable flying experience precisely for the purpose of selling travelers more “comforts.”

The airlines are flying so low with this strategy, it’s fitting for a child’s lesson in morality we might find in a Dr. Seuss book:  inventing a problem in order to profit from the solution.  Writing his column, McBean himself called it capitalist pollution.

Citing a story in The New Yorker, futurist, tech analyst and one-time PR luminary, Brian Solis dissected  the strategy in a post titled, Companies Profit When Customers Suffer, this way:

“See, the more a passenger hates the experience, the more they’re willing to pay incremental fees to avoid repeating it. That’s the theory anyway. These include the following uncommon anomalies some hopeless passengers may endure…

> Waiting in line to check in at the counter.
> Pushing your way through the cattle call when boarding commencing,
> Clamoring for that last overhead bin space that someone else seems to always get.
> Doing a last minute repack when you learn your bag weighs just over the maximum allotment.
> Having to push their knees against the seat in front of them to mimic a comfortable seating position.
> Tussling with your neighbor over space because seats are practically stacked on top of each other these days.
> Beg to be treated as a human being by airline representatives.
> Losing status because you fly a lot but you don’t pay premium prices for premium seats and services.

Indeed, we’ve all been there.”

As I noted in reaction to Mr. Solis’ post, it amazes me that a competitor cannot find a way to make the economics work – that a carrier can’t swoop in and displace the incumbents.  Even the formerly scrappy low cost airlines – like JetBlue – that nailed this niche are moving away from the model.

If good customer service is good marketing, then engineering a synthetically designed (and terrible) user experience in an effort to profit ought to be illegal.  When is enough it enough?!

It is High Time to Regulate Airline Customer Service

Until this country becomes willing to invest in high-speed rail (which we should), teleportation is invented, or more businesses accept web collaboration for its practicality, there’s no expectation that the airlines will ever focus on basic – even essential in Maslow’s sense – customer service. Airline customer service must be regulated.

I believe the answer begins with a federally mandated passenger bill of rights – one that becomes law and is backed with stiff penalties.  To begin, I’d recommend the following:

  • No airline under reasonable circumstances may separate a dependent from guardian in seating assignments; this includes, but is not limited to, children, elderly  and handicap;
  • Minimum personal space requirements determined by ergonomic experts and medical doctors;
  • Pricing transparency – the total cost of travel (TCT) at the initial point of price quotation; in other words the price at the point of transaction (or departure) should not vary from the initial results displayed in any e-commerce travel system;
  • On time flights will be determined from the point at which the first passenger enters the jet way at boarding until the last passenger has exited the bridge after landing; merely pushing an aircraft away from the gate is not on time;
  • No airline may sell more seats than an aircraft holds; a mandatory refund policy will uniformly apply to all airlines;
  • Stiff penalties for airlines who sell unclean seats, trash left in the seat pockets or non-functioning in-flight electronics will be implemented; these are no longer amenities;
  • Exit row seating may not be sold at a premium; in the interest of safely, exit row seating will be based solely on the ability of the passengers in those rows to execute that very important duty on a first come, first serve basis;
  • Minimum sustenance requirements based on the length of travel (I suggest three hours or more of flight time);
  • Minimum staffing requirements at counters and gates based on forecasted (and auditable) passenger throughput;

These metrics will be reported monthly on a publicly accessible website managed by a designated government agency (FAA, FTC). In addition, airlines that are publicly traded will be required to list a human-readable one page summary in quarterly and annual financial statements, such as the 10k. It will be the first page of such reports.

In a word of caution, when the regulators start sniffing around, the airline lobbyists press hard on the thrusters.  They will advocate for “self-regulation” and lament over the stifling new constraints and limitations.

Yet the airlines have proven time and time again they cannot be trusted to act independently. Indeed a few years back the feds finally, after crisis after crisis spilled over into social media and news, slapped the airlines with the threat of fines for parking aircraft on the tarmac while their customers endured countless hours in unconscionable conditions.

* * *

I was but a kid when Reagan broke the mechanic strike, and this sort of talk is the antithesis of the politics I’ve held for most of my life. Then again, everyone has thresholds. My threshold is 4.

Update 5/11/15:  Here are a few links to sources that have picked up on this story:

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174 Responses

  1. Pingback : North Carolina Dad Has To Pay $88 To Sit Next To His 4-Year-Old On Delta Flight

  2. Pingback : North Carolina Dad Has To Pay $88 To Sit Next To His 4-Year-Old On Delta Flight | NewsVin

  3. DianeQuilter

    Sir, you started this. When you booked the tickets, you knew what the seat map looked like. You knew that there were no seats together. A reasonable man and responsible parent would have then booked a different flight, not tried to game the system.

  4. Pingback : Early Independence? Airline Seats Father 11 ROWS Away From 4-Year-Old, Then Gets Shafted When He Tries to Change Seats - Freedom's Floodgates

  5. DianeQuilter  Suffice to say then, I have a different perspective.  I see an airline with the ways and means but by default or design chose a different route. Thanks for your comment.

  6. DianeQuilter

    Frank_Strong you expected the airline to inconvenience those who had booked earlier, who had chosen their seats? Move people who had planned ahead in order to accommodate you?

  7. RyanBlack

    DianeQuilter Frank_Strong Glad I am not the only one that recognizes the erroneous conflation of two distinct issues – this parent’s poor planning, and airlines raking people over the coals for extra money.
    Like you mentioned, any accommodation would be at the cost of other people that planned better.

  8. Pingback : Delta Price Gouges Man $88 To Sit Next To His Little 4 Year Old Girl | The Edgy Truth

  9. Vee24

    DianeQuilter you do realize that airlines block out seats next to each other on purpose in order to take advantage of situations such at the one in which Mr. Strong found himself. He did say that there were plenty of open seats together once he was on the plane, but they were not showing as available at the time of booking. In addition, there were clearly seats next to each other available when he checked in so there was no reason not to accommodate him and his daughter when they arrived at no extra cost, regardless of what was available to him when he booked the trip. No other passengers were inconvenienced, and I think that is the point here – not that he expected the airline to boot someone else out of their pre-reserved seat, but for the airline not to have charged him extra fees to change his seat so that he can be next to his daughter when there were plenty of seats available to do so.

  10. baelzar

    Is this the actual seat map for your flight?  I see plenty of upgrade seats next to each other (the light blue), so I’m confused.  Also, was this some sort of emergency trip that you couldn’t buy and assign yourselves free seats in advance?

  11. baelzar

    TachyonID DianeQuilter Frank_Strong Except, you can assign yourself seats online BEFORE CHECK IN.  This isn’t a foreign airline; you can assign yourself seats EVEN BEFORE YOU PURCHASE THE TICKET.  I do it every day.

  12. Snavec

    DianeQuilter I hope my 4 year old gets a seat next to you on our next flight!  You’ll be paying the airlines all your money to change seats!!  Or worse yet I could put my 18 mos old next to you.  You’d willingly pay to switch planes.  I would.

  13. baelzar

    TachyonID Vee24 DianeQuilter So if they opened up all the upgrade seats 24-hours prior, it’d be a free-for-all.  You’d NEVER get those seats together, because people would snap up all the good seats before you even got your record locator typed in.

    Ever fly Southwest Airlines?  You can check in online 24-hours prior to get your A, B or C boarding pass – if you aren’t sitting there clicking like a madman EXACTLY 24-hours prior, you ain’t getting an A pass.  You might not even get one then because others BOUGHT THE OPTION TO AUTOMATICALLY CHECK IN.

  14. jahowell63

    TachyonID Yes….when you look at the seats on a seat map…buy and  pay in advance two seats , together..  If there are no seats together…get another flight or be prepared to sit apart.   Tickets today, are WAY cheaper than they should be…..percentage wise, the passenger pays less than 50% than they did 25 years ago…. So airlines are getting their due prices by charging premium prices for popular seats (exit row ,  bulk head, etc…)  This summer will be far worse for families….it’s going to be far more difficult to ask a fellow passenger to switch seats….since, most, likely, they paid in advance to get that particular seat.   So parents need to step up and pay in advance seats that are together….or be prepared to sit apart from their child / children…..hopefully soon, every airline will be requiring children (under 2) to have a seat.   Ending the silly practice of “lap children”.

  15. jahowell63

    TachyonID DianeQuilter Frank_Strong What is your definition of “very expensive” seats.   Unless you paid more than $2000 per seat (domestically)  you already have a great deal.

  16. jahowell63

    Snavec DianeQuilter Yeah…figures that your 4 year old is not well behaved.   My 4 year old could sit for 8 hours without bothering anyone.  But most people do not have control of their children…anyway.

  17. AllisonStPeter

    Delta did this to us with our 7 and 10 year olds this Christmas on our flights down South due to a “plane change”. The gate agent refused to help so I took it upon myself to find alternate seats. Thank goodness for the kindness of other passengers. I contacted Delta and they were extremely apologetic in how their staff handled the matter and compensated us for the situation. I wish you best of luck in handling your situation.

  18. DianeQuilter

    Snavec Why the hatred? I stated a simple truth that you cannot refute – that this blogger knew up front that there were no seats available for the two of them at the price on the airline’s website. He knew, and chose to book this flight anyway. His solution was to inconvenience people who had booked seats before he did.

    All your comment can testify to is that some parents are capable of greater tantrums than their four-year-olds, and an even greater capacity to ignore facts.

  19. Snavec

    DianeQuilter Snavec I’m laughing so hard at how seriously you’re taking my comments.  

    I’m happy that your seat on a plane is so coveted that you couldn’t move.

  20. Baelzar

    Snavec DianeQuilter It’s dangerous to backpedal so quickly with young children in your arms.  Please be careful.

  21. Baelzar

    TachyonID Baelzar Vee24 DianeQuilter I am not understanding you correctly.  Refusal to assign seats?  Are we talking an hour before the flight?  Or are you wanting them to assign the upgraded seats for free when it’s close to boarding?  Did your colleague try to assign seats online?  More info please.

  22. Baelzar

    TachyonID Baelzar DianeQuilter Frank_Strong I just went on Delta.com, wasn’t signed in, booked a ticket from LAX-SLC round trip in October (so we’d avoid summer), and pulled up the seat maps.  Only things blacked out were exit rows and 3 individual seats that were not special – somebody had taken them.

    Now, if you’re talking about the upgraded seats, the light and dark blue preferred seats that they charge for, we’ve already covered that.  There were TONS of free seats available.  The vast majority were free seats, aisles, windows, you name it.

  23. Baelzar

    TachyonID Baelzar DianeQuilter Frank_Strong Learn to read: NOT logged in, I’m not a Medallion member in any case.  Try it yourself, you idiot.  Pick a flight that isn’t next week nor during summer so you can actually see an empty plane.

  24. Baelzar

    Frank_Strong Do us a favor; please post the date you booked the flight, and the date of the flight.  It’s relevant to this discussion.

  25. Baelzar

    TachyonID Baelzar DianeQuilter Frank_Strong Again.  I’m not Medallion status, nor anything close to it.  Now it’s cookies?  And you looked in July, prime flying season.  You know most people book vacation tickets several months in advance, right?  They also assign themselves seats when they buy the tickets.

    Try in September or October.  You’ll see wide open seat maps.

    You’re being deliberately obtuse.

  26. JRJRS

    Baelzar Frank_Strong   I think that we need to take a look at this as a whole. First and foremost I am kind of disappointed in Mr. Strong.  As a retired service member myself who spent over 25 years on active duty I think he may have missed one of the most important lessons we learned in that regard which is planning!

    I have a son whom when he was young had to fly accompanied to places all over the world.  Whenever I had to do this I sometimes booked my flights either online, through a travel agent or directly with the airline.  Since I knew going in that my son needed to be near me, I made sure that when booking the flights in the event they could not assign seats (which happened often depending on the circumstances) I always called the airline direct after booking to make sure that was accomplished.  I at no time ever showed up at the terminal without that planned. It didn’t matter if I booked the flights last min due to a family emergency or such.  Never in my entire time travelling for the military, the govt or my current company did I ever have an issue.  That’s not to say they don’t happen but I would bet that by doing some pre-planning you could alleviate the vast majority. The old adage if you fail to plan then you plan to fail comes to mine.  In the military everything is about planning….so too when you are a parent.

    Second I don’t think some looked at the map Mr. Strong posted to get a better idea of what transpired.  If you look closely you would see that his seat location seems to be in the first class portion and his daughters (11 rows back) isn’t.  You can look at the seat configuration to notice the distinct difference in seating. Now Ii don’t work for Delta but if you don’t buy a first class ticket for both then you have to pay?  Sounds pretty simple and not really sinister considering it is a business and the fares are different.  If he booked and paid for two tickets in first class then by all means he has a legitimate beef and they should have put her in the class of seat that was paid for. As I have mentioned I have flown all over the world many times and I do know that they overbook sometimes.  This is part of the business and nothing sinister about it. Although I have been inconvenienced by it on occasion it is not something sadistic or personal.  I also know that they usually announce before the flight on most airlines that you can upgrade to a better seat….. for a fee! Again for those that fly often rather than occasionally nothing new here. 

    The booking agent is just that…there to book and adjust flights. They are not in the corporate “know” as to whether the company is trying to cheat people or bully them into making more money.  That’s like saying the cashier at burger king is in the “know” if they use artificial preservatives in the french fries and why?  They may be familiar about how to maneuver in the technological systems they utilize but to say that they know the deep dark conspiracy motives about the company is ludicrous and conjecture at most. That and the fact that the booking is a computer system.  They track ages for planning purposes and in no way does the system differentiate if the passenger is sitting near and adult if they are underage.  Can you imagine if the plane was full and those were the only two seats?  Does the system deny the ticket because a minor is not near the parent…..I think not.

    This seems to be a clear case of poor planning and possibly trying to get something extra.  I’m sure I was not the only one that thought $1200 for such a short flight was pricey no matter how late it was purchased. 

    This is a different day an age for businesses and flying is no different.  Whether people can say it was from the recession, the housing market or 911, flying has gotten worse than it was. No one is denying that.  I am just taking a look at the article for what it was.  Someone that didn’t plan ahead or take the right steps to assure his daughter was next to him.  Even if the airline was unsympathetic to his cause, the ultimate responsibility resided with Mr. Strong not them.  If I couldn’t get a seat together guaranteed with my child before I left, I would be flying another airline and not writing a blog about why I was wronged by someone making up for where I dropped the ball.

    If you fail to plan………..you plan to fail!

  27. Baelzar

    TachyonID Baelzar DianeQuilter Frank_Strong Stop right there.  Where did Mr. Strong say there were several free (not upgrade) seats available on his flight?  This is what I want Mr. Strong to clarify.  His seat map doesn’t show it, but you question the map.

    Fine.  Easy enough to do an experiment.  You sign in as a Medallion member and look up a flight in October.  I will look up the identical flight.  Take screenshots of our seat maps, and we’ll compare.  Let’s get this straight.

    Finally – I’m not an airline employee, I’m a travel agent.  WE HATE THE AIRLINES.  I deal with every airline several times a week; online, on the phone, you name it.  We call the same phone numbers you do, and deal with the same people.

    Frank Strong needs a decent travel agent.  Then he wouldn’t wait until he gets to the airport to get his seat assignment.

  28. Baelzar

    TachyonID DianeQuilter Frank_Strong There you go.  29Sep DL2170 out, 06Oct DL2004 return.  Now sign in and check the same flights, screenshot it (I use Awesome Screenshot for Chrome) and post.

  29. Baelzar

    TachyonID Baelzar Frank_Strong So you don’t believe when he booked the flight and when he took the flight are relevant details here?

  30. Baelzar

    TachyonID Baelzar DianeQuilter Frank_Strong I’m on Delta.com, dude.  Does that look like a SABRE seat map to you?

    There are PLENTY of reasons to hate the airlines, but this is a bogus story that’s gotten some international traction based on Strong’s obfuscation and omission.

    You keep making excuses – cookies, SABRE, I’m a shill for Delta – and avoiding reality in the process.  You pick the date and flight, and I’ll post the screenshot.  It’s not difficult.

    Why would you fly Delta anyway if you detest them so much?  It’s ridiculous.

  31. Baelzar

    TachyonID Baelzar DianeQuilter Frank_Strong Again (and again), I want Mr. Strong to say what you are saying: There were non-upgrade/non-exit row seats available in the back that were next to each other.

    Notice that his blog post doesn’t say that, nor does his seat map show it.

    It is not an unreasonable request.

  32. Jonathan Nilsson

    Jeepers. On Southwest, they just ask if anyone will volunteer to trade seats with the kid or parent. Works every time.

  33. Baelzar

    TachyonID Baelzar Frank_Strong “clearly there were a bunch”
    Where do you get that idea?  Strong didn’t say it.

  34. Pingback : Yet Another Thing That Makes Flying Hell As A Parent – The Seating Assignment Nightmare | Mommy Helper Blog

  35. Baelzar

    You are saying that your screenshot is from the same flight as mine above? That somehow my computer (cookies deleted, cache emptied, not logged into delta.com) sees more seats than yours on the same exact flight. This is your assertion?

  36. thepartynetwork

    @United – United Airlines wants to charge me $200.00 per ticket to cancel a trip using my Frequent Flyer miles! Wonder why people love @Southwest? If I need to cancel an awards trip, the points go right back into my account. I’d rather piss away the miles than pay the United ransom.

  37. thepartynetwork

    Baelzar Do you have a life or do you just lurk in places such as this? I fly quite a bit and this is not outside the realm of possibility. United now wants to charge me $200 to give me my FF miles back on a trip I need to cancel that is 2 months out.  Southwest charges nothing. Your comment will likely wrap around, “well, you should have read the rules…” Yeah, maybe so, but when another airline has no such rules, that doesn’t make it right.

  38. Wow, read through every comment here. Thank you for commenting, but please be nice to each other.  We can debate, disagree, or even criticize a point of view without criticizing a person.  
    So here are some answers to questions people floated:
    1) I booked on a Saturday and flew on Thursday.  Not a lot of lead time, but not tomorrow either. 

    2) At three points I had an opportunity to select seats on a digital interface, but not seats together. Not even Economy Plus for an incremental fee at online check-in.  

    3) The ticket agent — the first human interface — could and did put us together in Economy Plus for the incremental fee. I don’t think it’s okay to separate parents from children – or a guardian from special needs – but at that point, I’m thinking path of least resistance.  I just want to get there and keep my child happy. 

    4) When I walked on the plane — there were plenty of seats at any price point.  No one would have to move. No one who selected a seat 5 months ago would be inconvenienced. As I stated above in the original post, the airline could have put us together — no problems.  It didn’t…why? That’s why I wrote this post. 

    5) There is a view point, whether real or perceived, in the public that the airlines are doing this by design. With the incredibly sophistication these e-commerce sites have to convert passengers on incremental fees, could easily be re-focused on avoiding such an incident. I have read dozens, even hundreds, of comments on stories and nearly every single one has multiple commenters saying, “Yes, this happened to me!” 

    6) Late today, I did connect with someone in a well-placed Delta office by phone. He apologized and agreed it shouldn’t have happened.  I believe he was sincere. He also said it is Delta’s policy to accommodate such seat changes and the ticket agent should have made the change. The airline told me they are looking into why this happened — including the funky display pictured above and debated into some of these comments — and are looking for a ways to ensure it doesn’t happen again. 

    7) Today, the airline did offer to refund the fee – I asked them not to do so. I don’t want freebies or handouts:  It’s not the money, it’s the process.  The outcome above is exactly what the one I hoped would happen — get the airline to stop, pause and think, “Can we do this better? There’s a opportunity for an airlines re-positioned as “family friendly.”  At a minimum, there’s are a whole lot of parents in this country with a heightened awareness.

    Finally, this news took off because it struck a chord. That means there are a whole lot of people out there that experienced the same thing at some point and identified with my story. As a colleague said to me today, in this country if you want to affect change you start by speaking out.  I’m grateful a few folks listened and thought it important enough to engage.

  39. fly2much

    WOW!  Seriously. I am a two million miler with Delta and I’ve seen it all. As the Sky club agents have told me several times as well as the medallion desk, there are certain seats that can only be assigned by the gate agent, therefore, if this passenger had waited. he would have been able to sit with the child. Even if the flight was full, no one wishes to sit next to a four year old when the child wants to be with a parent, therefore, someone would have easily exchanged seats or the flight attendants would have made it happen. It was not necessary to pay for the economy comfort seat. Maybe this person wanted economy comfort and thought the child would upgrade for free. Expensive lesson learned, next time speak to the agent at the gate, that is the person controlling the seats, not the ticket counter, sky club or reservations.

  40. JoeMiller3

    Thank you for posting this. I too am annoyed at delta’s policy. I bought tickets for my 14 year old son and myself to South Africa and couldn’t get seats assigned together no matter how hard I tried. So for about two months I was told that I could probably get seats together when we checked in on the date of the flight. Thank goodness that we did fly together but the thought that there was a possibility of not sitting together as father and son on a 15 hour flight was very nerve wracking. Needless to say, I have since stop booking delta when flying with any of my kids. Seriously, how difficult is it to give the phone agent discretion to assign seats together for families?

  41. Baelzar

    Actually – as I’ve mentioned before in all those comments I’m sure you memorized – I’m a travel agent. Been one for 25 years. Airline shenanigans are old hat. And, as I’m certain you gleaned after printing out my comments and counting them, the truth of this is not a pattern of family abuse by Delta, but ONE GUY who bought his ticket less than a week before his flight, who is now calling for some ridiculous additional regulations that would end up making airfares MORE expensive and offering less choices to my clients.
    My clients want more legroom most of the time, and I want the option to upgrade them. Even in an exit row.
    What Mr. Strong needs, honestly, is a good travel agent.

  42. JoeMiller3

    Read my comment above. I used an agent. The whole plane had just middle seats available. Even my agent was apologetic.

  43. LindseyHolt

    Frank! Thank god you are standing up and making this right. This is the second airline/toddler incident I have heard about as of late. Here’s the link to one that ended with a possible child molestation case on Delta as well. People need to be made aware and shouldn’t have to go through this hassle in order to protect their children! 

  44. Pingback : Dad claims Delta charged him $88 to sit next to 4-year-old daughter | Jesse Jones - KIRO TV

  45. I am not really following what happened here. You are claiming that Delta charged you to change seat assignments? I fly Delta almost exclusively and I have never paid to change seats or even select seats, out of Economy Comfort (now Economy+ or whatever the new name is). I know that seats can be assigned automatically, but I always have had the option – and taken advantage of it – to choose my seats at booking. I know that some airlines charge. I recently booked at flight on British Airways and they wanted $99 to book a seat assignment and I passed. But unless this has been implemented by Delta since last fall, I have never seen this. Could you more clearly describe what happened?

    As for the section on regulation, regulation is not a panacea. There are valid pricing strategies for segmenting their service tiers and disaggregating their bundled services such as checked baggage. With that approach, you only pay for checked bags if you have them. This is a good thing for those that only do carry-ons. Otherwise, the cost of all the checked luggage would be priced into everyone’s fare. The same goes for extra room. You can provide more space in the entire aircraft but the price will go up. Now, you have the option to choose to pay more for more space and those customers who are willing to pay can and do. If you don’t, you pay a cheaper fare. So again, everyone has flexibility to choose and they pay for the service they wish to receive. The most price sensitive people – which many air travelers are – will sacrifice some room for cost. This system works fine and we don’t need the government coming in and messing it up. I agree with a few points you list, but they don’t require an onerous “bill of rights” that will burden airlines with regulations that impair the service offerings they provide.

    You are right that air travel is not always fun, but I find more of that due to the security process (which I understand as a necessity). By and large, this misery you describe, I generally have not experienced that. I am sorry for your experience, but I don’t think we need to have knee jerk regulation when the market regulation is doing it’s job.

  46. Frank_Strong So if I am following, you choose to go ahead and book into Economy Comfort for the extra fee…which was made clear to you….by choice? I understand you did this for certainty and that is understandable. I often pay more in my travel arrangements for flexibility or certainty. But this not “holding you hostage.” That is an inflammatory and irresponsible headline and, with all due respect, untrue. I am glad Delta is trying to handling your concerns. As much as I like Delta, I have had some issues with the public side of the their customer service. However, maybe that “perception” of airlines doing this by design is partly born of bloggers using terms like “hostage” or “ransom.”

  47. jahowell63 deleted_78959567_TachyonID I have been reading “Flight 232” about the United Sioux City crash in July 1989. The book talks a lot about how one of the surviving flights attendants has crusaded to get the FAA mandate children have a separate seat. They contend that that would cause some families not to fly due to the cost – I can see that – and they further argued in the past that, since highways have a higher fatality rate, it would result in more deaths. As a former engineer, I can see the logic behind both sides here. Ultimately, I think the tiebreaker comes down to the question of whether it is safer for a child that obviously can’t make their own safety decisions, to be in a separate seat on an airliner and is a “projectile” child a danger to other passengers. I think a case could be made that the answers to both is yes – it is safer and it is a danger. That is not to mention that it’s unfair to other passengers in a row to have a squirming child on the lap of a parent, kicking other passengers and generally being a nuisance because they don’t want to be held for hours on end.

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  50. DebrianTravels Think of it this way:  You own a plane with 20 empty seats with a flight plan.  A parent buys a ticket on that aircraft and you seat the adult in the front of the plane and the kid in the back.  You could put them together, but you don’t.
    Three times your website offers that parent to to change a seat, but never a choice that moves parent and child in adjacent seats.  As the parent and toddler get on the aircraft, you tell them — for a little more money, I’ll put you together in a seat with a little more room.

  51. jahowell63

    DebrianTravels jahowell63 deleted_78959567_TachyonID  I appreciate your post.  Yes, I can understand the cost situation by having to pay for another ticket.  But , in the end, these people STILL travel (when their child turns 2)  So, I believe they can afford it and that they’ll choose to find the extra $$ for the extra ticket, rather than drive.  Driving can be more dangerous, but also  I now realize, more opportunity for families to bond.  We are going on our first road trip , as a family, this summer.   My son is 12.  I am so looking forward to it.

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  53. JeremyGleed

    Been there. On a Delta flight to Baltimore I was unable to sit next to my 7 year-old, even though when I booked the flight our seats were initially together. When we got to the gate they had split the seats and instructed me that there was no guarantee that the seats would be kept together unless I had went through some other process beforehand. I was instructed that I could try to get someone to switch seats with me, of course no one wanted to (which is also a shame).

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  56. ottowhri

    Frank, I’m confused.  Why did your daughter have a seat but you didn’t?  When you booked the tickets, did you have the option of selecting your seats?

  57. ottowhri

    ok. Just re-read your post below.  So, if I’m understanding you correctly, you could  not find seats together in economy plus  or economy digitally but the agent offered you economy plus seats together at the counter?  If you were willing to pay for economy plus online, why were you upset when they made you pay for it at the counter?

  58. ottowhri

    Vee24 DianeQuilter We simply don’t know enough about what happened/didn’t happen to make any judgments at all.  I’m still confused about what class the daughter was in, who moved where, what he saw when he booked, etc.  I do agree though, that he should not have booked the flight knowing that they couldn’t sit together unless there was NO other alternative.  He could have asked someone to move and they probably would have been happy to.  I do not agree that he should be publicly shaming Delta for this.  I hate the airlines with a passion BUT….I know the deal.  If I want guarantees and commitments and I have to have things a certain way…..I’m going to pay extra for it.  That’s business.  
    I also agree w Diane that, people shouldn’t have to move to accommodate families.  It wasn’t my life choice to have a kid, it’s yours.  If you are going to travel with them….you will have to make sure you are all sitting together.  I shouldn’t be inconvenienced for your life choices.

  59. DustinNay

    DebrianTravels LindseyHolt That article does not say the charges were dropped. It says the prosecution has moved for dismissal because the burden of proof could not be met. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, and it doesn’t mean the case isn’t moving forward. It means it most likely won’t go anywhere, because there is not enough evidence to definitively say that the abuse happened. Again, that does not mean it didn’t (I work for a law firm).

  60. ottowhri

    Frank_Strong ottowhri I see.  Thanks for the clarification.  The counter person told you there were NO seats together in economy and then when you walked on the plane there were?  Did you ever talk to the gate agent?

  61. DustinNay

    DebrianTravels Frank_Strong as someone who builds online software and websites and has some understanding about how sophisticated those systems are, I am 100% convinced that software could avoid this. The only possible answer to me is 1) the airline is lazy having not built a better online reservation system to avoid this possibility, OR 2) the airline is doing this on purpose to maximize profits.

    I’d like to think it’s not #2, but if it’s #1, that’s also sad.

    DebrianTravels, methinks you might be a comment troll from all of the posts you’ve been leaving on this blog. :)

  62. ottowhri The only guarantee the ticket agent made was a with an upgraded. She was clearly pushing me to see the gate agent.  I made a decision. I wasn’t happy about it, but hey, just another unpleasant flying experience all too common these days.  Until I walked on the plane and saw there were seats in coach.  I realized the airline had been upselling me this whole time while it had capacity.

  63. Public123

    I’ve been in this situation before. I just book whatever seat is available, and then when I get to the gate I tell them I’m not sitting next to my child. In 100% of the cases, they reassign us seats that are together, with no extra charge. Seriously, you should have just done what the ticket agent advised you and ask the gate agent to fix it. They do this every day.

  64. propagandroid

    So, you booked seats on an flight that you knew didnt have any available seats together, and you hoped for the best. The best did not happen and you blame the airlines? take some personal responsibility.

  65. avocats

    Frank_Strong DebrianTravels 
    I’ve flown about two million miles including one million on Delta and have never heard of anything like this.  I do not understand why you didn’t book seats together online at the outset.  Or on a different flight if such seats weren’t available on the first flight.

  66. avocats

    DebrianTravels Frank_Strong 
    And also, flying the same week, we all face limitations.  I for one don’t want my options narrowed because a “family” has decided to fly a few days later.

  67. avocats

    Snavec DianeQuilter 
    Yes, as if entitled parents are already enough of a problem.  Kid as threat.  Wonderful. Funny, I don’t mind the kids–but the parents are a curse.

  68. avocats

    thepartynetwork Baelzar Huh?
    when another airline has no such rules, that doesn’t make it right. 

    Do you know what the word “rule” means?

  69. avocats

    Frank_Strong propagandroid 
    How did you book the seats in the first place?  Online?  Telephone?

  70. avocats

    Vee24 DianeQuilter 
     “you do realize that airlines block out seats next to each other on
    purpose in order to take advantage of situations such at the one in
    which Mr. Strong found himself.”

    Any evidence of this?  I’m a frequent frequent flier and have been for 40 years and have no idea what you’re talking about.

  71. cowboylatte

    This just smells like a shameless PR plug. When you booked online, there were no seats together? Why wouldn’t you have just picked a different flight or carrier?  Delta will get criticized by the masses (that most likely rarely fly) because they are a large company, but I don’t think they were in the wrong. You are mad because you booked tickets knowing there were no seats together? And then you “had” to upgrade Economy Comfort at the time of check in in order to guarantee a seat together? That’s a different class, why wouldn’t you be charged extra for that? I would not expect to book a ticket with a friend with different seats and then magically expect seats to open up so we can sit together. Would you book a ticket for a concert or theatre and expect the same? Seats change constantly on planes. Those previously filled coach seats could have been Medallion travelers who ended up getting upgraded to First Class. Or a large party could have missed their fight. You should have asked at the gate like they told you to. Sorry, but unless you booked two seats together at the point of purchase and THEN they separated you, this is a non-issue. Delta did nothing wrong.

  72. propagandroid

    Frank_Strong propagandroid  Frank. you’re on record with Yahoo Parenting saying “…but when I was given the option to select seats, there were no seats together. I couldn’t even pay them for us to sit together.” 

    How was this not a red flag for you to perhaps book a different flight? Instead you “So Strong decided not to choose seats, hoping he could get them two adjacent seats when he got to the airport.”

    You’re are using your unique position as a blogger to bully an airline for a situation you put yourself in. You need to take a long look at yourself if you truly feel the way your blog post seems.

  73. Public123

    Frank_Strong The airlines *always* have (insert anything here) all along. They dynamically make seats and prices available according to algorithms that tell them how to get the most money. Check today, no seats available. Check tomorrow, seats available. Check today, fare is $100 more than yesterday. Check tomorrow, it’s $200 less. Bought your ticket and the fare went down? D’oh! Bought your ticket and the fare went up? Woo-hoo! No frequent flier tickets available at the 25K level? Forced to choose a middle seat? Check tomorrow and see what’s changed. This is nothing new, and nothing surprising. This is how the airlines operate. Yes, it’s annoying, and sometimes you get screwed, but it’s the model that they use.

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  75. nessman

    You booked your flight 5 days before departure.  What did you expect – free first-class upgrades forcing those folks to the back row of coach to accommodate you?  If you absolutely had to take *that* flight – then call the airline reservations dept directly and see what arrangements they can make to ensure you and your child are seated next to each other. 
    I’ve flown 100’s of times dude – that’s just how it is.  Since 9/11 – the days of half-empty, sit wherever you feel like planes are long gone.  Most flights have >95% seats ticketed – including some overbookings based on the historical average number of people who don’t show up prior to departure.
    If you’re willing to gamble on seat assignments with last-minute flight reservations, then book a flight on SouthWest and check-in 24 hours prior to departure to get a better than average chance at getting seated together as seats are not assigned when you book your tickets – just your place in line during boarding upon check-in. 
    As they say, the early bird gets the worm.  Flying is no exception.

  76. nessman Whether a ticket on that flight was booked a year in advance, or an hour before departure, that aircraft went wheels up with empty seats in coach.

  77. propagandroid If we went back in time together, I’d have agreed with you up until the point we boarded the aircraft and saw empty seats.
    I don’t think a part-time blog with a weekly publishing cycled in a niche is capable of pushing around a company with a market cap of $38 billion.  This story caught on because so many people can identify with having experienced something very similar.

  78. MargaritaHh

    I flew delta just a month back with my 1 month old baby, 2 flights 1 of 9 hours and 1 of 8 hours, they wouldn’t give me a seat with a baby bassinet unless i paid 70 wuros eztra each my husband and i and by then other people had already bought the seats many moms like me had to hold their small babies all the flight, once in Europe i took another coneccion with Lufthansa and i didn’t even had to ask for the seat it had already been a signed when the tickets were bought

  79. keigzdad

    Doesn’t surprise me one bit.  When I flew this past Tuesday from Boise to MSP I was seated in row 5, Economy Comfort, one row behind First Class. The lady sitting next to me was wheeled on due to her difficulty to walk,  During the flight she attempted to use the restroom at the front of the plane but one of the fine flight stewardess directed her to the restroom in the back of the plane stating that that restroom was reserved for “first class only.”  She was not very happy given that she paid $1300 to visit her niece who was in Hospice for brain cancer and was given “24 – 48 hours to live.”  Sol this incident doesn’t surprise me one bit.

  80. nessman

    Frank_Strong nessman Like I said – you gambled by booking a flight 5 days before departure.  At least you had some extra leg room.

  81. hoangtinhanh

    Delta isn’t the only airline, we flew to Virginia from CA recently with a type 1 diabetic child.  The airlines separated our family.  I explained to multiple people that sometime both my husband and I are needed to help our child.  Nevertheless, we were told to ask other people, gate staff refused to change seat to keep our family together.  Yet, someone else paid to “upgrade” his seat, the staff moved him and other people around to make it happen.  Yes, it is ransomed!

  82. SteveHess

    We bail their ass out but they treat us like crap. Something needs to be done immediately. The airlines nickel and diming us to death needs to STOP

  83. basia1

    If you ever fly outside of USA, you know that the prices here are ridiculous high. We pay on average $600 for 3 hours flight. For the same length in Europe you would pay $250. 2 hours flight to London you can find for $100 or less. Yes on cheap airlines but there is no difference in “service” offer on major American airlines.
    Soon we will need to buy tokens to use the bathrooms on the plane!
    If the plane is late certain time in Europe the airline gives the money back.  
    We need to have the rights to demand to be treated like humans. Especially with no train systems available we don’t have a choice but fly.
    Our government knows it but does nothing to improve the situation!

  84. basia1

    jahowell63 deleted_78959567_TachyonID  Where did you get the info about prices being 50% less 25 years ago? My daughter went to college in 2000 and we used to buy the tickets from New Jersey to Phoenix for around $200 or use 25K points. Now try to find the flight for less then $400!

  85. MarkStamps

    I’m a divorced father that travels alone with the kids a couple times a year and have experienced the exact same issue a few times and again for a trip this weekend. I had to pay extra fees to sit with my 3 and 5 yr olds. , the airlines ignore the fact of young kids being with their parents is as much convenient for the airline as it is for the parents and they refuse to be reasonable to parents flying with small children and take it as an opportunity to charge more fees for something that should be a given when it comes to seating families. I have told the agents a many times that I should just let them seat us apart and see what happens when my child is screaming and crying and disrupting the other passengers just because the airline refused to do the right thing and simply seat us together without making me pay the extra charges.  this is actually a form of discrimination and unfair practices against traveling families. I don’t know if I really have a case or not but have thought of contacting an attorney to file a class action suit against the airlines, I’m sure I would find many people interested in joining. I’m not a person that would sue someone over ridiculous things like suing a restaurant for spilling hot coffee on myself or anything like that, in fact I have never sued anyone before but we are being bullied by these overly ridiculous airline fees and arrogant and rude customer service agents.

  86. TrixyJones

    I’m sorry Mr Strong but I am tired of being put on the spot and being asked to give up my premium paid seat to move to a worse seat ! – Usually further back and in the middle. If I pay for premium, i’m not giving it up so your cheap as s can have it ! If the airlines can’t switch people before boarding then they shouldn’t be allowed to ask after boarding. Pay up !!

  87. TrixyJones

    Frank_Strong propagandroid  This story caught on because people like ME are tired of getting asked gto give up my seat because of people like you!!

  88. NolaStacyD

    DebrianTravels Frank_Strong  He chose to purchase the upgrade to get seats together because he was told there was no guarantee that the gate agent could get them seats together (for free).  So his choices were to either pay and guarantee seats together or take a chance at the gate with the possibility that the seats would still be apart. Of course, as a consumer, he had no way to know whether the flight was really that full or if the airline is just trying to make some bucks.  As a mother of two small children, I can completely understand not wanting to take the chance that the gate agent would either be unable or unwilling to reassign the seats.  

    You say he paid the extra fee “by choice”, but the airline really forced him into the only choice any parent would choose.

  89. JoeMiller3

    MarkStamps I have only experienced this seating problem with Delta (and therefore have stopped flying delta with my kids) I flew with my kids to Peru a few months ago on American and didn’t have problems booking seats together.

  90. SharonEamesThomas

    nessman Last year I traveled with my kids (11 and 9), booked months in advance, selected seats together at booking, and was separated from them when I checked in. So no, the early bird thing doesn’t apply. My first experience with this was when we flew cross country when the kids were 3 and 5. Again, selected seats together at booking months in advance. Check in, and we’re all separated, each in a middle seat. When my kids were in boosters — which have to be in windows. 

    Yes, I know kids can go booster-free in an airplane, but my daughter wouldn’t have it. We instilled in her the importance of sitting in it so much, she freaked when the flight attendant tried to take it away. That’s the only reason we ended up all sitting together on that flight. Scared kid= passengers scrambling to ‘help.’

    There are other examples. I’ve yet to find myself charged for switching, but the practice is wrong none-the-less.

  91. dark_space

    wow – you’re an idiot. I’ve never had this issue and have been traveling with  my daughter roughly a dozen times per year for 11 years on various carriers. Then, you think the solution is government regulation on customer service!?!? – is that because they’re doing such a fine job regulating the rest of your trip?

  92. MarkStamps

    I actually doubt that you are frequently asked to give up your Premium seat  to move to a worse seat, in fact no one here is asking anyone to give up anything other than for the airlines to seat families with small children together and stop unfairly charging us extra fees for that right. You can keep your premium seat, besides if it isn’t first class then your PREMIUM seat is most likely the same as all the other coach seats, maybe just not so far back. I suggest that next time you are asked to give up your premium seat you simply and politely refuse and that screaming kid sitting next to you will eventually tire out and fall asleep. If I were you, I would be disgusted with having to pay a premium fee just to get an aisle or window seat and instead of writing some ridiculous comment that we are asking you to give up your higher paid but actually ordinary seat and you might want to join a group that actually includes the same reason you have to pay extra for your seat, ridiculous and unfair airline fees.

  93. dark_space

    ottowhri He stated previously the online tool showed the seats as not available… which is when he should’ve called and figured it out, or selected a different airline, or taken the train, or rented a car. Instead he made poor choices (booking 5 days before hand being the first one) and now wants to blame the airline, but most unbelievably he wants customer service regulated by the government.

    Honestly, this guy is delusional on multiple levels. He probably spends much of his life complaining about how unfortunate his circumstances are and blaming others for all of his ills.

  94. dark_space

    Frank_Strong DebrianTravels So take a different flight, rent a car, take the train, call the 1-800 number once you realize the problem when you’re booking the flight and get it fixed BEFORE you show up at the gate. Come on.

    I just saw you’re infantry too – this story is getting more unbelievable. You plan poorly, blame others for your lack of planning, write about it like you’re in the Navy, and then want Washington Bureaucrats to fix the perceived problem. I’m starting to doubt the authenticity of some of the “facts” being presented here.

  95. MarkStamps

    JoeMiller3 MarkStamps I’m flying Spirit tomorrow and have I think USAir and had the same fees. It’s becoming common now since we have no choice but to pay that fee. Every time I tell the airline reservations agents  to lets just see what happens when they sit us apart, but because I love and care how my kids are doing and that they feel safe while flying I have to pay these unfair fees. That’s just simple, airlines can easily allow our seats together but take advantage of families for pure monetary gain and nothing else, no one can stop them from doing whatever they want. If you want or need to travel by air, you have only one choice, and that’s to pay the fees… right or wrong!

  96. avocats

    “We’ve been through this before” says Dad.  Sounds like he knew all along and was just pushing limits.  Like a 4-year old.

  97. avocats

    MarkStamps TrixyJones 
    Paying for upfront seats (more legroom), aisle seats and window seats is just fine with me.  I am a frequent flier.  
    This is a different issue.  “Families” want special treatment when booking at the last minute to be seated together even if there are no seats together.  
    Families should book another flight.  Young families should definitely book Southwest.  Not only do they get on ahead of us other travellers, but they can choose seats all at the same place.

  98. avocats

    OMG!  I knew we’d get to the D word.  Discrimination because you fail to plan?  You don’t have to pay extra fees to sit with your young children.  You have to pay extra fees because you booked well after everyone else on the plane–but you would have the people who plan ahead and book their seats give their seats up?
    The complaining father here is griping about $88 when the trip he’s on is clearly several thousand dollars.  That’s just stupid.  He’s feeling VERY privileged in his parent status.  Bull.  Fly Southwest.  You can ALWAYS sit with your kids on Southwest without an issue.

  99. avocats

    MarkStamps JoeMiller3 
    Imagine–an airline company seeking monetary gain!  Doesn’t the airline’s charter say that it’s there to indulge parents who fail to figure out the plan in time to achieve their goal?  TIP:  If you want to take your kids somewhere, book months ahead.  And flying Spirit is jumping from the frying pan into the fire–they charge for everything.

  100. avocats

    JoeMiller3 MarkStamps 
    Thank goodness.  Delta should be a lot more pleasant to fly in the future when the privileged parents go elsewhere.

  101. avocats

    I don’t think you bailed Delta out of anything.  It went into bankruptcy, and our stock became worthless.

  102. avocats

    That’s an oddly detailed story.  Sounds like the First Class cabin attendant was not aware of the passenger’s walking difficulty.  Never had anything like that happen to me on Delta; unless there’s a line, which is a no-no.

  103. avocats

    SteveHess KYproud 
    I do and say the same thing.  You CHOOSE to have kids, you choose to fly with them, you choose not to fly an airline that has open seating.

  104. avocats

    MargaritaHh You chose to carry your child and not pay what I take it would be more than a thousand dollars for a seat for the child. 
    Your whining about the cost of a bassinet delayed your getting one when they ran out.  You have two people to hold the baby. A choice you made.  Why not buy a seat and bring the car seat on the plane?

  105. avocats

    Frank_Strong nessman 
    And you have no idea what the reason for that was.   Another plane arrived too late to connect, for example.

    Fly Southwest.

  106. joemich1

    I don’t personally believe federally mandated laws are required here. Even to an unabashed liberal like me, government laws aren’t always the answer :)  But many of the principles you express are worthy and would appeal enormously to customers.  So I would hope and expect some customer-centric airline (looking at you, Alaska Airlines or Southwest Air or Virgin Air) to take this list, adapt it to whatever they can get comfortable with, and publicly declare in a full page ad in the New York Times or USA Today they will now abide by every principle, 24x7x365.  Then watch how the revenue starts to move in that airline’s direction.  I know mine would.

  107. avocats

    SharonEamesThomas nessman 
    That seems odd. When (rarely) our seat assignments are changed, we get notice in advance.   And we certainly would know at the 24 hour checkin window.  Why not work then to resolve the issue?  If you bought and chose seats together with kids, then you could surely reach someone at Delta to handle it.

  108. MarkStamps

    Trixy, I actually never said when I booked my trips, mine was booked about 6 weeks before when there were plenty of seats (not Premium) as well as most of my other flights with kids. Keep your seat, your comments don’t mean much to anyone here because no one is asking you to give up your seat, we are simply asking for the airlines to allow us to sit together for the betterment of everyone and not in the premium areas so you might be asked to give up your seat. BTW, they shouldn’t ask a premium paid seat purchaser to give up their seat, that’s some of what your paying for. I have never seen anyone in the premium seats asked to move for convenience, it has always been the coach section.

  109. avocats

     If you booked seats together, you should not be separated from your child.  Period.  When my seats are changed after booking (rarely), I get an e-mail weeks in advance.  I’d watch at 24 hr checkin to see if this happened and get right on the phone with Delta supervisors.

  110. WorldFlyer

    dark_space Frank_Strong DebrianTravels I have been flying for 25 years – so I’ve seen the pre-deregulation, the post-deregulation and the present day flying “experience”.   Mr Strong, like many of the flying public today, expects that he should have special treatment and when he doesn’t get it, calls for Federal intervention.   How about taking some personal responsibility for your own actions??  In this case, poor planning!  You saw that there were seats together in the Premium section – but you somehow feel that you are entitled to sit there without paying, simply because you are traveling with your child??  Then either book a flight that has 2 seats together, fly Southwest where you board like cattle…. or pay the fee!!!  It’s not Delta’s fault – or any other airline – so grow a pair buddy…

  111. avocats


    The answer to “how difficult is it” is probably “Very.”  You booked to late to get seats together then want Delta to move someone else who planned ahead and got the seats he or she wanted?  Sorry.  Get another flight.

  112. avocats

    If you don’t book seats together at purchase, then you are by definition asking the airline to take away someone else’s preferred seat, premium or not.  If I got stuck in a center seat because you booked later but wanted to sit together, I’d be all over Delta.  These kind of demands just serve to slow down boarding and drive up the cost of flying even further.

  113. avocats

    Did you book your seats together at purchase?  If so, I’d pitch a fit for you.  If not, why take chances with your kid’s health?  Find another way.

  114. MarkStamps

    avocats, You are an idiot, if you would stop reading things into this for your own ridiculous argument and just for the sake for you to have something to do today. I have booked in several weeks before a flight and pick seats together WHEN they’re available at booking, when I do this why should I have to pay extra. Have fun with yourself, I’m bored with you already!

  115. wubod21

    My newlywed wife and I were charged over $300.00  dollars per seat for arriving six minutes late for boarding. We were leaving for our honeymoon and that six hundred dollars was going to go towards our vacation. The man at the desk was rude and said it doesn’t matter if it’s six seconds we’re gonna charge you. I don’t mind paying late fees but over 600 dollars for taking a later flight seems quite excessive. When I wrote customer service I got a response informing me of a number I could call. It turned out to be a fax number in El Paso. American Airlines refused to reimburse anfy of the fees. I will never fly American Airlines again.

  116. MargaritaHh

    avocats MargaritaHh i wasn’t even given the chance to pay for the bassinet as the airline gave those seats before even though I was in the counter 3 hours before the flight like they asked me to, and  what I´m pointing out is the inmense difference on the service betwen airlines, as like i mentioned lufthansa did blocked the seat without me even asking

  117. halfpint226

    This is a constant fear to me as a parent traveling with children.  We have to fly for holiday travel (so yes, booked months in advance!) We have had it that when we booked, we couldn’t sit together.  Thankfully, every time it’s been resolved when we checked in.  In our case, those seats are supposedly “preferences” and at the 24 hour check in mark, I would try to check-in as soon as possible.  But to me, this screams of an “unaccompanied minor” issue.  Children of that age aren’t allowed to travel alone, not without paying a substantial fee for the extra service they require by the flight attendant.  By seating you separately, they are creating an “unaccompanied minor” situation.  What are they going to do next?  Charge you for that?  Even though you are accompanying them on the trip?  By no means do I think that someone who has paid for premium seating should give it up.  But for all these people that have also booked under the basic coach settings also where, theoretically, it should be “preferences” – I’m sorry – you need to be switched!  And the airline needs to accommodate that.

  118. JoeMiller3

    avocats JoeMiller3  I’ve noticed that Delta only opens up the middle seats and the seats with an extra charge until the very last minute. Two months in advance is always sufficient. Sorry but you are an idiot

  119. WorldFlyer

    wubod21 WELL there ya go!!  Boycott that airline because YOU arrived late….unlike all the other passengers on that flight that managed to get there on time!!  How about taking some personal responsibility for your own actions??   YOU were late!!  Somehow, you think the airline should give you special treatment?  I don’t think so.

  120. DianeQuilter

    wubod21  You missed your flight. How is that the airline’s fault? Not all flights from A to B are priced the same.

  121. SharonEamesThomas

    avocats SharonEamesThomas nessman
    RE: the one last year, I did call the airline when I checked in online 24 hours ahead and saw that we’d been moved. I was told to ask the gate agent for help getting our seats back together. And to be fair, the gate folks managed to do so at no extra charge to me.

    Regarding the time years ago, I honestly don’t remember when we checked in (online 24 hours early or at the airport? can’t recall). But that’s not the point. The point is when booking, we did select seats together, and the airline overrode that and split us up. And at that point, the gate agents couldn’t/wouldn’t help. They told us to prevail upon the flight attendants and other passengers. 

    Considering when booking you have to give the ages of children flying with you, it seems that shouldn’t happen at all. Ever.

  122. Pingback : Airline Forces Dad to Pay to Sit With Toddler - Gold Shield News

  123. Weege001

    Attention whore much? Grow a pair and introduce yourself to the other passengers. Your daughter will be just fine. You’re at 30K feet. Nothing is going to happen.
    God, you’re a narcissist

  124. SharonEamesThomas

    avocats SharonEamesThomas nessman
    OK, it looks like my reply didn’t stick. Odd. Basically, for the event last year, I did call the airline when I noticed when checking in online, and was told they couldn’t help me. I had to wait and hope the gate agent could. And to be fair, he did, without cost to me.

    The time years ago, I don’t remember when we checked in (early online or at the airport? I think the latter). The gate agents said they couldn’t help us. Told us to ask the flight attendants. 

    The point is it shouldn’t happen to begin with. When traveling with young children, you have to give their ages. The airline should flag those seats booked together as unmovable. Period.

    People keep getting on the original author that he wouldn’t have had a problem had he booked early. I’m saying that’s the wrong assumption based on my experience.

  125. Pingback : Flying With Children: A Tale of Two Fathers | modern father online

  126. DustinNay DebrianTravels LindseyHolt It means he has not nor will he be convicted of this ALLEGED crime. And it is only fair to point out the entire story rather than just the part that he was charged.

  127. DustinNay DebrianTravels Frank_Strong So because I have a different opinion than you AND I see the legitimate pricing strategy here, I am a troll? Nice. Regardless, your thought would be wrong.

  128. NolaStacyD DebrianTravels Frank_Strong I understand wanting to sit beside your child. But you can’t expect a free seat in an enhanced seating area based on that reason alone. If the airlines did that, parents would always use that loophole to upgrade to enhanced seating. What if the only seating with two adjacent seats were in First or Business? Should he be comped the upgrade there? Part of the problem is that some think of these seats as part of Economy because it is physically in the same cabin and is, for the most part, the same product, just unique rows. But enhanced economy is a different product than standard economy so it’s not reasonable to expect, as a matter of course, that parent should be comped seats in those sections. Why should I as someone with no children who pays to upgrade to those seats pay when you don’t just to sit with your child?

  129. Frank_Strong DebrianTravels But one of you were seated in Economy Plus when you were separate? Do I understand that? If so, you had to have known when you booked that that was a premium seat. They don’t just force you into Economy Plus.

  130. JulieMallett

    Why would you book a flight, knowing she would be away, then complain about it? What if the flight was completely booked? Do you expect everyone to cater to you? Get off your high horse. Nobody owes you a thing. This is your own fault.

  131. JulieMallett A better “what if” question — one based on the same scenario described above — would be:  what if the airline assigned a parent and toddler into a pair of empty seats it knew it already had?

  132. hppxg

    Not true because it was Delta’s policy of not offering ALL seats not sold at time of booking as available. I refuse to fly Delta because of this policy. It doesn’t matter how far in advance I book the only seats I’m offered are center seats, aisle seats are never offered. However upon boarding there are many unsold seats so I know it’s a deliberate policy of restricting seats available to the crappy ones. I assumed it was because I’m not a Delta frequent flyer, nor will I ever be even tho I fly several times a week.

  133. hppxg

    Unfortunately the US Air/American merger is not developing into a positive for frequent US flyers. As the US Air logo continues to disappear the service of the “new American” which is the same old crappy American that went bankrupt, continues to decline. Who’s idea was it to make US into American instead of making crappy American into US Air? Fire that person.

  134. hppxg

    “Premium seats”? There are no premium seats in the main cabin just regular seats that are marketed as “premium”. What makes the exact same seat in one row “premium” compared to the same seat right behind it? The only difference….. marketing.

  135. hppxg

    Delta has a policy of severely restricting seat choices at booking which creates this problem with delta’s flights.

  136. hppxg

    You missed his point, empty seats were available, just not available to him because of delta’s restrictive seat available at booking policy. It’s not about when he booked it’s about what delta showed as available when he booked. I hate delta’s policy on this. All unsold seats should be available to choose from regardless of when you book or your frequent flyer status.

  137. hppxg

    Again you missed the point, if Delta had shown ALL unsold seats available Mr. Strong would have had the option to purchase two seats together, seats that remained unsold at time of flight. There were two seats together unsold but not available for Mr. Strong to purchase. That’s the fault of the airline not the customer meaning that it’s the fault of the airline that you are being asked to give up your seat. You should be directing your anger at the airline with that policy not the customer because both of you are victims of the policy.

  138. hppxg

    Frank, I’m sure don’t have to suggest this, but, protest with your money and don’t fly Delta again. I travel to a certain city every month that Delta has a direct flight to but I choose to fly another airline with a connection because of the crappy service I have consistently experienced with Delta.I refuse to support a business that provides poor service, period, end of conversation.

  139. nessman

    hppxg And there’s reasons why those seats – likely all single seats – were empty – they were probably booked, but the people with tickets didn’t make it to the gate on time for any number of reasons.  The airline doesn’t won’t know who’s going to miss their flight until the plane is ready to take off. 

    The fact remains is this guy booked his flight less than a week before departure and the only seats that were available and together *on that flight* at the time were economy plus.
    I do not fault the airline in this.  Too many people with little flying experience out there all think they can run the airlines better.

  140. hppxg

    He did not have the option to purchase two seats together because even tho there were unsold seats on the plane he was not shown those seats as available due to some stupid policy Delta has. That’s a Delta issue not a consumer issue. Regarding regulations, there are some regulations needed, not suggesting change everything, but at least the most egregious practices.

  141. nessman

    hppxg They remove one row near the front of the aircraft, and space several rows in that area apart by a few inches more (or they squeeze the rows in the back of the plane closer by an inch and make up the difference up front).  Then they allow these folks early boarding and they can get off the plane faster.  It’s all marketing / perception.  I’m 6’0″ and I’ve flown in economy plus and regular economy – really didn’t notice much difference or see the value.

  142. hppxg

    Not by choice, but because he did not have the choice when buying the tickets. Even tho seats were available he was not shown that they were, just certain seats that Delta chose to make “available” to him at that time. Why is that their policy? Who knows, but whatever the reason it’s a stupid policy and poor way to do business. Please read carefully before posting.

  143. hppxg

    More likely the second, unfortunately. They only offer the least desirable seats in economy so you’ll be forced to buy more expensive seats.

  144. hppxg

    See previous posts, Delta does not show ALL unsold seats only the least desirable ones in an attempt to force you to pay more. This is an abusive policy and should be stopped.

  145. WorldFlyer

    The reason is that American has a better name recognition worldwide _ regardless of the perception of the quality of their service . The are an established brand in Asia / the orient and South America as wel as Europe . USAir is virtually unknown in those markets.

  146. hppxg @Frank_Strong I read the entire article. It is simply not clear what happened. It’s hard to follow the exact sequence. And, as a person who flies Delta almost exclusively, it does not make sense as I have never experienced these issues that apparently happened.

  147. hppxg Blocking seats is a legitimate business practice. Maybe they are keeping those seats open to reward loyalty. And incenting upgrades to premium seating is a legitimate business practice. If all the open seats were booked, that applies to ALL passengers that might want to sit together. Delta does not charge to assign seats. This is not true of all airlines. I recently booked a flight on British Airways and they wanted $99 just make a seat assignment before the 24 hour window before departure. Even though the seat has not been assigned, it is a legit business practice. I declined but had I wanted certainty, I could have paid the $99 to lock in the seat I wanted. 

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to sit with your child and to that end it’s reasonable to hope that Delta would empower their agents with the discretion to override blocks on seat assignments in such situations. But they are not obligated. Delta has done nothing wrong here. THey are free to not even assign seats if they don’t wish to do so. The last thing we need is onerous regulations interfering with the marketplace. If this issue is a major concerns to the flying public, the market will correct it. That’s the only regulation we need.

  148. hppxg Please stop assuming because someone does not agree with you that they did not read. I work in pricing. I understand pricing segmentation and the need to hedge between those price segments. Delta is not obligated to open up ever seat for reservation. You think it’s “stupid.” I am not arrogant enough to question their practice on limited information from a blog. It’s a legitimate business practice. Technically, the ability to book early carried value so you could EASILY argument that early booking should be desegregated from ticketing and charged for if someone wished to book before arriving at the airport. Most airlines do not do this, but it would be a defensible business practice.

  149. nessman hppxg I am 6’2″ and I regularly book Delta’s Economy Comfort (now Comfort+) and I do see a difference. I get early boarding via my Amex SkyMiles credit card so that is not a factor but the additional extra room is useful TO ME. And that is why we all have a choice. This is classic customer and pricing segmentation. If you don’t see the value, then you won’t pay them the premium price. Delta has also added additional premium amenities – free alcohol I think but since I don’t drink that has no value to me – but the space does.

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