United Is Rolling Out a Major Seating Policy Change That Will Benefit Families

The airline's new seat map tool will make it much easier for families to sit together.

Photo courtesy of United Airlines
Photo courtesy of United Airlines

Awkward seat-swapping requests could soon become a thing of the past, at least on United flights.

The airline just announced over the weekend that, beginning in early March, it is revamping its family seating policy to make it easier for families to travel together by allowing children under 12 years old to sit next to an adult in their party for no additional cost. The change will apply to all passengers including Basic Economy customers, though it will not apply to United Polaris, First Class, or Economy Plus fliers, CNN reports.

"In an era where more families are working in a hybrid environment, they're traveling more often – and they're flying United," Linda Jojo, Chief Customer Officer for United, said in a statement. "We're focused on delivering a great experience for our younger passengers and their parents and know it often starts with the right seat. We look forward to rolling out more family-friendly features this year."

The change comes thanks to United's new seat map tool, which allows travelers to find available adjacent seats when booking their flights. In the event that no adjacent seats are available, the new policy allows passengers to switch their flight for free to a new one (with the same destination) where there are adjacent seats up for grabs. Regardless of the price difference between the new and the old flight, customers won't be charged.

The news follows the recent White House announcement stating its plan to ban family seating fees across all airlines as part of its Junk Fee Prevention Act, so United was getting ahead of this possible legislative intervention.

Whether a ban on family seating fees becomes actual law or not, it is predicted that more airlines will soon follow suit and allow passengers to reserve family seating for free. Some of them, though, already offer the service, including Breeze, which has provided free family seating from the beginning for children under 12 years of age.

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Serena Tara is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.