If you’re taking a flight with young children, it’s pretty obvious that you’re probably going to want to sit next to them.
But making sure your family sits together on a plane isn’t quite as simple as booking a cinema or theatre trip where you pay your money and choose your seats from the ones that are available.
Cheaper airlines have fees to book seats together, even if your children are very young – we shared a story about a mum who was separated from her 2-year-old on a flight home from Majorca because she didn’t pay for seats together.
So, what can you do to make sure the family sits together on a flight?
1. Do your research on the airlines
Generally budget airlines do charge a fee for you to pay for seats together, so it might just be a false economy going with these airlines.
Airlines that make sure children under 12 do definitely get to sit with at least one parent without pre-booking include:
- British Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
- Air France KLM
- Thomas Cook
2. Phone the airline rather than doing it online
As soon as you go to book your flight, you’ll be asked the age of the children travelling with you.
If you say your child is under 2 you’ll generally get a pop-up saying you should contact the airline by phone to book flights, as if your child is under 2 and you want them to have their own seat they’ll need a child’s safety seat.
When you speak to them you can make sure you get seats together (note: you’ll have to pay for your child’s seat).
3. Check-in online early
Some budget airlines try to make sure families do sit together even if you don’t pay for seats next to each other. We asked easyJet about this and they told us:
“easyJet understands how important it is that families are seated together.
“Unlike some airlines, if passengers choose not to pay to select their seats easyJet’s seating system is programmed to try and seat families together when they check-in online by using an algorithm.
“To give people the best chance of sitting together, we recommend they check-in as early as possible.
“Also for background information, check-in opens 30 days before departure.”
We have to say we think easyJet is unusual for this, so you’ll need to check whether this applies to any other airline booking with.
But it’s worth bearing in mind – and it certainly surprised us (positively) when we got this response from easyJet.
4. Pay up
One of way of making sure you get to sit with your kids is simply to accept the fee for seats together.
Options for selecting seats come up once you’ve chosen the flights, and there will usually be a number of price bands you can choose from depending on where you want to sit on the plane.
When we asked Ryanair to comment on their paying policy they said:
“Ryanair’s family seating policy is very clear and requires families (with children under 12) to sit together, with one adult taking a reserved seat for just £4, and the children given free of charge reserved seats – the equivalent of £0.80 each for a parent with 4 kids.”
When we looked on Ryanair’s website to book a flight from Manchester to Alicante in August for 2 adults and 2 children we found the cheapest reservation fee was £5.24 (though is does confirm children get free seats) – so it might be worth giving them a call to make sure you get this £4 booking fee.
Lots of mums on Facebook confirmed that paying up probably is the route they’d go for: “I would pay. I’d get anxious not sitting next to my child,” Victoria A says.
And Kerry W tells us: “I pay it so don’t see why others don’t and think they can just get on and demand to sit with their kids!
“If it is how they operate then pay the same as others. Happens on every flight I go on – the parent always thinks it is the airline that have screwed up, when they didn’t want to pay.”
If you don’t initially book seats together but later decide you want to after all, you can usually go back to your booking and choose seats (as long as you don’t leave it too late.)
5. Get in line early
If you didn’t book seats together and want to make sure you sit next to your child, it’s well worth queueing early once you’re at the gate.
You’ll be allocated seats before you board and the earlier you get in line the more likely someone will find seats together for you (especially if you’re a group of 4 or more).
6. Ask other passengers to swap
If you’ve had no luck with getting seats together once you’re on the plane, you could try your luck and see if any strangers are willing to offer up a seat so you can sit together.
“What passenger wouldn’t swap with you though?” asks Hannah G. “No one would want to sit next to your kids/ prevent you from. Any decent person would move if asked.”
Kim P agrees: “You think this would be the solution – people just kindly moving for others.”
So, hopefully this might be a solution – though, alas, it’s not always the case, and you can’t 100% expect it to work.
Emma P, for example, travelling with her 4-year-old and a 7-year-old had this issue: “Although technically [my children] were across the isle the rows were not straight so I had to turn around to see them.
“None of the people in the surrounding seats would swap.”
Of course, one thing to consider is that there are often reasons why other people have paid extra for, or chosen, the seats they have – and they might not want to give them up.