The Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed legislation that would bar airlines from charging families extra to be seated next to their children as long as seats are available.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sent letters to members of Congress saying airlines should ensure that “young kids are seated next to at least one parent or other accompanying adult without getting charged a junk fee,” the department announced Monday.
The legislation would apply to all US carriers as long as there are adjacent seats available during booking and also pertains to any child under 14 years old.
Transportation officials have also “begun work on a rulemaking to ensure a young child is able to sit adjacent to an accompanying adult,” the DOT said.
Given that “the rulemaking process can be lengthy, the President and DOT are calling on Congress to do this immediately,” it added.
“Upon review of the airlines’ seating policies, DOT remains concerned that airlines’ policies do not guarantee adjacent seats for young children traveling with a family member and that airlines do not guarantee the adjacent seating at no additional cost,” Buttigieg wrote in a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Biden and the DOT have continued to press airlines to commit to fee-free family seating.
Just last week, the DOT launched the Airline Family Seating Dashboard, which lists the airlines that guarantee adjacent seats for children and an accompanying adult at no additional cost for all fare types.
Prior to the dashboard being unveiled, some airlines had already changed their policies. Biden and Buttigieg recently commended American Airlines and Frontier for updating their customer service plans.
The airlines, along with Alaska, are the only carriers on the DOT’s dashboard that guarantee fee-free family seating.
In February, United Airlines announced in that it changed its policy, which takes effect this month, to allow families to be seated together more easily and free of charge.
However, the Chicago-based carrier isn’t listed under the airlines that guarantee fee-free family seating because its policy doesn’t 100% match what DOT is requesting for its dashboard.