Flying with children: get seated together on your next flight

All to often a family will get on a plane and realize that they are not seated together. It’s frustrating, because really, if you booked your seats at the same time, shouldn’t the airline naturally seat you together? Oh, and you booked child tickets, which designate your kids as being under the age of 12 (normally), and yet you are now seated seven rows in front of them.

This is not a fun situation for any parent, especially if you are flying solo with the kids. Passengers get annoyed, and flight attendants find it equally as frustrating, because it delays boarding and takeoff time. Don’t lose hope. There are a few tricks to making sure you get seated together on your next flight.


Call ahead

Call the airline. Call until you find a representative who will actually do what is necessary to get you seated with your toddler. Some airlines, for instance Delta, are leaving the back rows of their flights open for families so they can sit together. Why airlines aren’t automatically sitting people together that book together is beyond me, but know that some airlines are starting to recognize that toddlers being separated from parents delays their flight departures, which they never want.

Talk to the ticket agent

When you arrive at the airport, if you had no luck on the phone, plead your case with the ticket agent. Sometimes these same people will be your gate agent and they would rather get this sorted before you get on the plane.

Plead with the flight attendant

As soon as you are on your plane find a flight attendant. Calmly explain where you are all seated. Everyone who does not need immediate parental assistance should go to their assigned seats so the flight attendant knows where you are at and can help you reconfigure with the other passengers.

Reason with your fellow passengers

When all else fails throw yourself on the mercy of your fellow passengers. Most people do not want to sit next to a toddler or a young child. They would rather take that aisle seat you have a few rows back so you can have their middle. Always try to give them the better seat exchange as many people do not want to swap a roomy aisle seat for a middle seat, but sometimes it can’t be helped.

What are your tricks to always getting seated with your family? 

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10 thoughts on “Flying with children: get seated together on your next flight”

  1. Amy Whitley

    Sometimes I’ll book all aisle seats so I’ll have ‘bargaining’ material with other passengers. But I hate that I am put in that position!

  2. Mom

    Could you help me understand why this happens? As you know, I usually fly solo or just with another person. I select my seat from the little grid when I book my flight on-line. Why can’t you do this also when you book more than one reservation?

    1. Bronwyn Joy

      No idea is my answer! It depends which airline, which booking site, and which fare. Sometimes you can pay extra to pre-select seats but sometimes there’s just no option.

      1. Bronwyn Joy

        Oh and sometimes you might find there are only single seats left on the flight.

  3. Leslie H (tripswithtykes)

    Bring drink coupons to bribe/reward fellow passengers if you have to! But really, it shouldn’t come down to this except in truly extraordinary circumstances. Gate agents have always been able to fix this for me, even when I’ve been in flight cancellation situations making same-day changes. Be nice and be proactive. Gate agents won’t help someone who yells as them. Buy seat assignments if you have to (necessary on ultra-discount airlines to not be separated). Or fly Southwest – family boarding between groups A & B (if you are traveling with one child under age 5) almost always ensures you get to sit together as a family.

  4. wandering educators

    excellent tips!

  5. Allison

    Good tips! I don’t get why airlines would want to separate families either. It’s not like they don’t know the ages when you book. My blog partner recently had this problem when her family of seven were spread across the plane. She recommends avoiding 3rd party sellers. Her post is included in today’s Travel Tips Tuesday.

  6. Colleen Lanin

    Such craziness. I have been seated away from my children but, as you said, no one wants to sit next to someone else’s kid so I’ve always been able to resolve it. It’s just adds such unnecessary stress to flying!

  7. Bronwyn Joy

    This has happened to us (on Delta). I almost got down to throwing myself on the mercy of other passengers – none of the preceding steps worked! Ridiculous.

    Luckily most people are sensible enough to see that it’s best if the toddler sits with the parents (although not all, it turns out, but that’s a different story and it was a bus). In our case the only thing we needed to do other than ask was assure the guy we swapped with that we would make sure his special meal got to him, even if the flight attendants forgot.

  8. Charu

    Reasoning with my fellow passengers has almost always worked. I think the general consensus, especially if you’re traveling with a toddler, is no one wants to sit next to an unattended child 🙂

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