Apparently one in five airline passengers are separated from their travel companions if they don’t pay to choose their seat. On some airlines (I’m looking at you, Ryanair) more like one in three people are split up from their mates or family. Unless you prefer not to sit with your friends and relations, this is irritating. But if you’re travelling with kids, this is more than an inconvenience. It pains me to be writing this as it just seems so obvious (and it doesn’t really affect me directly as my kids are teenagers), but here’s why airlines should be ensuring that adults and children who are travelling together are seated together. – and why they shouldn’t be charging them to do so.
Firstly, and most importantly, it could actually be dangerous to split children up from their parents. And that’s not just my opinion – a report by the Royal Aeronautical Society Flight Operations Group (FOG) recommends that family members shouldn’t be charged to sit together, because in an emergency children will need to be helped by their adult carers, and also because parents and kids are likely to look for each other and this could delay passengers from reaching the emergency exits.
Children shouldn’t be stuck in a confined space (i.e. a seat on a plane) with random strangers, away from the adults who are responsible for them. What if these strangers say or do something inappropriate or harmful to the child? If airlines insist on putting children at risk in this way, are they legally liable if a child is harmed as a result?
(I’m only half-joking here). Who wants to sit next to an unknown child who’s unsupervised by their parents on a flight (and if an adult would like to be in that position, isn’t that a concern?). What if the child says or does something inappropriate or harmful to the adult?
If the oxygen masks drop down, who’s responsible for helping a child to put their mask on and keeping them calm if they’re not with their adult carer? Is it fair to anyone concerned to expect a stranger to do that?
Generally young kids on planes go to the loo with an adult carer. How does that work when they’re not sitting together?
Most young children can’t reach the overhead lockers. If they’re not sitting with their parents or carers, what happens to their cabin bags? Do the strangers they’re sitting with have to help them? Do their parents keep the kids’ luggage with them? Do the cabin staff sort it out?
Fairness to others
What if you’ve paid to choose your seat and then you have a random child seated next to you, away from their adult companions? Most people would obviously do their best to help a child in this position – but is that fair?
This policy of charging people to sit together is a recent phenomenon, and not all airlines do it. The only reason for it is to increase profits, and it’s clearly a step too far.
Charging passengers to sit together implies that it’s an optional extra, like taking lots of luggage or buying a drink on board. For parents traveling with young kids, sitting together is not an optional add-on, it’s essential.
It’s simply not OK for airlines to be doing this to children.
And I think that it’s about time they stopped.
Over to you
What do you think? Have you ever been seated away from your child on a flight? Or has a random child been seated next to you, away from their adult carer?