Biden administration urges Congress to ban airline family-seating fees


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Passengers wearing protective masks are seen aboard before a JetBlue flight to London at JFK International Airport in the Queens borough of New York City, August 11, 2021.

Jeenah Moon | Reuters

The Biden administration is asking Congress to pass legislation that would ban airlines from charging fees for families who are traveling with children under the age of 14 to sit together, its latest attempt to crack down on add-on charges for consumers, the Transportation Department said Monday.

“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,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg wrote in a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

President Joe Biden has vowed to stamp out so-called junk fees across industries including hotels, airlines and banks.

Earlier this month, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Frontier Airlines said they would include family seating guarantees in customer service plans, violations of which could result in DOT fines. United Airlines last month said it would give families traveling with children access to seats that normally cost extra at the time of booking.

The Biden administration’s draft legislation calls for refunds to passengers who cannot get adjacent seats for children in their party.

The Transportation Department is working on a rule to guarantee family seating but said because the “rulemaking process can be lengthy, the President and DOT are calling on Congress to do this immediately.”  

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