Feds nudge airlines to let families sit together on planes

Category: Education/Family


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. carrier / ˈkær i ər / (n.) – a passenger airline company

    Carriers struggled to remain in business when the pandemic affected tourism.

  2. dwarf / dwɔrf / (v.) – to make something appear smaller in size, character, etc. when compared to something else

    The planet Jupiter dwarfs all other planets.

  3. gripe / graɪp / (n.) – a complaint

    The customer’s gripes about the hotel include rude staff and bad food.

  4. draft / dræft / (v.) – to write the first version of a document, which may be revised at a later time

    My colleague drafted the contract but it might be changed.

  5. adjacent / əˈdʒeɪ sənt / (prep.) – very near or next to something and sharing a border, wall, or point

    My house is adjacent to my best friend’s house.


Read the text below.

The Transportation Department urged airlines to make it easier for families to sit together on planes at no extra charge.

The department said in a notice to airlines that the carriers “should do everything that they can to ensure the ability of a young child” 13 or younger to sit next to an older family member.

The agency said it will monitor airlines starting in November and might propose new regulations.

The trade group Airlines for America said carriers “have always worked to accommodate customers who are traveling together, especially those traveling with children, and will continue to do so.”

The Transportation Department said it has received more than 500 complaints in the last five years about families unable to sit together. However, that is only about 1% of all complaints against airlines and is dwarfed by gripes about refunds and flight problems.

In 2016, Congress prodded airlines to let kids sit next to a family member at no extra charge, but the Trump administration Transportation Department did not draft rules on the matter, and neither has the Biden administration.

The department said that airlines could do several things to help relatives sit together including assigning adjacent seats at booking or setting aside areas for families.

Increasingly, airlines charge extra for desirable seats to boost revenue. The 2016 law does not require them to make seat assignments that would upgrade a passenger to a better cabin or seat if there is an extra charge for that seat.

The department also issued a bill of rights for airline passengers with disabilities, a summary of existing laws that travelers can use as a reference.

This article was provided by The Associated Press.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • The Transportation Department said it has received hundreds of gripes about families unable to sit together, but it only makes up 1% of all complaints. Do you think the department should prioritize solutions for this problem? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • As a passenger, what flight problem would you like carriers and the Transportation Department to solve? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • Some airlines (ex. United Airlines, American Airlines) charge extra for desirable seats to boost revenue. Do you think this practice is fair? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • The Transportation Department is urging airlines to remove the extra charge for families who would like to sit together on planes. Do you think this rule should also apply to other travelers? Why or why not? Discuss.