United Airlines is rolling out booking technology improvements to aid families to sit together more easily onboard – even those who are traveling on basic economy tickets.
According to the airline, new seat mapping software will automatically find adjacent available seats in the free-to-select section of the economy cabin first and then will permit passengers to select preferred seats, which often require non-elite flyers to pay to select if no other options are available.
“We’re focused on delivering a great experience for our younger passengers and their parents and know it often starts with the right seat. We look forward to rolling out more family-friendly features this year,” Linda Jojo, United’s chief customer officer said in a statement.
United said the new seating policy applies to families with children under the age of 12 and expects to fully implement the change by early March.
The airline’s move comes as the Biden administration is pushing to crack down on airline fees it sees as extraneous. During his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden specifically called out carriers that charge families to sit together.
“Baggage fees are bad enough – they can’t just treat your child like a piece of luggage,” he said.
United’s new booking policy also includes more flexibility for families that are unable to get seats together on their flight.
“In instances when adjacent seats are not available prior to travel – due to things like last minute bookings, full flights or unscheduled aircraft changes – United’s new policy also lets customers switch for free to a flight to the same destination with adjacent seat availability in the same cabin,” a statement from the airline said. “Customers also won’t be charged if there is a difference in fare price between the original and new flight.”