United Airlines Is Making It Easier for Families to Sit Together — Here’s How

The airline has introduced a new seat map and updated their policy for families traveling with kids.

United Airlines introduced a new dynamic seat map this week for economy passengers, making it easier for families to book seats together regardless of which fare class they booked. 

The new seat map will find available adjacent seats at the time of booking, ensuring children under 12 years old can sit next to an adult in their party for free, according to the airline. The new seat policy will apply to all economy passengers, including those who purchase basic economy tickets.

"In an era where more families are working in a hybrid environment, they're traveling more often – and they're flying United," Linda Jojo, the chief customer officer for United, said in a statement. "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."

When booking, the seat map will offer travelers open economy seats and, if none are available, will offer complimentary upgrades to preferred seats. If seats are not available before travel, customers will have the option to switch to a new flight to the same destination for free.

The complete policy change will go into effect in early March, according to the airline.

The policy change comes months after the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) called on U.S. airlines to stop charging families to sit together on a flight. Other carriers, like Delta Air Lines, offer their own version of a dynamic seat map that blocks off certain rows in the main cabin so only groups of three or more people traveling together can book them.

And in December, Southwest said it will start testing a new pilot program that will allow families with children to pre-board the plane first. Southwest does not assign seats and instead offers "open seating," assigning travelers a boarding group (A, B, or C) and a position (1 through 60 or more) when they check in. Currently, families can board after the “A” group boards and before the “B” group.

In 2020, United was at the forefront of another major policy change that impacted the airline industry when it eliminated change fees on most economy and premium tickets for travel within the U.S. and a few neighboring countries. Shortly after, other major carriers followed suit.

And last year, United took it a step further by allowing customers to cancel basic economy fares.

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