United Airlines by March will roll out a new family seating policy designed to seat children under 12 next to an adult for free, even if that means giving them a preferred seat at an economy price.
A new automated seat map feature announced this week finds adjacent seats at the time of booking, looking first for Economy seats but automatically upgrading customers to Preferred Seats if needed. If no adjacent seat is available, the new policy lets customers switch for free to a flight to the same destination that has adjacent seats in the same cabin.
“We’re focused on delivering a great experience for our younger passengers and their parents and know it often starts with the right seat,” said chief customer officer Linda Jojo, adding that the carrier “looks forward to rolling out more family-friendly features this year.”
The airlines increasingly have come under fire from families—and lately from politicians—for charging extra to seat everyone together. President Joe Biden in his State of the Union address earlier this month vowed, “We’ll prohibit airlines from charging $50 roundtrip for a family just to be able to sit together. Baggage fees are bad enough. Airlines can’t treat your child like a piece of baggage.”
United Polaris®, United First Class® and Economy Plus® seats are not part of the free family seating policy change.