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New DOT dashboard shows which airlines seat families together for free

Airlines roll out family seating policies
Airlines roll out new policies making it easier for parents to sit with children 05:06

The Transportation Department on Monday debuted a new dashboard that shows families which airlines guarantee they can sit together without paying extra fees, as the Biden Administration takes steps to crack down on so-called "junk fees." 

The new tool highlights which airlines seat families with young children together at no extra cost, and which airlines may force families to pay extra. 

American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Frontier Airlines are the first U.S. airlines to eliminate such fees by writing the guarantee into their customer service plans, the DOT said Monday. Junk fees are a big money generator for airlines, hotels and other industries, but can drive up costs far beyond what consumers expect to pay.

"Parents traveling with young kids should be able to sit together without an airline forcing them to pay junk fees," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement Monday. "We have been pressing airlines to guarantee family seating without tacking on extra charges, and now we're seeing some airlines start to make this common-sense change," Buttigieg said.

"All airlines should do this promptly, even as we move forward to develop a rule establishing this as a requirement across the board," he added,

Prior to the three airlines' announcements, no U.S. carriers guaranteed fee-free family seating.

Last July, the DOT issued a notice encouraging U.S. airlines adopt guidelines to ensure that children 13 years old or younger are seated next to an accompanying adult for no extra charge. A four-month review of airlines' policies found that none were in compliance.

The DOT is currently working on a rule that would require airlines to seat young children next to an accompanying adult. 

On the dashboard, customers can select from a list of carriers to check for fee-free family seating policies, saving them from bouncing around on different airlines' websites. Airlines such as American receive a green check mark if they guarantee seating for children ages 13 or younger adjacent to an accompanying adult at no additional cost, no matter the fare type. 

Only carriers that guarantee free-free family seating receive green check marks.

The moves come after President Biden, in his State of the Union address this month, said he would ban so-called "junk fees," including airline fees for family members to sit with young children. 

The Biden Administration has proposed a Junk Fee Prevention Act that would crack down on a variety of arguably bogus fees, including fees to choose airline seats in advance, as well as surprise fees for concert tickets and added charges for hotel rooms.

"We'll make cable internet and cellphone companies stop charging you up to $200 or more when you decide to switch to another provider," Biden said. "And we'll prohibit airlines from charging up to $50 round-trip for families just to sit together."

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