Assigned Vs. Unassigned Seating on a Plane

Updated on February 27, 2012
K.R. asks from New Hill, NC
13 answers

looking for opinions regarding assigned seating while flying. We are taking a 2 1/2 hour flight with a 3 and 4 yo (summer birthdays) in the fall and considering both options. Both boys are generally pretty easy going and can do a car ride for 1 1/2 hour with a DVD to g"mo house. Any info/help would be greatly appreciated!

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answers from Denver on

If you get one of those crabby people that is unwilling to move you can simply hand them all the snacks, video games, coloring books, crayons, etc and say "have fun - he requires constant supervision" - bet they switch real fast after that. LOL

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answers from Boston on

Three cheers for Southwest from this lady! You'll still be able to all sit together if you do the prepboard with kids option and if you're looking at flight costs online, keep in mind that you don't have to pay for checked bags with Southwest.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I love Southwest and have flown with them a lot. As Malia said, they "pre-board" families between Sections A and B - 60 people max in section A, and there are 6 seats per row, so that's 10 rows out of a 30+ row plane. You'll be good to go. And if you check in right on the dot 24 hours online, you will usually end up in A, so you're pretty much guaranteed to get seats together. Just be sure to get there at least 1/2 hour before flight time to be safe.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I've flown unassigned with my now-four year old a few times, never get seats next to each other and have always just asked for seat relocations at the gate. In fact, on our last flight the ticket agent said he'd been waiting for us b/c he had seen on the manifest a 3 year old was assigned a seat separate from the adult and had seats waiting for us. Because after all, what person wants to sit next to a little kid that isn't theirs?! Of course they will change! If not, wow, I guess you get to nap. :)

Also, with those ages, you can usually still pre-board and get seats together on an airline like Southwest.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I fly Southwest about once a year, and they let all families with children board between groups A and B.... at that point, you shouldn't have any problems getting seats together.

Also, with Southwest, you "check in" online 24 hours before the flight time, and that is when you are given your "boarding order"....A group is first, of course, then B, then C.... and the lower your number, the better. I believe there are 60 numbers in a group. I usually am able to get about A 30 by doing the online check-in right when it opens up 24 hours before the flight. My last trip, I forgot to check-in online, and I don't remember what number I got (B something, I think), but still was able to find the window seat, which is what I want.

As someone else said, though, most times people are willing to trade to keep kids and parents together.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Tulsa on

I would get the seats up front, near the stewardess and away from the restroom.

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answers from Washington DC on

Assigned seating will guarantee you all get to sit together.
Unassigned - you might not get to sit together.

although I will state that many passengers will move seats to keep a family together.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

They would not allow us to check in ahead with a kid on the plane. DD was just shy of 3. There are seating restrictions for kids. I'd expect the assignment to change when you get there, either when you get your boarding pass or when you arrive on the flight.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

i would request bulkhead seating, no question. (Front row, you have a little more legroom and there aren't people in front of you to be annoyed by kicked seats) with small children this shouldn't be a problem. i've never heard of flights without assigned seating, must be a new thing - your best bet is always to call the airline. they will answer any questions you have :) i haven't worked for the airlines in years so i'm sure things are much different...enjoy!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I LOVE Southwest! I have flown with them with my kiddos for years! They treat the kids great and I never had any issues with seating. You can preboard with kids.

I fly Continental lot but now that they are merging with United I plan to not fly as much with them. Don't like the flight attendants. You can always tell who worked for United. They are rude and act like you are bugging them.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Get assigned seating. You would be surprised by the number of people who are unwilling to change their seats on a plane and do you really want your 3 yr old unattended for 3 hours?

We travel frequently and on our last flight, they changed the plane at the last minute and reassigned everyone. We were not sitting together initially, but they called us because they noticed my son's age (3) and asked if it was okay of my husband was separated from us. They put him on an aisle so that his seat would be "desirable". When we got on the flight, the girl in our row was kind enough to switch with my husband so we could sit together, but a family a few rows ahead of us didn't experience the same kindness. Their 5 year old flew by himself and the mother was a wreck the whole time.

Get the assigned seats, so it's one less thing to worry about when traveling!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

I would get the assigned seats. Not everyone would be willing to move to accommodate you and kids cannot sit in the seats along the wings (you have to be over 16). Even though your kids do fine on a long car ride they are not sitting with strangers and this may scare them. Open seating does not guarantee you will be sitting together and this causes a lot of flight delays when they have to move people around after boarding.


answers from Chicago on

If you go with Southwest, you can actually buy an early boarding option for $10. Only 1 person in your group needs to have that boarding letter in order for the whole family to go. So if you buy the pass and check in, if you're in group A, the rest of the family goes with you.
But, like others have said, family boaridng will probably be enough to get all of you together, provided there are not tons of familes pre boarding with you.

I, personally, prefer assigned seating to alleviate the stress, but since Southwest is usually considerably cheaper than the other carriers, it's hard to ignore!

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