Flying with 2 Small Kids & Seats Are Not Together

Updated on December 14, 2011
K.C. asks from Virginia Beach, VA
28 answers

First, let me say that I fly frequently with my two young children, ages 5 and 3. We are flying cross-country on Thursday and I am concerned about our seat assignments as they are not together. They are middle seats in three different rows. Clearly this is unacceptable and I hope the agents will help me sit with my kids, but my travel experiences as of late do not give me high hopes.

I did speak to an agent today and will call again on Tuesday and Wednesday to see if any new seats have been released.

Does anyone have any advice on how to get our seats together? What to say? Or do? Thanks in advance!

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So What Happened?

Craziest thing happened and we didn't even get to fly the day we were supposed to leave. My 3-yr old was hospitalized of all things! Not to worry, he's fine now. But, on our re-booked flight, we once again did not have seats together. Fortunately, a nice woman traded her window for my aisle seat. Also, on the 3 other flights, the counter agents were able to get us together. Of course, it was the absolute back row, but I was willing to take anything! Lesson learned: get there early as they have more options available. And also, play the safety and unaccompanied minor cards! Thanks, Ladies! And thanks to all those that are willing to give up their seats so a Mom can sit with her kids!

Featured Answers



answers from Minneapolis on

This happened to me once with a 4 year old. The airline did not help, so I asked the person next to her seat to change with me. He said no and I just handed him her backpack saying "her toys, books and snacks are in here, have a nice flight" and started walking back to my seat. It took him about 3 shocked seconds to change his mind.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

They will fix it at the gate. I travel frequently with my 5 year old and we have (numerous times) been given seats that are not together. They always fix it. After all - no one else wants to sit with unaccompanied small children.

I do when I cannot book seats together do my best to book separate window seats. These are much easier to trade than middle seats.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Yup. What Dana K said. They'll fix it, though not in advance. Just get to the airport a little early and work with the agent at the desk.

And, absolute worst-case (and it won't come to this), is folks on the plane will switch with you.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Charlotte on


8 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Watched this happen to a family. The gate agents were no help. An infant was going to be on its own and they didn't care.

It ended up working out on the plane. Passengers were sympathetic (and not wanting to care for someone else's child!) and switched seats so the family ended up together. I'm sure that once you show up with your child at each row and explain the situation, people will offer to switch.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I actually just read about this type of situation recently. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do at this point except hope that you find that other passengers are open to switching seats, which isn't guaranteed because people obviously choose aisle and window seats on purpose.

Of course, their other option is to babysit your kids for the entire flight... so they might be more willing to adjust.

The advice I read wasn't all that helpful - purchase priority seating/pay to choose your seats when you book your ticket.

Personally, I think that's entirely unreasonable. A family with young children shouldn't have to pay more just to get seats next to each other. My thoughts are that if children are young enough to be unable to travel on their own (without an airline employee escort) then they should be considered too young to be separated from their parents during a flight.

To encourage the other passengers to change seats (especially for the 3 year old) I'd probably start giving instructions on what to... where his snacks and toys and drinks are, what drink to order for him when the beverage cart comes by, how to get him to take a nap, etc. =D I'd be interested to know how long it would take the other passengers to be willing to give up their seat to avoid babysitting. And, ultimately, it's not your issue IMO, it's the airlines' issue and they can take it up with the airlines.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

Um, I've had really good luck hauling my kids right up to the people at the gate (after warning check in desk I was doing so, and they seemed to "call ahead" because the gates were ready for me) and pointing out they're only hurting themselves and all the other flyers, if I'm not with my kids. (I said it politely and jokingly of course, but it was true!). I think if they can possibly swing it, they will work it out for you, maybe not at check in, but at the gate. Last resort is that the flight attendants may, but you need to get tough at the gate. Knock on wood, the last few times I've flown, they have gotten us together, even on sold out flights where I did not have the option at purchase. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i don't know what airline you are flying with .... however, United upset a WHOLE flight from Austin to Dulles to allow a family to sit together. No kidding. moved about 10 people so that a family of 4 could sit together...our flight left about 15 minutes late because of it as well.

We know you aren't flying Southwest - because there are no seat assignments there! :)

Most travelers would prefer families sit together and will be nice about moving their seats!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

That's happened to us a ton of times over the years. They always fix it at the gate. They won't fix it ahead of time (because it causes so many ticketing problems, and now security problems as well... can't have 2 people with the same seat #!!! And it's too expensive/difficult to make sure the person they're trading seats with has the right ticket for the change/ is aware/ doesn't have small children of their own they'll be separated from), but they'll fix it at check-in/boarding. Just make sure to check in in person, instead of electronically. The desk person will usually have you speak to the person at the desk at boarding, and not change it before passing security, but it gives them a heads up that there is a problem, rather than checking in electronically.

When you check in just say "My children and myself have been given separate seating... which obviously won't work/ is a problem. Would you fix this, please?"

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I agree that no one wants to sit next to a young child without their parent present. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to believe that the airline will ALLOW it - I pay and EXTRA $200 on top of the insane ticket prices because my super-responsible 11 year old who has flown alone 4x a year since she was 5 and can navigate O'Hare airport better than some adults isn't "allowed" to sit by herself without an adult.

However, stranger things have happened and I put NOTHING by the airline industry or icky general public travelers.

You do run the risk of making someone grumpy.... who booked their flight way in advance to get an aisle seat because they are claustrophobic or a window seat so they can sleep or whatever and now feels displaced for "your brat" as s/he will see it. SO - I made it a habit when I was asking for favors from adults to have some 'goodies' on hand like a sealed bottle of water and some chips or whatever to "soften the blow" of their new seat assignment.

Have a good trip.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

don't worry with calling, etc. - the gate agents will put you together. just check in at the gate and they'll handle it - been there done that MANY times.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Don;t worry, they will fix it at the gate or at check-in when you check your bags. I flew to Europe this summer with my 11 year old and our seats were not together even though I booked them that way. The gate agents fixed it for me on the way there and again at the airport on the way back (they could not fix both at the same time). They also could not fix it over the phone in advance, even when I escalated it and asked for a supervisor. They will never sit a minor alone away from their parents.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Like others have said you will be at the mercy of strangers. Granted I have never flown alone so we get the middle and window but if I were alone I would not give up my window seat. I would be 100 times more miserable sandwiched between two people I don't know than next to an child.

With three seats involved though what are the chances of running into three people like me? :(

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I am not sure if it is illegal, but I HIGHLY doubt they would put two small children in separate rows than their mother. When you check in, talk to the agent. Worst case scenario, they will change it at the gate. If you have to, talk to the manager. There is no way they will let you fly separate.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We flew both Virgin and Aer Lingus recently. We got assigned seats at the gate or baggage check. We were told that children were not allowed to be seated alone and that there were even rules about where an unaccompanied minor COULD sit (not that DD was of an age to qualify). Likely they just assigned 3 random seats for now and you'll be fixed up when you get there. When my family was split up (DH next to us) they specified that one of us HAD to sit next to DD. She could not be the seat by herself.

If the gate people won't fix it, then I'd press for a supervisor to resolve it. No way should they put a 5 yr old or 3 yr old by him/herself.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Anchorage on

When this has happened to me (almost every time I fly) I tell them at check in it needs fixed, and they fix it. Make sure you get there a little early because if most the others have already checked in it can make it harder for them to shuffle things around. They will move other flyers in cases like this. Once time I heard this woman throwing a fit because her, her husband, and her 17 yr old son had booked seats together and had gotten moved around and were in 3 different parts of the plane. I told her it was my fault, but really, it is better for her 17 yr old to be alone than my 3 year old. She shut up about it!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Well, I'd love to say "ask the nice people on the flight to change seats", but the reality is that you'd be asking people in either windows and aisles to switch to middle seats. Most people would probably not accommodate you.

Your best bet is to be super nice to the gate agent and try to have them help you. She/he really will do her/his best to help you out because nobody wants a 3yr old and a 5yr old sitting by themselves (except for those people who won't switch with you).

Worst case scenario: try to get 3 middle seats in 3 consecutive rows, you sit in the middle row, 3yr old right in front of you, 5yr old right behind you. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

No way would this "fly" (pun intended). I would call the airline and insist to have this changed prior to arriving at the airport. Let's face it, air travel is hard enough without another "challenge" to have to sort out once you arrive at the airport. Your kids are simply not old enough to be able to sit by themselves....they have to rearrange for you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I have been in your shoes, and for the life of me I cannot understand it!!! Why would they put little kids all over the plane and nowhere near their mothers?? Unfortunately, I had to figure it all out myself (like some of your posters said) with no help from the airline. One time I had to "make an announcement" as I boarded the plane, asking people to please help me!! But once other passengers realize what's going on I've always had lots of nice people offer to move around. Well, they're either being nice or smart (in not wanting to entertain my 3 year for hours on a plane! Ha!) Good luck!


answers from San Francisco on

Last time my husband flew with my son their seats were not together (I had chosen seats ahead of time but somehow they got moved) The airline refused to help, but the passenger who was seated next to my son was more than happy to change seats rather than babysit during the flight!


answers from San Antonio on

What a shame to hear that the airline can't or won't do anything about that up front. Hopefully people will be gracious. If not, well I like the suggestion of giving them a 'schedule' like "Please help him order an apple juice. Not orange juice or else he'll get diarreah. If that happens, you can try to flag me down 5 aisles behind you."

Be sure to be SUPER nice and thankful if/when people accomodate for you. And make sure you blame the airline for not being accomodating. "You are such an amazing person. SO much nicer than this darn airline! Here's a small token of my appreciation" and give them either a $5-$10 or maybe a sudoku book or something like that.



answers from Honolulu on

I have never called to get it changed. I just ask the people in those rows if they would mind sitting in a different spot when they get on board. Not many people want to sit next to little children.



answers from Washington DC on

WOW! I was just on the phone with the airline earlier today with the same issue! And we also had 3 different rows on one leg and no seats on the next leg. The only thing that saved me was that my oldest son has some sensory processing issues so I called the special services desk and they were able to assign seats together based on a disability. Other than that just arrive at the airport early and hopefully they can move you around then. They usually have "x" amount of seats blocked off until day of departure. Good Luck!


answers from Santa Fe on

This has happened to us many times. Once we get on the plane, we ask the person sitting next to us if they would be willing to move and so far 100% of the time that person has cheerfully switched seats. Maybe we have been lucky. We also tell the airline person when we check in at the gate and sometimes a flight attendant tries to assist the process.



answers from Madison on

The agents most likely won't be helpful to you. I've had that happen when traveling with young children. They say "There's nothing we can do, the seats are already assigned. You can try to make changes with other passengers when you board."

"Hey, do you want to sit next to my 3 year old, or do you want to switch seats with me?" I'm sure you will all end up sitting together, but you will most likely have to work it out for yourself once you board. Sorry :(



answers from Seattle on

Have you not called the airline yet? Last time this happened to us I called after we noticed it upon checking in at home. When we arrived at the airport the boarding agent was aware and had new seat assignments for us.

I would call ahead and see if you can get it fixed on the phone, but even if you can't, they MUST fix this when you check in at the airport - and they will, even if they have to reseat someone else or bump someone.... (I have been bumped to first class before to seat a family together...before I had kids).

Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

Ask again when you are boarding. They will make an annoucement and I am sure some folks will be willing to change seats so you can sit with your kids.
Any parent on that flight will understand and I am sure people will switch with you.



answers from Houston on

Next time when you the extra fee to reserve seats together...I think it is $20 a head.

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