My sincere hope is that someone from the airline industry sees this post and tells me why the scenario I experienced this morning must ever happen. I’m not talking about why it happens sometimes. I mean why it is even possible for something like this to happen.
In a nutshell, the seat assignments I was given 3 months ago when I purchased my tickets were not honored and I was given a new seat assignment far away from my children. This kind of reminds me of a scene from a Seinfeld episode:
There are two things I don’t understand about this scenario:
- If an airline can give me a seat assignment when I buy my tickets, why do they change when I try to use the tickets?
- If an airline knows that I am traveling with 2 children under the age of 13, why would the seating system ever assign the adult a seat away from them?
The first question is one of those mysteries of life that may never be answered. I understand that the many people who purchase tickets for a particular flight purchase them at different times on different days, and so there are complexities in trying to get all of the members of a party to sit together, but isn’t the rule of “first come, first serve” pretty well accepted by 2012? If I buy my tickets before you do, and I select 3 seats together, and that doesn’t leave enough contiguous seats for you, well, that is tough luck for you. So, when I receive seat assignments for me and my children, I expect to sit in those seats. There are some exceptions to this rule, however, which brings me to my second question.
I believe there are some things in this world that trump free market dynamics like fare classes and loyalty program perks. One of those things is the welfare of children. I believe a software system that is designed to assign seats to people who buy tickets to fly on a particular flight, armed with the knowledge that certain passengers are part of a party and are under the age 13 and are flying with someone who is over the age of 13, and does not keep parties with children together is fundamentally flawed. Why wouldn’t the programmers code in logic to look for children flying with their responsible adults and give that party priority to have contiguous seating? Surely, on any and every flight, there are enough parties made up entirely of adults that, in the event that the given seating assignments fail to keep children with their parents, could be split up so that children do not have to sit alone. Seriously, isn’t it better to make two adults traveling together sit separately than to take an 8 year old children and make her sit away from her father and instead with strangers?
I know this is possible, and here is how I think it should work. Imagine a party of 3, one adult and two children, arrive at the airport one hour early to check in. They have seat assignments already, given to them when they purchased the tickets. They access the software to check in and enter the information identifying 2 of the passengers in their party as under the age of 13 (this information may actually already be known since most travel sites ask for names and ages of the passengers). The system should look to see if the original seat assignments are still available. If we assume that the seat assignments given at ticket purchase don’t really mean anything, then the system should look to see if there are 3 contiguous seats available. If not, then the system should look to see if there are any seats assigned to parties who haven’t checked in yet that do not contain children, and break those assignments. Using this logic, children and always seated with their accompanying adults, and only adults traveling together are separated.
I know it isn’t the end of the world when my kids have to sit apart from me on an airplane. I know that everyone suffers the experience I had this morning at some point or another. I know that most airline employees try and work these things out as best they can.
I also know that this is a fixable problem, and that implementing such logic in the seat assignment software wouldn’t be too hard and I have to believe that most people would rather have young children sitting with their parents.
If you’ve experienced anything like this, or you are frustrated with airlines lack of forethought with regard to seating children, please do two things right now:
- Share this post to your social network
- Tell me your story in the comments