Saturday, August 6, 2016

Airlines charge families to sit together on flights






Newton's Third Law of Motion – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – comes in handy when travelling with kids.

As airlines squeeze every extra dollar out of passengers, there's an increasing variety of ways we can say, "Enough!"

The latest scam (I mean, legitimate revenue-generating concept) is charging family members to sit together.

US Airways and American Airlines add a fee to secure seat assignments, something budget airlines Allegiant, Spirit and Frontier have been doing for years.

It costs between $US6 and $US11 per person to select a seat, according to the website for Frontier Airlines: "We'll try to keep your party together, but the only way to ensure that you'll sit together is to select seats at time of booking."

Molly Todd paid $US4000 for her and the two kids, aged seven and 10, to fly from Philadelphia to Cancun on usairways.com. "I was told I could have seats together if I paid for the choice seats, which cost $US30 extra each," Todd tells Frommer's.

TripAdvisor has announced an upgrade of its options to review flights, in a bid to "demystify" a complicated marketplace.

You can rate the overall experience, or individual aspects such as children's meals, entertainment, in-flight Wi-Fi and power ports.

"What can I expect onboard? Will bassinets be available? Will we be seated together? What is it like to transit with this airline?" These are all questions covered in Airline Reviews to give insights to families on how they can plan, organise and choose the airline. There are also thousands of photos," says Andrew Wong, head of airline review partnerships at TripAdvisor Global Flights Business.

Remember what happened when Airbnb began? Hotels suddenly started catering to families.

If you feel penalised by fees, shout it out loud. For example, you have to use a credit card to buy entertainment on Hawaiian Airlines: For Mum, Dad and two kids, that means four international charges for each movie. "Zoinks!" as Shaggy used to say on Scooby-Doo.

Hundreds of carriers have been rated on TripAdvisor, many with more than 400 comments.

The top airlines for families seem to be Emirates, Singapore and Air New Zealand.

Some low-cost carriers are awarded, including Jet2.com and JetBlue. Unsurprisingly, Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant are rated among the worst.

The good news is that Australian airlines are higher than the global average: Virgin is around four-out-of-five. Qantas is also lauded. "Glen C" writes about a brilliant flight, from Brisbane to LA and back, with three grandkids, aged three, six and 10, plus his daughter and son-in-law: "On both flights they booked us in a single row across the plane. This suited us perfectly as any one of the adults could keep an eye on all the little ones while the other adults slept."

Check out TripAdvisor's redesigned search service and "flyscore", which displays a one-to-10 score for individual flights based on qualitative reviews.

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