4 U.S. Airlines That Seat Your Children With You for Free (And 6 That Make You Pay)

The airlines go the extra mile to keep your family together in-flight and the ones that don't.

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Updated May 28, 2024
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Flying with young children is a journey, and unfortunately, airlines are not legally obligated to seat parents and children 13 and under together. 

Even if you book with one of the top travel credit cards, paying additional fees to sit with kids can really add up.

However, due to some push from the Department of Transportation (DOT), some airlines have moved to guarantee parents can sit with kids at no additional charge. 

Here are the four airlines that offer the guarantee — and six that don't but may offer other perks/options.

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Alaska Airlines

Maria Sbytova/Adobe cute boy playing with luggage

Alaska Airlines makes every attempt to seat children 13 and under with at least one accompanying parent or adult on the same reservation).

Your family must meet specific criteria to qualify, like being booked under the same reservation and either choosing seats or skipping seat selection for everyone on the reservation. 

You can’t book a prime location in the cabin and expect a child to be placed next to you without paying for their seat, for example.

Also, as ordered by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines, any children under two can travel with you in your lap, which is standard for any airline.

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American Airlines

nimito/Adobe stewardess talking to little girl traveling with pet

Currently, American Airlines is the only one of the big three airlines in the U.S. that guarantees children 14 and under can be seated with an accompanying adult.

Your family will also need to meet specific criteria to use this benefit. Like United, you must be booked under the same reservation and choose or forgo seat selection for all passengers. The family seating policy is available for all fares, including Basic Economy.

Frontier Airlines

Viacheslav Yakobchuk/Adobe woman inside a plane

In addition to offering bargain flights, Frontier Airlines guarantees that children 13 and under can sit adjacent to a parent or accompanying adult, provided that adjacent seating is available on the aircraft.

The airline notes that they may not provide the seat numbers at the time of booking. However, they attempt to give the families their seating assignments at least a day before the scheduled flight, giving families time to inquire about any concerns or seating mistakes.

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JetBlue Airlines

Friends Stock/Adobe Happy family traveling together on passenger aircraft

JetBlue Airlines will also guarantee children 13 and under can sit with parents when specific criteria are met. As with the other airlines, people need to book the reservation together and select or not select seats for the whole party. 

JetBlue also mandates that there must be room on the aircraft. This policy applies equally to passengers who book Blue Basic fares.

JetBlue notes that even if the criteria are not met, they will still attempt to place children with their parents or an accompanying adult.

Allegiant Airlines

Monkey Business/Adobe family in airport departure

Allegiant Airlines notes they do their best to accommodate families or adult passengers traveling with children.

However, there's no guarantee that families can sit together while traveling unless they reserve seats together either while booking the flight or managing the reservation online before travel day, which is recommended for families who wish to sit together.

Delta Airlines

kasto/Adobe woman holding infant boy at airport

Despite being a major carrier, Delta Airlines has not yet gotten on board with the guaranteed family seating policy. 

Delta says they try to accommodate families and seat them together when possible. They recommend the best way to ensure adjacent seating is to reserve seats on their website, through a mobile app, or by contacting their reservations department.

The airline does have a policy where children ages five to 14 can travel on their own on nonstop domestic flights through their “Unaccompanied Minor Program.”

Hawaiian Airlines

aapsky/Adobe window of airport terminal

Hawaiian Airlines, which will be acquired by Alaska Airlines under a deal reached in late 2023, does not yet offer guaranteed family seating either. However, since Alaska offers the guarantee, this policy may be revamped once the deal goes through.

The airline notes that they try their best to seat children under 14 with an accompanying adult. Still, they suggest passengers select their seats far in advance to ensure families can sit together.

Southwest Airlines

kieferpix/Adobe Mother and son at airport

Southwest’s seat reservation system is a bit different since most passengers have no assigned seats. Instead, passengers are given a boarding group and a line position and may select a seat when they board the plane.

They do offer family boarding. Passengers with children can board during the “Family Boarding” time between Group A and B boarding. During family boarding, up to two adults traveling with a child six or under can board the aircraft and, ideally, find seats together.

Families can also purchase “EarlyBird Check-In.” This doesn’t guarantee Group A boarding, but it does get you on the plane earlier when more seats are available.

Spirit Airlines

NicoElNino/Adobe family walking through airport with luggage

An open secret among frequent travelers is that you book Spirit when you just want to get to your destination cheaply. However, you will have to shell out extra cash for any upgrades, which include seating, paying for carry-on bags, and more.

Spirit does note that they will attempt to accommodate families traveling with children aged 13 and under so that they can sit in adjacent seats, but there’s no guarantee. The best bet is to preselect and pay for seats next to each other before your travel day.

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United Airlines

Andrey Bandurenko/Adobe boy looking out of window in airplane

According to the DOT, United Airlines doesn’t guarantee that families can sit together on their planes just yet. The airline did say they have new tools that make it easier for children ages 12 and under to sit with an accompanying adult, even with Basic Economy tickets.

If the child and adult can’t be seated together on a flight for whatever reason, United will let them switch to another flight where the seating is available free of charge. There will be no charge even if the fare for the new flight is more expensive.

Bottom line

olenachukhil/Adobe family walling airport terminal with luggage

These days, air travel can be pretty pricey, especially when traveling with the whole family. To manage costs, it’s critical to be aware of any extra charges that may be tacked on to your trip.

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.