Senators Markey, Schumer, and Klobuchar Introduce Legislation to Ensure Families Can Safely Fly Together
Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today announced the Fly Together Act, legislation that directs the Department of Transportation (DOT) to require airlines allow children to sit together with their family members on flights at no additional charge. Under current law, parents who want to confirm a seat next to their children -- including young infants -- are often required to pay extra fees for advance seating, purchase more expensive tickets, or simply rely on the kindness of strangers.
"Ensuring that families can fly together is a consumer and safety issue that predates the coronavirus pandemic," said Senator Markey. "However, the current crisis has increased the need for immediate action to address this issue. Children must be able to sit with their families and stay as far away as possible from potential exposure to COVID-19 while on airplane. As the aviation industry adjusts to the health risks of this ongoing emergency and plans for a new normal in air travel, now is the perfect time to make sure airline seating policies allow families to safely fly together."
"The friendly skies deserve a family-friendly cabin, but it is clear-as-day that for many parents aboard flights, the real turbulence is the family seating policy which has become a game of musical chairs that is neither fun nor fair," said Leader Schumer. "It's either costing parents more or delivering a giant headache that includes pleading with strangers to swap seats, and that's why Congress needs to pass the Families Fly Together Act, so this problem finally gets solved."
"Families should be able to sit together on flights without having to pay extra fees," said Senator Klobuchar. "This important legislation would keep kids safe by requiring airlines to seat their parents with their young children on flights without charging additional fees to do so. It's just wrong to make some passengers pay extra just to sit next to their kids."
The Fly Together Act is companion legislation to a bipartisan bill previously introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Ann Wagner (MO-2) and Representative Anthony Brown (MD-04).
"In these especially fraught times, it is important that airlines keep families with young children close during necessary air travel," said Congresswoman Ann Wagner." The Fly Together Act would ensure these families are seated together, keeping children safe and reducing unnecessary exposure as we practice social distancing. I appreciate my colleagues in the Senate for working with me to advance this legislation and guarantee that airlines don't take advantage of families and charge parents excess fees simply to sit with their children."
"Parents should be able to sit with their young children on flights," said Congressman Anthony Brown. "Separating kids from their parents is unsafe, potentially traumatic and needlessly increases stress and anxiety. This bill is the right choice for consumers and families, who are some of the most frequent fliers. I appreciate Senators Markey, Schumer, and Klobuchar for their partnership on this legislation to make air travel safe, welcoming and convenient for all."
A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.
In 2016, Congress required the DOT to conduct a review of U.S. airline family seating policies and, if appropriate, direct airlines to establish policies ensuring children can sit next to or adjacent to at least one adult family member. However, despite a clear need for federal action and the increased urgency of the coronavirus pandemic, the DOT has not issued a rule regarding family seating. Senator Markey previously led his colleagues in a letter on this issue, demanding the DOT explain its failure to fulfill its obligation to protect the flying public.
The Fly Together Act is endorsed by Consumer Reports, the National Consumers League, Consumer Federation of America, and the Family Travel Association.
"Parents should never have to pay extra to sit with their children when flying," said William J. McGee, Aviation Adviser, Consumer Reports. "It has always been a safety concern for young children to sit apart from their families, but now, in the midst of a global pandemic, it's a health concern for all travelers. That's why we strongly support the Fly Together Act."
"Requiring that airlines seat families together at no extra cost is a common-sense consumer protection measure," said John Breyault, National Consumers League Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud. "In the midst of a pandemic, such a requirement would also help keep family members who have already exposed each other to the coronavirus together instead of dispersing them among other passengers."
"Now more than ever, ensuring that children can sit with their parents on a plane, at no extra cost, is crucial for their safety," said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy, Consumer Federation of America. "Kids need to be protected from strangers who may cause them harm, including by not following COVID-19 protocols. Congress should act without delay to enact the Fly Together Act."
"The Family Travel Association is proud to stand with Senator Markey in introducing the Fly Together Act, which will ensure that traveling families don't have to fear being forced to sit apart on a plane ever again," said Rainer Jenss, Founder, Family Travel Association. "This is something the airlines should have enacted on their own a long time ago, so it's a regulation that's far overdue. It's also something that is even more important today given the coronavirus and parents' concerns over health and safety precautions with their children."