United Airlines overhauls family seating fees after Biden criticism


United Airlines on Monday rolled out a new family seating policy that will make it easier for parents to sit next to their children without incurring additional fees.

The change comes after President Biden called out the airline industry in his State of the Union address earlier this month for saddling families with unnecessary fees to sit together and pledged to ban the practice. 

“We’ll prohibit airlines from charging $50 roundtrip for a family just to be able to sit together,” Biden told Congress. “Baggage fees are bad enough. Airlines can’t treat your child like a piece of baggage.”

Starting in early March, travelers booking with United will have access to more adjacent seat options for their children under age 12. When there aren’t any adjacent seats available, families can rebook their flight for free, the airline said.

Linda Jojo, United’s chief customer officer, said the airline plans on “rolling out more family-friendly features this year.”

The Department of Transportation has said it is working on rules to ban airlines from charging fees when parents want to sit with their young children. The department had advised airlines to overhaul their family seating policies in a memo released last year. 

That memo is part of a broader initiative by the Biden administration to crack down on so-called “junk fees.” Under Biden, federal agencies have taken steps to limit fees for late credit card payments and concert tickets. 

As some of those rules may face legal challenges, the Biden administration is calling on Congress to pass the Junk Fee Prevention Act, which would codify regulatory efforts, but Republicans have already signaled they aren’t on board.