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‘They can’t treat your child like a piece of luggage’ – US to stop airlines charging families to sit together


Family travel. Stock photo: Getty

Family travel. Stock photo: Getty

Airline cabin: Photo: Deposit

Airline cabin: Photo: Deposit


Family travel. Stock photo: Getty

US President Joe Biden has used part of his State of the Union address to vow to outlaw “resort fees” charged by hotels and to ban airlines from charging for families to sit together.

He plans a “Junk Fee Prevention Act”.

The president said: “We’ll ban surprise ‘resort fees’ that hotels tack on to your bill. These fees can cost you up to $90 (€84) a night at hotels that aren’t even resorts.”

Such charges are very common in Las Vegas, and also apply in Florida and New York City.

They are justified on the grounds of covering services such as WiFi and access to the gym, even though other hotels routinely include them. They are not optional.

Research by The Independent shows that resort fees as well as taxes can almost double the cost of a stay.

On Valentine’s night, February 14, Ceasars Palace in Las Vegas has a headline rate of $89 (€83), for example.

But as well as taxes of $18 (€17), a resort fee of $46 (€43) is mandatory. The total rises to $153 (€143) – an increase of 72 per cent on the initial quote.

The President’s Junk Fee Prevention Act will also ban airlines from adding fees for families to sit with young children, he promised.

Mr Biden said: “We’ll prohibit airlines from charging up to $50 [€47] roundtrip for families just to sit together.

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“Baggage fees are bad enough – they can’t just treat your child like a piece of luggage.

“Americans are tired of being played for suckers.”

While most airlines seat families together free of charge, some ultra-low-cost carriers do not guarantee this.

For example, Spirit Airlines says: “Spirit will randomly assign you a seat at check-in for free, but we can’t guarantee that you’ll get to sit with your friends or family.

“If guests with children aged 13 and under do not opt to pre-select seats at the time of booking, our gate agents and flight attendants will work to provide adjacent seats when possible.”

In the UK, airlines are legally required to sit families with young children in close proximity.

Aer Lingus’s seat rules for flights in Europe say passengers can pre-book seats to sit beside travelling companions.

"If you choose not to pre-book a particular seat, we'll allocate one based on remaining availability at check-in,” it adds

“We'll do our best to make sure that you and your travel companions are seated together, particularly if you're travelling with children, but this depends on the number of seats remaining at the time.”

Under its seat rules, Ryanair says: “For safety reasons, children under the age of 12 must sit beside an accompanying adult, and infants (aged 8 days to 23 months inclusive) must sit on an accompanying adult’s lap.

"It is mandatory for an adult travelling with children under 12 (excl. infants) to reserve a seat.

"A maximum of four children for every one adult on the same booking will receive a reserved seat free of charge. This ensures parents of young children sit together during the flight.

“It is not mandatory for any other adults or teenagers in the booking to reserve a seat, however they may choose to do so if they wish to seat with the rest of the family.”

Regarding resort fees in the US, the Federal Trade Commission has published “advance notice of proposed rule-making” to outlaw “deceptive or unfair acts or practices relating to fees”.

The chair, Lina Khan, said: “Resort fees at hotels first emerged in the late 1990s. By 2015, they accounted for one-sixth of total hotel revenue. That’s $2bn (€1.86bn) per year.

“With rising prices, fees are becoming more prevalent, allowing some businesses to raise effective prices without appearing to do so.”

The commission found resort fees ‘‘artificially increase the search costs and the cognitive costs’’ for consumers.

In other US travel news, the House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to end a requirement that most foreign air travellers be vaccinated against Covid-19, one of the few remaining pandemic travel restrictions still in place.

The vote was 227 to 201 with seven Democrats joining Republicans. 

The U.S. Travel Association said "the need for this requirement has long since passed, and we appreciate the bipartisan action by the U.S. House to end this outdated policy ... The U.S. is the only country that has maintained this policy."

However, the White House says it is opposed to the bill and that the vaccine requirement "has allowed loved ones across the globe to reunite while reducing the spread of Covid-19 and the burdens it places on the health care system in the United States."

It is not clear if the Senate will take up the bill, Reuters reports.

- Additional reporting by Pól Ó Conghaile

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