Saturday, February 25, 2017

Flying with a minor? Seat allotment a major hassle

On paper, the seat selection fee is optional like the other add-ons of extra baggage or food. Technically, if you buy an air ticket, you are assured a seat and you pay a selection fee only if you want a window or aisle seat, or exit row seat with extra legroom. In reality though, if you are a parent or travelling with a minor, the selection fee is not really an optional choice. For, the only way to ensure your kid is not seated next to strangers is to pay for seats including a middle seat.
Many parents don't know airlines have stacked the odds against them. Vaibhav Vishal, a writer-based in Mumbai learnt this the hard way last week. On February 19 morning, he logged on to the airline website to check-in for his evening flight G8 446. "My wife and I were allocated seats 17E and 19E and my seven-year-old son was put on 20E. We were in middle seats in three different rows," said Vishal. "I called up the airline call centre and asked them to put either me or my wife on a seat next to my son as I didn't want him seated next to strangers. The call centre official said I will have to pay extra," he said."It's criminal that they do this. It was a father's plea, it was a question of my son's safety," Vishal said. He then tweeted the minister of state for civil aviation, Jayant Sinha, who forwarded his tweet to the airline and finally the issue was resolved.
Not just GoAir, currently seat selection policies in most airlines are such that parents could find themselves seated away from their kids, especially on full flights. In June 2013, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) capped the number of preferred seats for pre-booking at 25% of the overall capacity on domestic flights, only to lift the ban in April 2015. Jet Airways, IndiGo, GoAir and SpiceJet levy a seat selection fee even for the middle seat on their domestic flights. Air India and Vistara levy a seat selection fee only for middle seats in the front or exit rows where a passenger gets extra legroom and so a web check-in on these airlines would be enough to ensure the child is seated next to a parent.
25/02/17 The Times Of India