That’s the sound of airlines ringing up the tickets you want to buy for your family vacation this year.
Need to check a bag? Ka-Ching.
Want a better seat? Ka-Ching.
Now, want to sit next to your kid on a flight? Ka-Ching, ka-ching.
The industry’s newest plan to wrest more money from travelers is to charge for window and aisle seats. That means you can put a kid in the middle seat without paying an additional fee, but if you want to sit next to your child, chances are you’ll have to fork over an extra to get one of those seats.
So the choices are: Let your 4-year-old sit between two strangers for that flight to LA or pay another ( round-trip) to sit next to the little one.
Is it worth it? Probably. Your choices are to forgo the LA trip in favor of a road trip closer to home, or getting to LA some other way. Even if you choose to, say, drive to LA, the cost of hotel rooms, food and gas for that marathon road trip-not to mention that the journey would eat up most of your precious vacation time-makes the extra seem reasonable.
If you’re planning to fly and hope to snag a free seat next to your child, there are a couple of things you can do:
- Be nice. You’d be surprised how far you can get with a kind word to an overworked and oft-abused gate agent. Those people are on the frontline of the airlines’ war with its customers. Give them a break and you could end up with exactly the seat you want without paying a penny for it.
- Throw yourself on the mercy of another parent. Ask nearby passengers who look like they might be parents (or, more correctly, sympathetic moms) and see whether any of them might be willing to switch seats. This was enough of a challenge when you were asking someone to switch from a window or aisle seat to a middle seat, but it’s going to be tougher now that the person has paid extra for that window or aisle seat.
- Be sneaky. If you’re having trouble getting someone to switch seats, tell your child’s seatmates that the kid is given to fits of motion sickness. Then show them how to hold the kid’s head when he throws up. Just in case, you know, the airplane encounters turbulence. Then step back and watch how fast that businessman flees to a middle seat far away from that puking kid.