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Helping Families Avoid Seat Assignment Roulette

Tuesday, 22 May 2012 | 1:00 PM ET

Airlines are reserving a growing number of seats to passengers willing to pay for premium locations — such as windows or aisles, and towards the front of the plane — or holding them back for their best customers.

Allegiant Air
Source: Allegiant Air
Allegiant Air

For families traveling together, it can often mean a game of seat assignment roulette. It's becoming increasingly difficult for them to find two or more seats together in advance without paying an extra fee for the privilege. And many are reluctant to cough up more money and hope for the best at check-in to sit together.

The Associated Press published an article Monday highlighting the dilemma many families are facing. While airlines try to help family members without adjacent seats sit together, it doesn't always work out.

As a road warrior, I do my best to help out when asked to switch seats.

Since last summer, American, Delta , Frontier and United Airlines have increased the percentage of coach seats requiring an extra fee. Some — like those on Delta, JetBlue and United — come with more legroom. Others, including those on American and US Airways , are just as cramped but are window and aisle seats near the front.

"The customers that are more loyal, who fly more often, we want to make sure they have the best travel experience," Eduardo Marcos, American Airlines' manager of merchandising strategy, tells the AP.

I'm in the category of traveler Marcos mentions. But I feel for families when they find themselves scattered about the cabin. When asked, I almost always agree to switch seats with someone, especially when I'm flying alone or if the family is traveling with a child. A small inconvenience for me will make for a much more pleasant flight for the entire cabin.

How do you handle requests to switch seats?

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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