New bill will guarantee that children can sit with their parents on flights at no additional cost, an important safety measure during the coronavirus pandemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) introduced the Fly Together Act, legislation that directs the Department of Transportation (DOT) to require airlines to allow children to sit together with their family members on flights at no additional charge. Under current law, parents who want to confirm a seat next to their children – including young infants – are often required to pay extra fees for advance seating, purchase more expensive tickets, or simply rely on the kindness of strangers.

“Families should be able to sit together on flights without having to pay extra fees,” Klobuchar said. “This important legislation would keep kids safe by requiring airlines to seat parents with their young children on flights without charging additional fees to do so. It’s just wrong to make some passengers pay extra to sit next to their kids.”

“Ensuring that families can fly together is a consumer and safety issue that predates the coronavirus pandemic,” Markey said. “However, the current crisis has increased the need for immediate action to address this issue. Children must be able to sit with their families and stay as far away as possible from potential exposure to COVID-19 while on airplane. As the aviation industry adjusts to the health risks of this ongoing emergency and plans for a new normal in air travel, now is the perfect time to make sure airline seating policies allow families to safely fly together.”

“The friendly skies deserve a family-friendly cabin, but it is clear-as-day that for many parents aboard flights, the real turbulence is the family seating policy which has become a game of musical chairs that is neither fun nor fair,” Schumer said. “It’s either costing parents more or delivering a giant headache that includes pleading with strangers to swap seats, and that’s why Congress needs to pass the Families Fly Together Act, so this problem finally gets solved.”

The Fly Together Act is companion legislation to a bipartisan bill previously introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Ann Wagner (MO-2) and Representative Anthony Brown (MD-04).

“In these especially fraught times, it is important that airlines keep families with young children close during necessary air travel,” said Congresswoman Ann Wagner. “The Fly Together Act would ensure these families are seated together, keeping children safe and reducing unnecessary exposure as we practice social distancing. I appreciate my colleagues in the Senate for working with me to advance this legislation and guarantee that airlines don’t take advantage of families and charge parents excess fees simply to sit with their children.”

“Parents should be able to sit with their young children on flights,” said Congressman Anthony Brown. “Separating kids from their parents is unsafe, potentially traumatic and needlessly increases stress and anxiety. This bill is the right choice for consumers and families, who are some of the most frequent fliers. I appreciate Senators Markey, Schumer, and Klobuchar for their partnership on this legislation to make air travel safe, welcoming and convenient for all.”

Text of the legislation can be found HERE.

The Fly Together Act is endorsed by Consumer Reports, the National Consumers League, Consumer Federation of America, and the Family Travel Association.

“Parents should never have to pay extra to sit with their children when flying,” said William J. McGee, Aviation Adviser, Consumer Reports. “It has always been a safety concern for young children to sit apart from their families, but now, in the midst of a global pandemic, it's a health concern for all travelers. That's why we strongly support the Fly Together Act.”

“Requiring that airlines seat families together at no extra cost is a common-sense consumer protection measure,” said John Breyault, National Consumers League Vice President of Public Policy, Telecommunications, and Fraud. “In the midst of a pandemic, such a requirement would also help keep family members who have already exposed each other to the coronavirus together instead of dispersing them among other passengers.”

“Now more than ever, ensuring that children can sit with their parents on a plane, at no extra cost, is crucial for their safety,” said Susan Grant, Director of Consumer Protection and Privacy, Consumer Federation of America. “Kids need to be protected from strangers who may cause them harm, including by not following COVID-19 protocols. Congress should act without delay to enact the Fly Together Act.”

Klobuchar has been a leader in the fight to improve safety in the aviation industry. In June, Klobuchar joined Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) to introduce legislation to authorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to work with other countries to strengthen pilot training standards and enable the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to further enhance worldwide aviation safety and training standards. The Foreign Civil Aviation Authority Assistance and Capacity-Building Act authorizes $10 million a year for Fiscal Years 2021-2026 for the FAA to provide technical assistance to civil aviation authorities around the world to improve pilot training in critical areas like automation and human-machine interface. 

Also in June, at a Commerce Committee hearing titled, “Examining the Federal Aviation Administration’s Oversight of Aircraft Certification,” Klobuchar questioned the Federal Aviation Administrator Stephen Dickson about her concerns with the Department of Transportation’s Special Committee report failing to address the key concerns with manufacturers being delegated too much authority over the certification of their own aircraft. Klobuchar also expressed concerns about the reports that found that one-third of Boeing employees felt “undue pressure” to obtain safety approvals by federal regulators for Boeing’s commercial aircraft. 

In March, after a Senate Commerce Committee hearing where Klobuchar raised concerns about Frontier Airlines’ proposal to charge passengers more for safer seats during the pandemic, Frontier announced that the airline would drop their proposed fee.

In April 2019, Klobuchar joined Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to introduce the Safety is Not for Sale Act, which requires airlines to adopt additional safety features and ensures that all optional safety equipment is provided to airlines at no additional cost.

In March 2019, Klobuchar and Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) reintroduced the Safe Skies Act, which would ensure that America’s cargo plane pilots have the same rest requirements as passenger pilots.

In October 2018, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2018 was signed into law, providing needed certainty for the aviation industry while enhancing consumer protections and passenger safety. Klobuchar included a key amendment to the legislation to ensure that whether a person books tickets directly with an airline or with a third party, they receive the same price disclosures and equal customer service. In 2012, Klobuchar included language in the FAA reauthorization bill prioritizing aviation related construction projects in cold-weather states to accommodate their limited construction season.