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Avoid paying extra to sit together on planes

May 22, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Families that pay together won't necessarily stay together on airline flights this summer. Airlines have found a new way to charge you and it means more money out of your pocket to sit next to your own family member.

For Rob Raymond and his family, getting seats next to each other is important, especially when flying with two little ones.

"It's a big help because she's 2 and we can pass her back and forth and she can hang out with her sister. It's a great help," said Vancouver resident Rob Raymond.

These days some airlines are making it harder for families to sit next to each other without paying extra for certain seats.

"Some airlines are reserving seats and charging some premium prices, particularly the aisle seats that are up near the front of the cabin and also maybe ones that have a little bit more leg room," said Marie Montgomery, a spokesperson for the Auto Club of Southern California.

Montgomery says the airlines with premium seats include American, Delta and United and Spirit Airlines. Choice seats can range from $30 to $90 extra.

"It should be all the same. Why should it be different?" said Texas resident Gabby Martinez.

Montgomery says the extra charge is a way for airlines to offset higher fuel costs. But there are ways to avoid it, especially if planning a vacation package.

"Go through the travel agent," said Montgomery. "They'll do all the hoop-jumping for you and get you a pretty good airfare, the lowest airfare that's going to let you sit all together."

Of course travel experts say booking early can better your chances of getting seats together, but there are also airlines like Southwest that allow you to choose your seat at boarding.

Visit an airline website five days before departure when "elite" frequent flyers are upgraded to first class, freeing up coach seats.

Some websites like ExpertFlyer.com will notify travelers for free when a window or aisle seat opens up. Experts advise you to do your homework.

That's what the Raymonds did when they chose WestJet, which did not charge extra for certain seats, and helped them get seats together.


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