Thanks to Consumer Reports, the experience of air travel is putting vulnerable passengers at risk.
According to the non-profit research, media, and advocacy organization, the petition is calling on three of the largest airlines in the country to do away with fare structures that require families to fork over extra to sit together.
In a petition launched just last week that has already gathered almost 50,000 signatures, the issue is primarily related to basic economy according to USA Today.
Basic economy was originally designed to help larger airlines compete with super-low-cost carriers like Frontier and Spirit, and in exchange for flexible booking and carry-on luggage, passengers can fly at discounted rates.
But what you do not get with basic economy is seat selection, and depending on the airline, families are able to pay more for tickets at a higher fare class or pay an additional fee to have neighboring seats assigned for the entire family.
And as one could imagine, as the fees are charged per passenger, families end up paying a lot more.
Parents put their fate into the hands of the algorithm, which assigns seats to passengers without them shortly boarding if they do not pay extra. And if they are seated apart, kids are more likely to be anxious about flying and parents are more likely to anxious about not being able to watch over and comfort their kids. And while there are adults the kids do end up seated next to, strangers may feel obligated to comfort a scared kid, it’s a losing situation for all parties.
But anxiety is only part of it. Separating families can also cause be a safety hazard. In the petition, the Consumer Reports argues that in an emergency, having two kids as well as their parents together would make things safer for all.
“Children need a responsible adult around and whether it’s just so they can go to the bathroom in the middle of the flight or if there’s an emergency, it’s not safe to have a child without somebody there to take care of them,” said the director of financial policy, Anna Laitin, for Consumer Reports’ advocacy arm, revealed to CNN.
“And no business traveler or solo traveler wants to be put in charge of a 3-year-old they don’t know, and no parent wants to be seated, strapped in unable to move, that far from their child,” she continued.
Just last November, Consumer Reports published an investigation that found children younger than two along with children on the autism spectrum as well as children who suffer from seizures had been separated from their parents on flights. It called ou the Department of Transportation to create a policy to stop this from ever happening in the future — like Congress advised them to do — but the DOT refused, due to a low number of complaints.
And as the government has not shown any urgency in regards to the issue, Consumer Reports is hoping a mass of signatures might push the airlines into changing their policies.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.
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