Parents and Air Travel : Paying to Sit With Your Kid? Not Anymore in the USA
An Interview with Family Travel Association President and Founder Rainer Jenss
Have you heard about the Family Travel Association? If you’ve ever wondered about where to take the kids, how to handle pesky airport delays, the best spots on the planet for a 12-year old who loves dinosaurs….or anything else related to Family Travel, it’s an organization you should get familiar with.
Some of the destinations and organizations that families love most (and the writers who work hard to tell you about them) are members. (Seriously, if you’re involved professionally with Family Travel in any way you should already be a member or at least planning your trip to the Summit in Tucson next month.) Together they hope to help all families benefit from travel near or far.
I’m proud to sit on the Board of Advisors for the organization and am even prouder of the work they do. Some of it helps families around the world and some of it serves as an example of what those of us outside of the United States can do better.
Recently, the FTA was instrumental in helping to get new legislation passed in the USA that will help thousands of families travel better.
This new legislation requires children under 13 years of age to be seated with a family member on airplanes. That means that in the USA the days of negotiating with the desk agent, then the gate agent, then the stewardess and finally another passenger, your kids will be seated with you by right.
Just makes sense, no?
In Canada, no such law exists.
We chatted with FTA President and Founder Rainer Jenss to find out what the organization did and how we can all learn from it.
Rainer, this is a major achievement. Why is the Family Travel Association so passionate about this issue?
The ultimate goal of the Family Travel Association is to inspire more families to travel and to make travel more accessible to families. That’s why it’s so important that we not discourage parents from planning a vacation before they even get off the ground. Air travel with children is stressful enough, so ensuring that parents don’t have to worry about the possibility that they might be separated from their children when they board the plane will help ease the anxiety. Besides, it’s just common sense that children shouldn’t have to sit apart from their parents. No one wants that.
What more do you wish airlines did to make family travel easier? What can parents and caregivers do to communicate their needs to airlines?
Airlines have a way of tripping all over themselves to treat their most valued business travelers like royalty by offering them upgrades, free amenities, and special services to retain their loyalty. Yet, many don’t seem to realize that if they offered parents/families just a little something extra — whether it be early boarding, guaranteed seat assignments for children, or some small “goodies” for the kids – it would go a long way in building a positive and potentially long-lasting relationship with these consumers. Besides, family travelers represent strong revenue potential, especially when they travel in large groups.
Do you recommend consumers advocating for such changes?
Consumers should certainly take to social media to communicate their wishes to airlines — although an old-fashioned letter to the CEO can still have impact.
In Canada, we have not adopted this legislation (yet). What did the FTA do and what can we parents and caregivers here in Canada do to bring awareness (and change) to this issue?
We worked closely with the two congressmen who drafted the bill and engaged with the media — especially bloggers and journalists who specialize in family travel — to get the word out to encourage parents to contact their local representatives supporting the bill. Awareness is the key to moving any legislation forward. Since this regulation was able to pass in the U.S., I would think and hope that Canada would follow suit.
For more information on the new law or the FTA’s efforts visit: http://familytravel.org/congress-passes-law-families-flying-together/