Money Parenting Talking Point

Pay to Sit Together On Flights? Are you Kidding?

Kids and airplane Icelandair
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Pay to Sit Together on Flights? Are you Kidding?

It’s getting increasingly expensive to travel as a family these days. You can’t take the kids out of school any more. The cost of peak time package deals has grown while the pound has dived and even bargain basement flight companies are grabbing a bigger slice of the family travel budget. One of the most recent downers on family trips has been the new fee by airlines like Ryanair, where families have to pay to sit together on flights. But I wonder, how bothered are you by this charge? And do you actually want to sit near your kids when you could enjoy sitting beside a tipsy, self opinionated armrest hogger? I think parents should refuse to pay, but not perhaps for the reasons you think..

Should families have to pay to sit together on flights

Kids. To be quite honest they are lucky to be allowed on the plane at all?

No more rugby scrums for a seat

Gone are the days of pushing the smallest members of the family onto the plane to put jumpers on seats in an undignified free for all where pensioners were the first to be toppled like octogenarian skittles. To be honest nabbing us three places in a row on a budget flight was the only reason I ever sent my kids to rugby training.

You must pay to avoid the seating lottery

Nowadays if you want to guarantee your family sits together on many airlines, you need to pay. And if you don’t pay, you get seated by a computer. And the odds of ending up in a row aren’t always high;  Money Mail estimated you have a one-in-17,500 chance of sitting together on a Ryanair flight unless you do pay extra, and “…the chances of two parents with one teenage child being automatically given seats in a row of three on a Ryanair flight are so slim that there is a better chance of them winning £100 in the National Lottery.”

Off you go to buy your ticket!

Aircraft in the clouds

Up in the clouds, do we really dream of being seated next to our kids?

Different reactions to the news

Some parents have sighed resignedly at so-called cheap flight companies finding yet another way to milk them, handing over their credit cards and checking in to their prearranged seats up to 60 days in advance. Others have shrugged and allowed some of the kids to be placed randomly, praying that if their child is seated next to an unsavoury stranger, at least they have some knowledge of how to work an oxygen mask. Mums Do Travel wrote this impassioned post giving eight reasons why families need to sit together on flights.

Some gung-ho parents have come out publicly to say they don’t care. Kirsty Allsop recently announced she often checks her child into a different class on planes. Her child is instructed to shut up, put their eye mask on and get some sleep over the Atlantic while their Mum enjoys the better location, location, location of business class. The reasoning behind the TV presenter putting her kid in economy while she sups champers in business, was allegedly to enable her to afford more flights where her kid sits in economy while she sups champers in business. Hic!

SkyBus at Lands End bound for Isles of Scilly

There’s a better chance of being seated together on a little SkyBus… but is that a good thing?

Does this mask free face look bothered?

I have to admit I’m not bothered about the introduction of the new fees. Because I am the kind of mother who never wanted to sit next to my kids on the plane in the first place. Here’s six reasons why..

Six Reasons Not to Pay to Sit Together on Flights

1 Babies are a nightmare on a plane

Who would want to hold their own baby when doing something as stressful and contained as flying? My youngest once projectile vomited over an entire row of rugby lads from Wolverhampton on an EasyJet flight. She left us all queuing for the loo covered in sicked up butternut squash pulp while she just grinned toothlessly at the carnage. But with the new changes I could legitimately palm her off on a random passenger further down economy where I wouldn’t be able to hear her vomit or scream. Or I could leave the computer to place her next to the honeymoon couple with the extra legroom and let them practice being tutted at when she cries because her ears hurt on landing. Or perhaps that well dressed businessman knows new and ingenious ways to settle a baby, or could absorb the sick with his smart clothes. I could pass her down the plane to her seat via the flight attendants who are surely looking for something to do now they don’t have to stock up a free bar?

Baby and nature

Babies. You give them the world and they choose to be sick on it…

2 Toddlers are a nightmare on a plane

Who would want to be trapped with their own toddler on a long haul. I mean, honestly, we once did a 30 hour flight to New Zealand flight where my two boys managed to spill every single meal all over themselves, the seat and everyone around them. Ok so did I, but that’s in my DNA. Oh, yeh it’s in their DNA too. Moving on…

Toddlers exploring South Island New Zealand.

If they look relaxed it’s because they just spent thirty hours spilling food to get here- but then so did I?

3 Teens are a nightmare on a plane

Who really wants to find themselves spending a flight next to their own teenager, who has emerged from their bedroom blinking like a bat? We all know teenagers put on noise cancellation headphones as soon as they sit down on a plane and then quietly play with their phones or watch an inflight movie for like, ten hours?  They refuse to make uninformed small talk about Brexit with the person next to them. They can’t be bothered to hassle for gin and tonics, vegan meals or blankets, and their bladders don’t require them to nip to the loo every time the food trolley is in the centre of the aisle. All that keeping themselves to themselves is quite rude when you are trying to while away the miles till you land.

Kids chilling out with their tech at a service station break on a road trip

All teens want to do is hog their gadgets when they travel – no fun at all!

4 Kids take up too much space

Kids today are overweight. Just think about how much room they take up. And they come with endless amounts of luggage and accessories which all use space on a plane. Yup, all those nappies, toys, games, baby food, lollipops, teddies, balloons, Trunkis etc. They are like walking baggage carousels aren’t they? Meanwhile adults nicely put all of their cases in the hold of the plane to considerately save space in the overhead lockers for those who need it, and would not dream of letting their laptops, thighs, elbows, or newspapers spill onto your chair or hog the armrest.

Flying with children

Kids are like walking baggage carousels. If I could check them in the hold I’d consider it…

5 Kids are the reason I’ve never been upgraded.

Kids are a no-no when people are being given the wink to turn left instead of right on a plane. I know this through personal experience. Seriously, one minute I was child free and being handed a KLM ceramic cottage souvenir at the end of a business class upgrade after a nice time having a cheese and wine on my honeymoon. And next? Wham! I am relegated to economy for 18 years. Three lots of 18 years to be exact, although some of them run concurrently. That’s almost the sentence Sleeping Beauty got. Except I wasn’t subjected to a prick. Apart from the guy who tried to put the seat back during take off on my last flight.

If the journey is the destination, I can’t wait for it to be over. 18 years of flying with kids is enough for me.

6 Kids continually squabble and kick the back of your seat

Kids are programmed to kick the back of seats. Mercifully once they reach eighteen they calm down and stop fidgeting, fighting and farting. It’s a simple as that. So really you don’t want your child, or in fact any child, in front of you or behind you. Far better to have a brawling, drunk hen who has been drinking at Stanstead since 4am on her way to her Amsterdam pub crawl, or a middle aged dentist taking a selfie with the attendant while giving his wife a rolling commentary on his despair at young people and their obsession with social media. That’s who I prefer to sit next to. I just pray they don’t suddenly swap with a baby, toddler or teen from further down economy and lumber me with their offspring. Because I am very busy enjoying my peaceful, uninterrupted, child free flight.

Aircraft at Dusseldorf Airport

I prefer losing my kids in the airport to squeezing in next to them in economy class. Is that so wrong?

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.


  • Utterly brilliant, I laughed and groaned my way through this Kirsty, so true, funny and honest.
    Have to say my 3 were actually complimented on their behaviour when flying to Lanzarote years ago when they were tiny, people in row in front said, when they saw 3 children behind them, they thought OH NO but were happily surprised they weren’t kicked, yelled at …

  • Lol. Maybe we should just dump our kids on other people and let the sort the out. May be there could be a kids area and have a creche with a staff bember to keel an eye on them all. I’d probably may though because mine would not be happy sitting mexfcto a random person plus he’s not flown enough to know how to cope with popping ears etc in his own

  • This happened to me with my 3 year old told the airline that they would have to take responsibility for my child if they didn’t sit us next to each other, they soon swapped seats around!

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