Airplane Seating Guide: What to Know Before You Go

Warren Clarke

Airline mergers, route cancellations, fuel costs and government taxes have made flying a more complicated process -- a process that can get even trickier if you are traveling with pets or children, or if you require a larger-than-normal seat during your trip.

Traveling with a child
  • You can choose to purchase a seat for your young child, or you can travel with the child on your lap. Many airlines allow kids age 2 and younger to travel for free if seated on the lap of an accompanying adult (someone 18 and over). However, the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) states that this isn't the safest way for a child to travel. The FAA advises that each child on a flight be placed in a separate seat, secured with an FAA-approved child restraint system that's appropriate for the youngster's weight.
  • Some parents choose to bring a car seat on board; others might opt for the CARES Airplane Harness. Note that this isn't mandatory; it's simply a recommendation. Many airlines offer lower-price tickets for adults wishing to purchase seats for young children.
  • Your child may want to use the restroom several times during the flight. Parents magazine recommends that you choose a seat that's close to the lavatory.
  • Also note that no one younger than 15 is allowed to sit in an emergency row.
Traveling with a pet in the passenger cabin
  • First, find out if the airline you want to use allows pets to travel in the passenger cabin. Call the airline or visit the its website before booking a ticket to see if pets are allowed to travel next to their owners on the plane. Even if the airline accepts pets, keep in mind that not all types of pets are allowed in the cabin. Also, if you're traveling with more than one pet, the airline may limit the number of pets that can accompany you in the cabin.
  • Your pet needs to be housed in a container that's appropriate for travel. Airlines require each pet traveling in the cabin to be kept in a traveling container for the duration of the flight. The FAA considers this container carry-on luggage, so it must be small enough to fit beneath the seat without blocking access to the aisle.
Travel guidance for passengers of size
  • Many airlines have policies that require the purchase of a second seat if your size prevents you from fitting into a seat with the armrest lowered and an extension seatbelt in place.
  • If you anticipate having problems fitting into your airplane seat, purchase a second seat when booking. Travel website Smarter Travel advises that if the flight isn't full, the airline may sell you the ticket at a discounted price or provide it to you free of cost.Before you buy, check the seat dimensions in business or first class; sometimes that can be more economical than buying two seats.
Warren Clarke is a writer/editor who loves providing information that helps people find useful solutions. His pieces about cars, home and garden, health, and finance have appeared in both digital and print. He lives in Los Angeles.