Sara Kloek, her husband, and her 2-year-old daughter were flying out of DC on American Airlines.
The mom and daughter had two aisle seats, despite American's policy to seat families together.
Kloek said the airline told her to pay for an upgrade, but later resolved the issue for free.
Sara Kloek, her husband, and her 2-year-old daughter were flying on American Airlines from Washington, DC, to Minnesota on August 24.
The day before, Kloek went to check in for their flight, and she immediately knew the assigned seat arrangements weren't going to work.
Kloek told Insider that the airline had seated her and her daughter in two aisle seats across from one another and her husband seven seats behind them, which she said, "doesn't work when you're flying with a 2-year-old."
Kloek knew American Airlines had committed to sitting families together for free where possible, but when she reached out to the airline, she said she was initially told by a representative that her options were either to pay to upgrade or wait and have an airline worker figure it out at the gate. Another airline rep eventually reached out to resolve the issue for Kloek for free.
Sara Kloek wanted to sit directly next to her daughter, who needed a window seat
In February, American Airlines announced its new policy to make it possible for families to sit together for free, CNN reported. American's family-seating policy says it can seat children 14 and under with an adult in their family, as long as everyone is booked in the same reservation and if "adjacent seats are available in the same class of service your child is ticketed at the time of booking," among some other conditions.
Kloek said when she booked the flight to visit family in Minnesota on August 17, there weren't any free seats together. She initially didn't think this was a big deal and figured American Airlines would have it sorted by the time she checked in.
But she said she was surprised when she pulled up their boarding passes and saw she and her daughter had two aisle seats.
The aisle seats weren't the only issue. Kloek said her daughter was traveling in a car seat, and according to American Airlines' policy, it's preferred that car seats are positioned in window seats. The travel website The Points Guy says this is so the seat does not block a passenger from exiting the aisle during an emergency.
After spotting the issue, Kloek said she reached out to the airline using its chat feature.
There, a representative told her she could upgrade for $61 or wait until she arrived at the airport to have the flight attendants figure it out, she said. (A representative for American Airlines told Insider a gate agent would have likely assisted Kloek, not a flight attendant.)
"I didn't think it was fair to put that on the flight attendants, and I didn't think I needed to pay the $61 because of these commitments," Kloek said, speaking of American Airlines' family-seating policy. "We were fine sitting wherever, as long as I could be with my 2-year-old."
Kloek said she decided to post about the situation on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, and tagged American Airlines. An American Airlines representative then reached out and helped her get two side-by-side seats, Kloek said.
—Sara Kloek (@sarakloek) August 23, 2023
Looking back on the issue, Kloek said it seemed "like a problem that technology could solve."
The American Airlines representative told Insider there were automatons in place that help avoid situations like Kloek's. But they added that customers who had similar issues were welcome to reach out to customer relations, the airline's reservation team, or American Airlines on X.
Flight attendants have previously told Insider that passengers can't expect seat swaps
Multiple TikTokers have gone viral for requesting seat swaps so families can sit together.
The reaction to these videos has been mixed. As Insider previously reported, TikTok users seem increasingly resistant to the idea of being pressured to move for the convenience of other people's families.
In March, an influencer posted a video on a plane in which she insinuated she refused to swap seats so a family could sit together with all their kids. She later suggested in her comments section that the video was a "joke," but many commenters agreed with the sentiment behind the video, saying they believe it's the parents' responsibility to book seats in advance if they want to be seated together.
Insider spoke to five flight attendants and had them weigh in on the debate. While they agreed it didn't hurt to ask, they said no one should expect it.
Kloek said she didn't want to risk that rejection or spend time wondering what she was "going to have to do to make it work" so she or her husband could sit next to their child.
When Kloek and her family made their return journey home earlier this week, she and her daughter luckily had no issues sitting next to one another.
Read the original article on Insider