Image: TravnikovStudio/Shutterstock

Air travel is an unmitigated nightmare. But as The Wall Street Journal reports, the airline industry itself has found new ways to make passengers miserable through so-called “family fees.” That’s right. Airlines are now charging passengers extra if they want to guarantee seats next to their loved ones.

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Parents traveling with their children obviously want to sit together. But many airlines have removed the option to reserve a specific seat when you buy the cheapest tickets. Paying a premium is often the only way to ensure that your child doesn’t end up sitting between two complete strangers.

To make things worse, airlines like Delta and United are expanding the number of seats that offer extra legroom. Those seats cost extra, and that means a family would have to pay for a full row if they want the privilege of reserved seating. In the worst cases, the increased prices comes with no added perks whatsoever. As WSJ notes, “Preferred” seats on American Airlines are often no different from coach.

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The new “family fees” situation is dire enough that lawmakers in Washington are getting involved. In April, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would force airlines to make adjacent seating available to families without additional charges. The bill has not yet passed in the House.

Until Capitol Hill rewrites the law, air travel will continue to be hellish. But think of it this way: by the time you get on the plane, the worst is over. Security lines have never been worse, since the TSA is an understaffed, blame-happy, incompetent, potentially corrupt agency that is creating hours-long lines for travelers. Congress is intervening in that shitshow as well.

[WSJ]