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News & Advice

Katy Holland: Now we have to pay to sit next to our kids in the skies

Are we there yet? Just when you thought airlines couldn't make it any more difficult to travel with kids, they went and found a way

Would you pay a shed load of money just to sit next to your own child on a plane? It may sound like a silly question, but one airline is assuming that you'll be prepared to do just that.

When I heard the news that Qantas had started charging for parents to sit with their offspring on long-haul flights, I assumed it was a belated April Fool. But, sadly, to the chagrin of overwhelmed, overcharged parents everywhere, it's true.

From now, economy passengers on long-haul flights will be asked to pay $20 (£13) per person per flight for its Advanced Seat Selection service. In case you can't do the maths, this means that a family of four will need to shell out a minimum of $160 on a holiday just to ensure that they can travel together.

Why is the airline doing this? Because, as any no-frills airline will tell you, when you haven't stumped up for priority boarding, are last to get on the plane, and can't find enough seats to enable you to sit next to your kid, there's no guarantee anyway that you'll have seats together – there's no legal requirement for parents to be seated next to their children.

Qantas is by no means alone in introducing a seat-selection charge. In fact, you'll be hard pushed to find an airline that allows you to choose a seat in advance without clobbering you for cash in the process. But should it really be considered an "optional extra" to sit with your own child? Should we really have to pay to be sure that our kids won't have to spend the entire journey wedged between two strangers at the other end of the plane? Who else would want to sit next to them anyway?

Only a couple of months ago, a poll revealed that children were considered the most dreaded passengers of all. And various surveys have found that a rather depressing number of people support the idea that kids should be banned from flights altogether.

Just when you thought airlines couldn't make it any more difficult to travel with kids, they went and found a way. Flying with children is never cheap or easy, and it's certainly never fun. Add in the fact that you're treated like some kind of social pariah every time you go anywhere near a plane – and that you're charged extra in the process – and it's a wonder any of us do it at all.

Still, I suppose there's a bright side. Perhaps I'll just refuse to cough up the extra charge and take the airlines up on their kind offer for someone else to look after my little treasures. The thought of being relieved of the need to entertain, feed and pacify my own fractious kids while 35,000ft in the air has its attractions.