NEW YORK – Flying this Thanksgiving and worried that you won't be able to sit with family?
You're not alone. Nearly 24 million people are expected to fly during the 12 days surrounding Thanksgiving, up slightly from last year. Many will be separated from their loved ones.
Airlines are making it much more difficult for groups of travelers to sit together — unless they want to pay extra for seats with more legroom or those near the front of the plane. Since last Thanksgiving, American Airlines, Delta, Frontier and United have increased the number of coach seats requiring an extra fee. That means it's much more difficult to find adjacent seats unless passengers pay an extra $25 per person, each way.
But don't fret. There are still a few things fliers can do between now and takeoff to snag seats together:
— Confirm your seat assignments online with the airline now. Sometimes plane types are switched between booking and departure, meaning there's a whole new seat layout. And if you booked through Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity or other third-parties, your assignment might not have been recorded correctly with the airline.
— Set up alerts for seat openings. ExpertFlyer.com offers free notifications when a window or aisle seat becomes vacant. For 99 cents, it sends an email if two adjacent seats become available.
— Check the airline's website five days before the trip. That's when some elite fliers are upgraded to first class, freeing up their coach seats. Another wave of upgrades occurs every 24 to 48 hours.
— Check in 24 hours in advance when airlines start releasing more seats. If connecting, see if seats have opened up 24 hours before the second flight departs.
— Keep looking for new seats. Even after checking in, seats can be changed at airport kiosks and on some airlines' mobile applications.
— Ask at check-in. Agents can sometimes put families in seats held just prior to departure for disabled passengers.
— Ask again. Gate agents and flight attendants can sometimes seek volunteers to swap seats.
— If flying Southwest Airlines set an alarm for exactly 24 hours before departure and check in online. The airline lets passengers pick their own seat at boarding. The earlier you check-in, the quicker you board the plane.
— If all else fails, offer nearby passengers candy or a drink to switch seats. Seriously, bartering works.