Preferred seating putting off families forced to split up on planes

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- For many families, the skies are becoming more and more unfriendly, as the McCloskey family experienced on their flight into Sky Harbor.

"Our family was split up. I had the boys in two seats and the baby in my lap and my husband behind us!" said Kelly McCloskey.

All because some seats cost more, and they and many others, weren't willing to pay.

"A guy was nice enough behind us to switch seats with us and there's another woman who's whole family was split up from the front to the back of the plane! She was behind us and she had another person switch with her so there was a whole lot of switching going on," she said.

It's more and more common with the practice of preferred seating spreading to several airlines.

Delta, American, U.S. Airways, Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant all now have special programs, where more money can get you a better seat.

That could mean in an exit row, a window or aisle seat, or anything in the front section of the plane ensuring an earlier exit. You might even be forced to pay for the pricey seat if you're flying last minute.

So how do you avoid the up charge? Travel agents say booking early is best, and if you have a group, an agent might be able to help keep you together.

"We also have waivers and favors, we ask our airlines that we work with and sometimes we're able to get the favors," said Wally Jones of Travel Leaders in Phoenix.

Whether it's worth it, is up to you.

"Traveling is stressful but it just adds one more stressful thing on to flying," said McCloskey.