Many parents say they’re irked by getting hit with extra fees they have to pay simply for the guarantee of sitting next to their own child on an airplane.

While all of the airlines say they'll do their best to sit parents next to their children, passengers who wait until check-in are not guaranteed seats together.

Most parents, of course, not only want to sit next to their children, but also feel they should -- and don't want to have to pay for that privilege.

Trying to book a flight to Florida with her husband and two young children, Helene Georgaras said if she’s flying Air Canada, she won't be able to escape an extra $200 to guarantee they have seats together.

“So above the $2000 that we already paid for our tickets, it's going to be another $265 or $280 just to book the seats for the four of us to actually be able to sit together,” she said.

Here’s the breakdown of various airlines and advanced seat selection fees:

  • Air Canada: $18-$31 per person, on one-way economy flights.
  • WestJet: $5-$30 per person, depending on the duration of the flight and seat.
  • Porter: $15 per person for reserved seating on its lowest-priced flights.
     

Sometimes, even a willingness to pay doesn’t guarantee anything, as writer Joshua Gans discovered.

Gans said despite booking two months in advance, he wasn't even able to reserve seats together on Air Canada for his family of five, because he'd purchased their tickets with points through a third party.

“Lo and behold we were seated in five separate locations all over the aircraft,” he said. “When you're travelling with kids, it's a little more complicated than that.”

Air Canada declined to be interviewed on the topic, saying its fee structure on economy flights has long been in place. 

The company, however, wrote:

We do our best to accommodate our customers who have not pre-paid for seat selection. As this is done on the basis of availability and so cannot be guaranteed, we recommend customers use the pre-select seats option in order to have peace of mind while travelling.

McGill University airline analyst Karl Moore said Air Canada and other airlines aren't making big profits, so charging for reserved seating is one way to lift sagging revenues.

You buy a seat and a seatbelt and some of the extra things, like food and where you sit, some people are willing to pay a premium (for). (They) can make some money from that and they've been doing it for quite a while now,” he said.

Moore adds it's also in the interest of the airlines to place children next to their parents.

Seat them together because it's going to irritate not only the child, the parent, but everybody sitting around,” he said. “I think it's in the interest of everybody to be more flexible in that kind of case.”

               
Air Canada and other airlines said they will try their best to place at least one parent with the child or children at check-in.

Passengers can reserve seats online for free 24 hours before takeoff.

Those who don't pay for advanced seat selection, however, are taking their chances – and that’s a chance many parents don't want to take.