What Australians need to know before booking domestic USA flights!

There are some big differences between Australian & American domestic airlines. Here’s how to avoid being split up, extra charges for carry ons and more.

American domestic flights can operate very differently to Australian ones

American domestic flights can operate very differently to Australian ones

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If you’re planning on doing a side trip with some internal flights during your USA holiday, you may need to do your research first.

From boarding to baggage, there are some significant differences between US and Australian domestic flights that you need to know BEFORE you book. Here’s my simple guide for what to expect when flying on American domestic airlines.

You may need to pay to book your flight seats together

Boarding pass

If you are planning on a USA side trip, flying domestically in the USA can work quite differently to Australian domestic airlines.

Many USA airline policies ensure families with young children are seated together. Whilst most US airlines will board families with young children (and also US Veterans) first to get them settled and keep them together, not all airlines do. Plus, this can still exclude other older or adult family members.

To make sure your family is all seated together when booking online be sure to check your seat allocation numbers or the airline boarding policies. Play close attention when booking. You may need to pay an extra fee to choose your seats or boarding order.

Pay close attention to boarding announcements

Pay close attention to boarding announcements

Boarding can be according to order

Boarding can often be what’s commonly called “cattle class”. That is, a boarding free for all without allocated seat numbers.

If this is the case, usually there is a paid option of boarding first. This method gives preference to premium (paid order priority) tickets.

If in doubt, ask airline staff at the information desk at the airport, check in or the boarding gate to double-check your seats to avoid being separated from older children and/or your spouse.

How can we sit together on USA flights without paying extra?

American flights may charge for seat selection

American flights may charge for seat selection

It’s not unusual to see people wandering the plane looking for a spare seat on a full flight. If you choose not to pay extra to sit together there are some ways you can improve your chances.

Check in online as early as possible

Be prepared to check in online as soon as it opens (24 or 48 hours before a flight is the norm) as this can affect your assigned boarding order (usually named Boarding Group A, B, C etc.). Sometimes you will get a reminder text message – sometimes no, so check their policy and set an alarm!

Be at your Boarding Gate early

USA airport boarding gate

Be prepared – make sure you arrive at your boarding gate in good time

Airline Boarding Gates will usually have ordered boarding queues and call each group to board in turn. Be sure to be at the Boarding Gate ready to line up to board as early as you are permitted to if you haven’t paid for a boarding group.

Checking in early online and being ready to queue and board at the gate as soon as permitted has worked for us numerous times and is your best bet to being seated together (I now have teenagers so it’s not a big deal if we get separated).

The only real guarantee to have your family sit together on your flight is by paying for a premium airline that allows you to choose your seats when booking, paying extra for your seats, or paying to board first. Good luck!

USA flight luggage charges

Airlines have different carry on policies

Airlines have different carry on policies

To avoid a hefty extra charge and stick to your USA family holiday budget, choose wisely when booking domestic US flights. Baggage charges can apply. Depending on the airline, these add-on charges can be significant.

Which US airlines charge for carry ons?

Yes, some do in the US. For example budget airlines such as Spirit Airlines , JetBlue Airways and even United Airlines (basic fare, can depend on the route) often cost the most for baggage. Each charge for carry ons AND checked luggage. Only a small “personal item” is included in their airfare.

Don't get caught out with excess baggage charges

Don’t get caught out with excess baggage charges

Which US airlines offer free baggage?

Southwest Airlines include a carry on and two checked bags per person included in your airfare.

They also have an excellent cancellation policy and don’t charge for changes. There isn’t allocated seating onboard, so you will need to pay extra if you wish to board first.

Which US airlines allow a carry on bag for free?

Delta Airlines

In addition to Southwest Airlines;

Delta Airlines charge AUD$46 for the first checked bag but include a carry on in their fare.
Alaska Airlines includes a carry on and personal item for no extra charge and charge AUD$47 for the first checked bag, AUD$63 for the second.
Hawaiian Airlines also include a carry-on bag and personal item, but charge AUD$47 for the first checked bag.
United Airlines include carry-on bags on some routes, and charge AUD$53 for the first checked bag.

So whilst some airlines look very cheap, and indeed can be for those such as US residents who can travel light, they are actually not a great choice for Australian families who are traveling with a lot of luggage.

For more USA trip planning, read our booking your Walt Disney World flights from Australia feature here.

Carry on bags can add to your airfare

Carry on bags can add to your airfare

Buy your Walt Disney World tickets here and use our discount code

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Book tickets online to Walt Disney World in Orlando or Disneyland California for the first time on Klook using our LETSGOMUM20 promocode to save USD$20!

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider giving it a Facebook “Like”, share or we’d love to hear about your own Disney experiences in the comments below!

You may also enjoy reading our latest articles on Australian family USA travel:

What’s new for Disney’s 100th anniversary

How to book Disneyland tickets online

Our one week California trip itinerary

Disclaimers: Let’s Go Mum may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you with bookings made with Klook
All prices and times quoted were correct at August 2023, the time of publishing this article, but can change frequently. Please always re-check for current prices.

This page may contain affiliate links. If you book a stay or an attraction through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for your support!

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What Australians need to know about USA domestic flights.

 

 

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Hi, I'm Barbara, mum of the Let's Go Mum blog. We'd love to hear from you! You can contact me anytime with ideas on where you think we should go or what you think we should try...just drop me a line at barbara@letsgomum.com.au!
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