You decide to take a trip somewhere with your family. You're going to fly to your destination so obviously you book your flight in advance.

To make things easier, you visit the airline's Web site and select your seats. What could go wrong?

Well, you might get to the airport on the day of your flight and see that your seats have been changed. Even if your family involves toddlers, you might have to sit apart unless you beg other passengers to switch seats so your family can sit together.

Merely selecting your seats in advance isn't a guarantee you'll have those seats. In fact, it's happening more often that seats are not being assigned as per pre-selections.

Flying is getting to be more and more of a hassle and neither the giant, impersonal airlines nor the regulators give one iota of concern about the plight of the individual passengers.

There was a lawmaker who had proposed a family flight law in which families which book flights in advance with small children would be assured of seating together. The legislation didn't get very far.

Frankly, if an airline allows you to select your seats in advance, that should serve as a contract for your seating.

Some airlines are now charging fees for advanced seating arrangements. Even this doesn't guarantee your family will be seated together.

First, there should not be a special fee to select seating. With today's technology, why shouldn't you be permitted to pick your own seats on-line?

Second, making families sit apart is inconsiderate, demoralizing, and makes flying more difficult.

Finally, it's time the airlines realize that their passengers are paying customers who are paying for a service - a service which is quickly degenerating and becoming more costly with more and more added fees.

When will lawmakers get the backbone and intelligence to rein in the brazen tactics that airlines are pulling? Of course, congressmen don't have the same problems of flying as John Q. Public does.

It's time the airlines are held accountable as a business serving customers. One of the first things that needs to be done is that families which book in advance be allowed to stay together on their long flights.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com [1]