Starting Monday, 15 February 2016 United Airlines will bring back aircraft pre-boarding for families with young children aged two and under.
The new boarding priority will be:
- People with disabilities / active-duty members of the military in uniform / families with small children / Global Services [all four groups will be invited to board concurrently]
- Group 1
- Group 2
- Group 3
- Group 4
- Group 5
United spins this as a customer-friendly change, stating—
As we committed last fall, we have been looking closely at every aspect of our customers’ travel experience to see where we can improve and eliminate points of stress. Customers and employees pointed to the boarding process, just as many of you have, as an area where they wanted to see improvements; many shared that the boarding process for all customers would be smoother if we could accommodate families with infants earlier, as they often need more time to board.
All of us have experienced being the customer in the jet bridge tending to an infant, a diaper bag and a stroller – or to being the person in line to board behind that customer. Resuming pre-boarding for families with infants should provide a smoother process for everyone.
First, I write as a someone who is not a father and has never even traveled with young children. I also write as someone who has flown over 1,200,000 miles on United Airlines and continues to fly United consistently, as I am doing as I type this.
I was happy when United removed pre-boarding for families with young children a few years ago because there was far too much abuse and gate agents simply did not have the resources or time to be strict. Routinely, large families would board with one infant or families with five and six year olds would try to board early. United must be strict in shaming families who try to take advantage of this concession by refusing to let them board and sending them to the very back of the line.
Further, it just does not make much sense to me to board families, who need time to get settled and stow away bags (and sometimes drag screaming kids onboard), before everyone else — that slows down the boarding process for everyone else and coops kids up longer on a plane. Boarding them with group one or group four will not save any time.
My solution is two-fold. First, board families with young children last, so they can step onboard with their diaper bags and play toys and squirming children at the last possible moment. No matter how many diversions are available onboard, better to be on the ground than in a confined metal canister. For that to work though, carry-on bag limits must be strictly enforced so that families with young children boarding last, who also tend to have an extra carry-on bag, have sufficient space to board. Without this second step, boarding families with infants last will create even more problems because there will be no space left for their hand luggage.
What do you think about United’s new early boarding policy for families traveling with young children? Mommy Points has a different opinion than mine.