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First, apologies for the brevity of this post. My own lovely toddler thought that it would be fun to wake up in the middle of the night yesterday meowing (yes, like a cat), so sleep was in short supply. I’m out of my old “up for middle of the night feedings routine”, so it’s an early bedtime for me today. That said, I couldn’t ignore this USA Today article I just saw about United not allowing families with small children to board early.
The old Continental airlines did allow early boarding for families with small children, but apparently the old United did not. It would seem that the old United policy has unfortunately won in this case. There is a quote in the article from a Houston-based man that says,
“…..he’s seen early-boarding privileges abused by several adults going on with one child. “It doesn’t take any longer to seat a family in the main boarding (time) than it does with a preboard,”
He and I must have taken different flights, because that is not at all my experience. If you are installing a carseat, or something similar, it absolutely takes more time, and depending on how many kids are with you, seating arrangements, etc. it can leave you somewhat blocking the aisle for a brief period of time while you get everything and everyone situated. If you pre-board, that brief period of time isn’t really bothering anyone. However, if it is during general boarding, then you are holding up the whole line. It also isn’t the easiest thing in the world to install carseats and harnesses on planes when you don’t do it frequently, so it can be a bit stressful if you were trying to do it, while managing a little one, while holding up the line.
It is much better for all involved to get that part of the process out of the way, get the kid settled, and stay out of the way of the long and already slow-moving boarding line. Bad move. I’m not sure who wins in this case, but it isn’t families, and it isn’t those who will be stalled by families trying to get everyone situated. Trying to board with several young children is really no different in terms of speed than boarding an elderly or disabled person. Little kids and their stuff just need more time than able-bodied adults do. This is yet another reason why families who travel with some regularity should see if elite status is within reach for at least one parent. Or, make sure to get a credit card that allows for early boarding with the airlines you fly most frequently. In addition to the other benefits it offers, my MileagePlus Explorer card allows my family to board with Group 5 on United. If you are interested in the United MileagePlus Explorer card, read this thread to see if you are “targeted” for a better offer. This is right after the premium cabin passengers and elite flyers. I will do a post in the near future on what cards will get you early boarding with various airlines, but for now just know that United has a new stance on this issue (or at least the old Continental has a new stance).
On the last several United flights I have taken, they have not called for family boarding the majority of the time. However, when I ask, the gate agent always has said that they just forgot to mention it, but they still do pre-board families with young children. When I have been with my daughter they have waived me up to board early without announcing it over the speaker. I thought it was a series of strange coincidences, but looks like it was not a coincidence at all. Clearly I am not in favor of this decision, but what do you think? Those with young children, did early boarding help you, or was it one of those things that was nice, but not really necessary? Those without children, what are your thoughts?
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