United Airlines has dropped family pre-boarding on flights and now requires families with small children to board in the group with with they are ticketed, according to a story in USA Today.
I can understand the business decision made in terms of direct revenue, as some people pay for the privilege of boarding early, but I also see a poor business decision in terms of goodwill and more frustrated travelers, and then revenue as a result of that. I know I’m already rethinking my future flight plans, even though my kids are older now and my boarding order won’t change.
If United felt it was necessary to make a change, I propose they should have lowered the age of pre-boarding children to families with children under two years rather than eliminating the concept altogether. This new policy is very short-sighted.
Boarding early allows families two things they need:
- extra time for getting situated in their seats so that they are not blocking other customers trying to get to their own seats
- the assurance they will have room for their carry on items to be stowed. Parents of small children have a need for more carry on items than your typical traveler to care for and occupy their children.
Why do I propose compromising to two years?
Families with children under the age of two have considerably more concerns in traveling than those with older children.
For many families in this group, they are still learning how to navigate family travel. Let’s face it: travel is stressful enough. And when you throw babies and young children into the mix, with their needs, and then the irritated looks those parents often receive (often even while a child is showing excellent behavior), it just makes it even more stressful.
If you have to cut some of the pre-boarding out, cut out the older, yet still young, children who can communicate better, walk on their own and also carry their own belongings. Allow parents of those under the age of two who have much more to manage in strollers, car seats, babies and nasty looks from fellow passengers a few extra moments to get settled.
Families with small children, especially under the age of two years, most often need extra time to board and allowing them that makes a better flight experience for everyone.
Families with children under the age of two years are those most often carrying car seats (which airlines agree is the safest way to travel) which need to be installed and take up room and time to do so. Now that families may not board early, more travelers will be stuck waiting in the aisles as parents struggle to get the seat (or seats) installed quickly. I can tell you from experience that buckling those car seats into an airline seat is not an easy task. It is even harder when you don’t have anyone to help you. And someone has to stand in the aisle when it is being buckled because there simply is not enough room between the seats to stand in front of the seat and get the job done.
Then, even if there is not a car seat involved, a parent has to get the child into his or her seat, buckle the child, stow the child’s busy bag and then give the child something with which to occupy him or her often before the parent can stow the rest of the belongings and get herself buckled. Again, this often requires standing in the aisle, especially if there are multiple children, while everyone else behind them has to wait.
Families with small children also most often have the need to carry additional items such as food, diapers, a change of clothes, books and toys which they may need access to during the flight.
Families wanting to eat on a United flight must carry on their own food, as United’s food choices are not kid friendly.
Allowing families to board early insures there will be room for their carry-on bag to be stowed in the overhead bins, in addition to what is being stowed at their feet.
With more people carrying their bags onto a flight to avoid checked baggage fees, the overhead bin real estate is tight. Families most often need this space, whereas other travelers do not. (Extra items are a necessity for families with young children. Extra items are most often a convenience for other travelers.) Later-boarders often are not allowed to carry a bag that won’t fit in the overhead bin because all the bins are at capacity by the time they board.
Do we really want to risk having small children being hungry or uncomfortable on a flight because there isn’t enough room for their carry on bag?
Sure, those customers who pay more might like the luxury of getting on the plane and being settled, but let’s talk about basic needs here… and the fact that no one is happy when a baby is crying. By denying parents of young children the option to board early and be able to carry on needed items, you are asking for trouble, especially on a delayed flight.
I think United Airlines is making a big mistake and I hope other airlines do not follow this example. Families travel. Families buy plane tickets. Families do not want to inconvenience others. United’s decision is causing them to do that on their flights.
What do you think about United’s decision? Have you flown with children under the age of 4 or 2? If so what have your experiences been? What would you propose to United or other airlines, as an alternative? Please share your thoughts in the comments and with United Airlines.Filed under General tales | Comments (8)