Most industries are investing a lot of resources into making their product more family friendly. They know parents will avoid their establishments if the layout is does not appeal to families. Because the family market is so large organizations willingly adjust their business models to continue to appeal to consumers with families.
Ironically, it seems as though the exact opposite is true in the airline industry. Many airlines are becoming less family friendly I wanted to specifically highlight some negative changes made at Southwest. Be advised that these changes are not new (been around for a year or so), but they are changes that make travel more difficult for families.
Here was my experience:
The day before our flight on Southwest flight 334 from Buffalo, New York to Denver, Colorado I considered getting online to check in for our flight. I decided against checking in because (1) we thought we might have some difficulty getting across the US border (was driving in from Canada). (2) I expected that young families would be able to pre-board for the flight.
On the day of the flight our family (myself, wife, on child just under four years old, another child just under two years old, and two week old baby) arrived in lots of time and were assigned a “B” boarding card. Not to worry, I thought, Southwest will let us board early.
Now here is what happened with the boarding. Understandably, those needing special assistance were boarded first. Understandably, those who were Business Select passengers border. However, young families were forced to wait until all the A passengers boarded boarded.
Depending on the size of your family and the age of your children it probably wouldn’t be hard to argue the young families need as much extra time and assistance as some of those who were permitted to board first. This certainly was true in our case with three kids three and under.
So what is the big deal about waiting a little later to board the plane?
First, if you have to ask this question you probably don’t have young kids. As we walked down the aisle to get to some open seats where our family could sit together, we continued to get nasty looks form passengers who were either annoyed by the fact that we were bumping them as we went by or by other other passengers who were not happy about walking so slowly to the middle of the plane. I know my backpack hit several people, but it is kind of hard to avoid when you are bending down and holding the hand of your child and trying to navigate yourself down a thin aisle.
Southwest, please bring back young family pre-boarding.
Young family pre-boarding benefits other passengers as happier not being bothered by kids as they board. They will also be less aggravated waiting on the snail like procession.
Young family pre-boarding benefits young families as they will greatly appreciate the extra time, relaxed boarding atmosphere, and the opportunity to find seats closer to the front of the plane.