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Goodbye Pre-Boarding

Starting today, Southwest Airlines will no longer pre-board families. The change is part of a larger restructuring of the airline's "cattle call" boarding process.

Here's the exact wording from Southwest's Web site:

Beginning October 2, 2007, an adult traveling with a child four years old or younger will board between the "A" and "B" boarding groups, unless you have an "A" boarding pass. Those Customers holding an "A" boarding pass should board with the "A" boarding group. With an all-jet fleet outfitted with comfortable, leather seats, our families traveling with small children are easily accommodated together.

Southwest is far from the first to put other travelers ahead of families with young children. For years, flying families have reported on blogs and travel forums a lack of family pre-boards, though that seems to vary more by airport than airline.

What have you seen? Which airlines do you try to book flights on because they're "family-friendly?" And which ones do you avoid even if they have the lowest fares? And finally, should families of young children be allowed to pre-board or not?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  October 2, 2007; 8:00 AM ET  | Category:  Babies , Preschoolers
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Comments


We don't fly anywhere now that there are 5 kids. We drive everywhere we go to avoid schlepping strollers and carseats through crowded airports.

When we did fly-with our first 2 girls- one of us would preboard with the carseats and we kept the kids off of the plane until the last possible second. I don't know why anyone would preboard with an asigned seat and have a young child sit for any longer than necessary.

Posted by: Momof5 | October 2, 2007 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Those flying with baby-seats to install should pre-board for sure. Just silly not to pre-baord them. I wouldn't require pre-boarding with my 4 year old.

Posted by: olney | October 2, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I think a lot of the reason "pre-boarding for those traveling with small children" has gone away is I used to see a lot of people abusing it.

Infants or toddlers? I - and most people - totally understood needing an extra minute or two to schlep your stuff, break down the stroller and set up the car seat. Parents of little ones have their hands full and boarding goes faster if these families have a little extra space to deal with all their stuff (since no one seems to board from the back->forward anymore, either).

But I can't count the times in recent years that I saw a family go up to the gate during this time period with kids who were between 7-10. These were kids carrying their own bags for Pete's sake! Other than general parental guidance, it doesn't take much longer than an adult to get these kids settled. But God forbid you try and tell these families that they don't actually need the extra time to board - it's not the kids who have the tantrum.

That being said - I still see it from time to time - I can't pin down the airline, but I rarely fly anything other than NW or UA since I fly out of MSP these days.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | October 2, 2007 9:15 AM | Report abuse

This news doesn't affect me because I can't stand Southwest and refuse to fly with them under normal circumstances. I always tell people the only time I fly Southwest is "when I'm bereaved." Literally.

I don't know what the big deal is that they can't just assign seats like normal, real airlines. I suppose in their view of the universe, it was unfair to allow families who checked in later get their seats before people who checked in earlier. In the case of Southwest I suppose I agree with this decision. If I were flying alone or without children, I'd be ticked if I rushed to the airport to check in early and still didn't get a good seat because of families checking in. However, I probably wouldn't fly SW because this whole situation stresses me out and I'd want to know that I was going to get the seat I wanted in the first place.

As a mother of a toddler, I do appreciate the option to board early. In my view, the benefit is not getting on the plane early because, as someone said, then you have to cool your heels and wait. However, it is a lot more pleasant to wait while you are resting in your seat instead of standing in the long line of people cramming into the plane.

I don't really think any airlines are better or worse for families, but we've flown mostly on Austrian Airlines the past few years and they are incredibly NOT family friendly. I've written to them to say as much because I've had nothing but trouble with them on every flight we've taken for the past two years. But if I had another option I would take it!

Posted by: viennamom | October 2, 2007 9:18 AM | Report abuse

The only reason somebody should pre-board an airplane is if they have to use equipment which will be removed after on the plane (i.e. wheelchair). To board these people during the general boarding would cause backward movement in the aisle. This is counterproductive.

On Southwest, families need to board before the majority ONLY so they can be guaranteed to sit together. Since the seats are not assigned, a family boarding at the end would likely be faced with single seats spread throughout the plane - not an option with small children. By going between A and B group, there is 100% guarantee that they can sit together.

Since carseats cannot be installed on any seat but the window (maybe middle if there is another babyseat in the window), installing it will NOT block the aisle so others can board behind you.

There is no logical reason families with small children should get on before EVERYBODY else - they should just get on before the plane is too full to ensure sitting together. I'm loving this new policy.

P.S. I have 2 small children and I often fly Southwest.

Posted by: Father of 2 | October 2, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

We flew US Air this summer and they had preboarding on all the flights. I think people traveling with little kids do need extra time to get on the plane and get settled. Even if you're not blocking the aisle while you put the carseat in or whatever, it does take time. So it's better to start early in the boarding process than at the end.

viennamom, the reason Southwest doesn't assign seats is because they've found the boarding is quicker with the cattle call. People board right away and move faster because they want to get "good" seats. They turn around their planes faster than any other airline.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

They should allow parents with small children extra time to baord. Some kids wiggle and struggle a lot, making it hard to get the overhead bin door closed after you have put them in.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2007 9:29 AM | Report abuse

This is bad for everybody. Parents and non-parents alike.

When I travel with my youngest (a toddler), I sit with all the other parents with small children. People traveling with small children are much more understanding of others' small children. If some kid is kicking the back of my seat or making a little noise, it doesn't phase me. I know it's just as likely my kid could be doing the same thing.

But now that I can't preboard, I have to sit wherever there are seats, and that inevitably means I have to sit with non-parents. Do you really want to sit next to my toddler? Do you enjoy hearing the alphabet song 30 times in a row, loud and out of tune? Do you like listening to tantrums? Do you like worrying about if my kid is going to throw her food at you (my kid doesn't throw food, but you don't know that!)?

Really, it's in your best interest to let families with tods and infants to preboard. You don't want to sit next to a crying baby unless you are some sort of martyr. Let the folks with kids irritate each other.

Posted by: Bob | October 2, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I really only fly SWA because it is often cheaper. The lack of seat assignment is a real problem, that pre-boarding remedied. Now that there is no pre-boarding, and no seat assignments, I will be much more likely to fly another airline, despite the cost difference. Traveling with a 4 year old a 17 month old is stressful enough, I don't need the added stress of wondering whether we will sit together.

I'm not aware of any other airlines that pre-board families still. That's fine with me. As long as I have an assigned seat, I'm happy to be the last person on the plane. I would guess that most people would rather have my kids out in the terminal a little longer than in the plane a little longer.

In any case, air travel is becoming so expensive, particularly now that there are four of us, and inconvenient that driving is becoming much more appealing. Particularly now that the kids can watch videos in the back and play leapster.

Posted by: Cliff | October 2, 2007 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I don't see what the big deal is. Unless I'm missing something, if you check in 24 hours ahead of time, you get your ASSIGNED line letter and NUMBER. So, families with small children can still board in group A, in the front, if ONE person checks in for the whole group online 24 hours ahead of time. Right? You don't even need to print your tickets at that time, you can check in via Blackberry and then print your tickets from the kiosk at the airport. What's the big deal there?? Then you can show up to the line anytime before they start boarding and get in numerical order. There's nothing worse then kids in strollers in the "pre board" area that are dying to run around, but instead are screaming their heads off.

I prefer SWA over any other airline as they're cheap from BWI to Islip. Plus, I can keep the credits I earn when I fly for business. I've earned three free flights in three years.

Viennamom, thank you for not flying SWA, I don't need your attitude on my flights!

Posted by: WDC 21113 | October 2, 2007 10:19 AM | Report abuse

If families want to be the first on the airplane, they should plan ahead, arrive early, and queue up with everyone else. There's nothing preventing you from being at the head of the line. Then you can choose whatever seats you want.

Posted by: notea42 | October 2, 2007 10:39 AM | Report abuse

We have two young children. While trying to get to settled in our seats on airlines that do not allow preboarding, which for us includes installing car seats, I've been glared at by people behind us, had my toes run over by luggage, and been hit in the head by luggage put in overhead bins. If others are already seated, there are not many options for getting out of the aisle while waiting for the car seats to be ready. I agree with the other commenter that family pre-boarding may have been abused by others, but it would have made the process much more civilized for us and our fellow passengers in these cases!

Posted by: DC Mom | October 2, 2007 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I can see why SW changed the policy. To get the 'A' ticket, you have to check in online 24 hours in advance. You know this, and make the effort. Then, when you get to the plane, 1/2 of the passengers need to preboard before you. And, I have seen first hand the abuse of the system. Why can't parents with small children do like everyone else and check in early to score the 'A' ticket?

OK, so even with pre-planning, let's say you still get the 'B' or (ack) the 'C' ticket. Well, you are still in luck, because after the 'A' folks get seated, pre-boarding will start. So, you still get in before 2/3 of the plane.

I really like SW for kids. They know they are going to have a ton of kids on board, and accommodate for that. Even in cases where there are no seats left together, they will help you out and try to move people around. And, they do it nicely.

One of the most stressful flights I have been on is USAir, when we couldn't get assigned seats together at ticketing, but were told that at boarding time it would be fixed. Well, we had at the time a 2 and 5 yr old, and the staff was pretty indifferent about the kids sitting on their own. It was chaotic, to say the least.

Posted by: prarie dog | October 2, 2007 11:02 AM | Report abuse

Assigned seats don't necesarily solve the problem of families not being able to sit together. We recently flew United. When we purchased the tickets, we couldn't get seats together (we bought a ticket for our two year old, so we purchased 3 tickets). We called customer service and they said that they could not change the seat assignments and that we could not be guaranteed that we could get at least two of the seats together so that one adult could sit with the two year old. We checked in early online and tried to change our seats so that at least two of three could be together with no luck because (according to another customer service agent) the "seats weren't released yet." Then the gate agents said they couldn't do anything and our two year old would have to sit by herself. We had to beg several other passengers before we found one person willing to trade seats so that one of us could sit with our daughter. The United agents did nothing to help and would have been content to have a two year old sit alone. We'd never had this problem before with United or any other airline and are really disappointed. In the future, I'll try every other airline before flying United.

Posted by: Alexandria | October 2, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I've had one too many situations on United where there was no preboarding, and I was traveling alone with small kids. It is SO in the interest of other passengers to let fliers with CARSEATS board first. Not 6 yr olds, but babies/toddler in carseats.

Here's what happens if not: when I'm finally called to board, I schlepp down the aisle carrying a toddler in one arm and a big ole carseat in other. I smack about 10 to 15 invariably first-class passengers in the arm, shoulder and ear with either my toddler's foot or the carseat.

And if you've ever tried this, you know it can't be avoided, due to the width of the aisle vs. the width of a Britax Roundabout + woman + toddler, 3 across.

Then I move on back and smack the coach passengers. Do the adults appreciate this? I know I don't when the situation is reversed. Way to go, United!

Posted by: airlineslargelyblow | October 2, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Do the rest of us a favor and don't take small children on airplanes unless you absolutely have to. The kids are too young to remember anything that happened on the trip later in life anyway. Why ruin the trip for everyone around you on the plane. If the grandparents really need to see the kids, send THEM the airplane tickets.

Posted by: GoAwaySonUBotherMe | October 2, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

This is a wise policy change. The previous policy was being abused badly, with kids pushing puberty with their own rollbags being used as the excuse to preboard. This change rewards the flier who plans in advance without really penalizing families. They'll have plenty of seats to choose from, and if they really want that bulkhead seat, they can check in 24 hours in advance and just line up early.

Posted by: GG | October 2, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

GoAwaySonUBotherMe - get sterlized

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2007 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I LOVE southwest because I get to avoid screaming babies. I always board LAST, then i know which sections to avoid. with assigned seats, it's luck of the draw whether some toddler's going to throw up on me, scream incessantly, etc...

Posted by: no kids | October 2, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Alexandria - thats terrible. I cannot believe other folks on the plane would not be accomodating enough to let you sit with your child. Are we all really getting that self absorbed and rude???

Posted by: Me | October 2, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

Is it really a big deal to let people with kids board first. Kids are squirmy, and hard to get settled. That should be obvious to even the stupidest, least observant people. You will all get on the plane anyway. Don't be selfish idiots.

I always try to board the plane dead last anyway. People who are so obsessed with boarding priority are freaking head cases.

Posted by: bkp | October 2, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Alexandria -- we had the same experience with United.

Posted by: Arlington Dad | October 2, 2007 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Hey GoAwaySonUBotherMe,

I'm virtually smacking you. Do you think families are actually getting on planes for a joyride? What they need is separate sections: one for families, and one for intolerant children-haters such as yourself.

This shouldn't even be up for debate. Of course small children, seniors, and people with disabilities or other physical limitations should be afforded the courtesy of being allowed to preboard. Southwest is just succumbing to the vocal minority of "me-first"ers who can't stand seeing anyone else get on the plane before they do. We should all call it for what it is: selfishness.

Posted by: sean | October 2, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Ditto for No Kids.

Tell us, how does one get so full of disdain for children, of all people?

Do us a favor, stay away from our kids!

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2007 11:51 AM | Report abuse

This shouldn't even be up for debate. Of course small children, seniors, and people with disabilities or other physical limitations should be afforded the courtesy of being allowed to preboard. Southwest is just succumbing to the vocal minority of "me-first"ers who can't stand seeing anyone else get on the plane before they do. We should all call it for what it is: selfishness.

Posted by: sean | October 2, 2007 11:47 AM

I agree - I laugh at people who shove to get on the plane first. You know, you aren't getting to the destination faster then everyone else!!

Posted by: Me | October 2, 2007 11:53 AM | Report abuse

God Bless you GoAwaySonUBotherMe:

If the FAA had ANY sense, they would BAN small children from airplanes. They do nothing but annoy other passengers. As do their pathetic little parents, cooing over the little whining rats. Let's make planes like nightclubs. 21 and over only. OK, let's hear from the bleeding heart liberals now! (All you losers do realize the 21 and over comment was sarcasm, right?!?!?!)

Posted by: Reality Check | October 2, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Sean:

You are clearly mentally challenged. You say that:

"Of course small children, seniors, and people with disabilities or other physical limitations should be afforded the courtesy of being allowed to preboard"

If you can't board with everyone else, then you have no business being on an airplane. Simple as that. Hey Sean, do you even know what "disabled" means?? It means "not able". They are NOT ABLE to live like a normal human being. So they should stay in their houses and not inconvenience me by slowing down my boarding process. Oh, boo hoo. Cry all you liberals. You know it's true, you're just too afraid to say the truth.

Posted by: Reality Check | October 2, 2007 12:06 PM | Report abuse

To Bob:
"But now that I can't preboard, I have to sit wherever there are seats, and that inevitably means I have to sit with non-parents."

WRONG! Unless you are in A, all families with children will board together between A and B. Guess what, you can all sit together again.
---------------------
WDC 21113 - somebody who actually read the new boarding rules and understand.
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To notea42:
"There's nothing preventing you from being at the head of the line."

WRONG! SWA is giving group and numbers. A1-5 board first, A6-10 board next, A11-15 after them, and so on.
----------------------
To DC mom:
"If others are already seated, there are not many options for getting out of the aisle while waiting for the car seats to be ready. "

Worst case, you get on between A and B groups. There are plenty of seats further back all empty when you get on. Remember, the back of the plane arrives at the same time as the front of the plane AND you need time for the gate-checked stroller to come upstairs.
----------------------
prarie dog - another person who can read and understand.
----------------------

Posted by: r6345 | October 2, 2007 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Just another step down the road of coarseness and vulgarity in our society. "Sorry, I'm much too important to let the weaker members of our society board before me".

Posted by: pATRICK | October 2, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

GoAwaySonUBotherMe,

You assume that all children misbehave on airplanes. My two year old has been taught and understands how to behave on airplanes. She has been on many flights and has never been loud, screamed, cried, or bothered other passengers. This is because we taught her how to behave on an airplane and because we give her the right conditions to help her -- we only fly at times of the day we know are good for her and we bring food as well as books and other quiet activities to keep her engaged and happy. We always get complimented on how well behaved she is and people in the rows around us often comment that they didn't know there was a child near them at all until they see us getting off the plane. The reality of modern life is that people often live far from their extended families and need to travel by air to see them or to attend things such as funerals or weddings.

Posted by: Alexandria Again | October 2, 2007 12:15 PM | Report abuse

"My two year old has been taught and understands how to behave on airplanes."

Give me a break. You're the worst type of parent. You think your brat is a little angel. We all know the truth. So be quiet. Your pathetic exaggerations annoy all of us with any common sense.

Posted by: Reality Check | October 2, 2007 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Actually, Southwest did not do away with preboarding children because of "me-firsters". They found that preboarding families tend to take the first rows of seats on the plane and slow the boarding process for everyone else who have to file past them despite the extra time to get settled. Allowing A's to board first will force families to spread through out the plane and avoid bottlenecks.

I actually prefer that kids preboard so that I can sit in a screaming-baby-free area.

Posted by: mike | October 2, 2007 12:28 PM | Report abuse

airlineslargelyblow : Ditto. I have three kids (4, 2, 3 mos) and the prospect of carrying multiple seats down that TINY aisle without causing someone a concussion is daunting.

Oh and GoAwaySonUBotherMe, there's an old saying: "There are two ways to fly: First class and with kids." Check any flight. The number of seats in first class occupied by children (particularly small children) is tiny. You don't want to sit near my kids? Fine, move to first class. And your statement that "The kids are too young to remember anything that happened on the trip later in life anyway" can be extrapolated to "so you should just lock them in a closet until they're five". You'll understand if I decide to not hear your words.

Posted by: ExhaustedJustThinkingAboutIt | October 2, 2007 12:37 PM | Report abuse

We fly quite a bit, so my boys are used to it. Of course, I spend the 2 weeks before the flight talking about airplanes and stocking up on forbidden treats (cheetos!) and never-seen-before stickers, books and portable activities. Sometimes we even go out to Air & Space Dulles Annex to watch the planes. Traveling with kids is like summiting Kilimanjaro - most can do it with a bit of training, practice and planning.

We always sit in the back of the plane unless we have a tight connection (not always avoidable given the frequency of delays and cancellations these days). The trade-off between having front seats and the stress of holding everyone else up just isn't worth it. And r6345 is right - what good is being first off if you have to stand in the jetway waiting for the gate-checked stroller?

Posted by: two terrific boys | October 2, 2007 1:16 PM | Report abuse

I think the change is really being driven by business travelers who were ticked that they had to wait in line as part of the "cattle call". Out of all air travelers, these are the people who want to arrive at the airport at the last minute and just breeze onto their plane. Therefore they are the most ticked that they have to wait and even more ticked when they see parents with small kids and others get on before them. I am a parent of an 11 month old and I say Tough! The good old days are gone forever in this post 9-11 age. If you want to be treated like the royalty you think you are, then get the company to spring for a better seat or different airline. I'm a cash-strapped new Dad who would to bring his son to see his grandparents. Southwest's lower fares help me do this.

Posted by: Bob | October 2, 2007 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Bob - unfortunately, the business travelers keep the airlines in business. Not fair, but money talks...

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2007 1:35 PM | Report abuse

We business travelers are as variable as family travelers are. Some are obnoxious and pushy, and some are polite and cooperative. Negative generalizations about us are really no more productive (or polite) than negative generalizations about parents.

Posted by: tomtildrum | October 2, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Bob, you are an idiot.

"The good old days are gone forever in this post 9-11 age"

What does 9/11 have to do with Southwest allowing those who got in A group aboard before last-minute parents??

Posted by: WHAT THE!! | October 2, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Right comment about the negative generalizations. Neither productive or polite. My apologies.

Re. my 9-11 comment: I know a number of people who tell me what it was like to book a flight for the same day, breeze through security and then hop on their plane, all the time working on one matter or another. My point there was that this is no longer possible given the security concerns we are facing. But those same travelers still want to wait as little as possible, or so it seems to me. And if they are flying SW, they can't (under the old rules) in the cattle call. So that;s why they are ticked. Remember, SW initially went to pre-boarding and only dropped it because it delayed flights, not because it inconvenienced folks.

And to the other poster, you are right. Money talks and it always will. Still, if your company is paying for the trip, why are you on SW anyway?

Posted by: Bob | October 2, 2007 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Earlier comment said...WRONG! SWA is giving group and numbers. A1-5 board first, A6-10 board next, A11-15 after them, and so on.

My question...I fly Southwest Airlines at least 2x/month and I've never seen boarding this way. In my experience it's just pre-boards then all the A's then all the B's, etc. I primarily fly in the midwest. Do they board by letter AND number at certain airports?

And on topic I'm a parent of small children and I think Southwest's new approach is just dandy. By boarding after 1/3 of the passengers, families will still be able to find seats together.

Posted by: Question about SWA | October 2, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

"One of the most stressful flights I have been on is USAir, when we couldn't get assigned seats together at ticketing, but were told that at boarding time it would be fixed. Well, we had at the time a 2 and 5 yr old, and the staff was pretty indifferent about the kids sitting on their own. It was chaotic, to say the least."

--------------

It all comes down to the agents and flight attendants. We flew USAir last year with our kids on a code share so we couldn't reserve seats ahead of time. When we checked in, they only had 4 scattered seats. But the agent worker her magic to get us two pairs of seats.

Another time I flew on United with my daughter. I had to book the flight on a few days notice so I couldn't reserve seats then, and I couldn't get them at check in becaue they hold out the economy plus seats until the bitter end. When we got to the gate to get seats, the agent had given us separate seats, but when she saw I was with a two year old, she immediately fixed it to get us two together.

So I don't think it's an airline issue as much as a person issue. If there is a helpful person working, they'll take care of you.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

We typically fly NWA (we live in Mpls) and on flights where they know kids are flying, they typically have pre-boarding (we alert them by going and asking for a stroller tag). Now Reality Check, I know you think that all 2-year-olds are brats on planes, but mine is pretty well-behaved. She generally treats a plane ride like a car ride and nods off to sleep as soon as the plane starts moving. She is a NWA Silver Elite flyer (we travel about 15-18 times/year) and has been since she was 10 months old (we have always bought her a seat). She doesn't drink too much, get belligerent with flight attendants, make snide comments about other travelers, or otherwise cause a disturbance. She does get upgraded to first class when she is with me (NWA Gold Elite) because she and I combined have enough status to get upgrades. Her father has no such thing and so she sits in coach with him. First class is totally wasted on her, except for one thing: the glasses are narrower so they are easier for her to drink out of.

Preboarding with her makes it easier when we have to install the car seat or stow the stroller. But because we tend to sit in the front rows of the plane, we end up having to wait a while for the stroller to show at the end of the trip. If we are traveling as a family, my husband will board as early as he can and stow the stroller/install the car seat/stow bags. My kid and I will go on toward the end. If we are traveling just the two of us, I try to preboard (and because we are elite we usually can preboard even if they don't call out preboarding for families).

Posted by: Mpls Mama | October 2, 2007 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I simply do not understand why airlines do not treat all passengers the same. Charge the same rates according to how quickly you reserve your tickets. Let everyone have the same chance at seating. I understand preboarding only of handicapped individuals or elderly who do not have a handicapped sticker for their cars.

Posted by: Been there done that | October 2, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

I wish we'd known about this policy change before we booked our Thanksgiving trip on Southwest. As if traveling with a small child isn't enough of a pain already. Preboarding really does make things easier, plus it allows the families with small kids to group together an annoy as few people as possible.

As far as "solving" the problem by checking in and lining up early, it isn't that simple. We always arrive at the airport way early (at least 1.5 hours before a domestic flight), but we can't just wait on line near the gate to try to board first. DD (who's almost 2)would be very unpleasant indeed if she were confined to her stroller, waiting in line for an hour or more before getting on the plane. Preboarding for small children just makes so much more sense.

As far as abuse of the preboarding privilege, don't they always announce that preboarding is for families with kids under 4 only? I've actually seen families turned away at the gate for trying to board before their time.

And finally, if the issue is that families take up the seats in front, can't they just say that the first three rows or so are off-limits for preboarding? That will reserve these "best" seats for the true early-birds and still preserve the sensible aspects of getting small kids on early.

Posted by: NewSAHM | October 2, 2007 2:33 PM | Report abuse

And to the other poster, you are right. Money talks and it always will. Still, if your company is paying for the trip, why are you on SW anyway?

Posted by: Bob | October 2, 2007 02:00 PM

So true :-).
I usually try to upgrade to business class when I can, not too much more$$ and just enough more room to actually be comfy.

Posted by: Me | October 2, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

"Earlier comment said...WRONG! SWA is giving group and numbers. A1-5 board first, A6-10 board next, A11-15 after them, and so on.

My question...I fly Southwest Airlines at least 2x/month and I've never seen boarding this way. In my experience it's just pre-boards then all the A's then all the B's, etc. I primarily fly in the midwest. Do they board by letter AND number at certain airports?"

This is one of the changes - in addition to the lack of pre-boarding.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2007 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Bob, I'm sorry for being so snippy. Business fliers probably are a worse pain in the neck overall. I try to be very patient and pleasant when I fly, but I'm typically wearing a suit, and when I talk to flight attendants or gate agents, I sometimes get the sense that they're expecting me to turn into a jerk and start yelling.

Posted by: tomtildrum | October 2, 2007 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Come on, Stacey! Get your facts straight before you throw out a question that is apt to generate this kind of reaction. From the perspective of anyone who checks in 61 and above ("B" and "C" group) in the Southwest lexicon, families will indeed get to pre-board. To perpetuate the myth that they don't get any boarding status is wrong and does a disservice to basic tenets of good journalism.

In the realm of an open seat environment, this seems like a rational accomodation. Given that there are about 45 of each seat type available (window, middle, aisle), and based on practical experience, it seems like in nearly all cases there will be adequate grouping of seats avaiable for those families that opt not to check in early enough to get a 1-60 "A" pass (which would allow them to board before the modified/more limited boarding priveleges they will still get).

Of course, for non-family boarders, the new 'benefit' of a delayed preboard could backfire - at least now, I can pick and choose my empty seat based on the nature of passengers, avoiding the especially loud babies or out-of-control kids.

Posted by: fact checker, please? | October 2, 2007 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Bob, I'm sorry for being so snippy. Business fliers probably are a worse pain in the neck overall. I try to be very patient and pleasant when I fly, but I'm typically wearing a suit, and when I talk to flight attendants or gate agents, I sometimes get the sense that they're expecting me to turn into a jerk and start yelling.

Posted by: tomtildrum | October 2, 2007 03:28 PM

You weren't snippy - you were right to call me on being too generalizing. I'm going to remember your comments the next time I fly and try to have a little more patience with everyone. Truth be told, I'm a nervous flyer and when we land, I'm just glad to be alive and in one piece. Everything else is (mostly) forgotten.

Posted by: Bob | October 2, 2007 5:01 PM | Report abuse

I think everyone will quickly adjust to this. I've been flying Southwest since they handed out decks of numbered boarding cards (1 through 30, please board). It will be fine, after a little adjustment.

Posted by: GMG | October 2, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

The best airline for flying with kids is Frontier. Hands down. Unfortunately you can't fly anywhere with them unless you're going through Denver.

Posted by: KH | October 2, 2007 8:09 PM | Report abuse

KH, of course if you live in Denver, Frontier is great! Satellite TV in the seats does wonders to keep the kids occupied. And you only need 15,000 miles for free flights, and you can actually use them pretty easily.

Posted by: Dennis | October 3, 2007 9:19 AM | Report abuse

The beauty of allowing people with small children to board first is that the rest of us know where they'll be sitting, so we can choose seats far, far away.

Posted by: Ann | October 3, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

This news makes me sad. I have a toddler and have flown frequently Southwest and have loved it, especially the ability to pre-board. One of the biggest advantages (besides being able to get him and all our stuff situated without holding people up) is that by sitting in the front, we can also get off the plane fast -- which is crucial if you have a toddler who has been in a seat for two hours and is cranky and ready to go. Yes, we can get our "A" pass and get to the airport early. But people line up way before the flight boards to get their seat order, and have you ever tried to keep a 16-month-old quiet and standing in line for 45 minutes? I don't think anyone in proximity would enjoy it, and ultimately, our goal as parents is to make things less unpleasant for our fellow travelers.
Also, this will spread children through the plane, because some parents -- like me -- will take a front row that has one person sitting in it and others will look for three or four seats together farther back. Remember, kids can't sit in the exit rows, either.

Posted by: Hannah | October 3, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

Before I had my daughter, I never flew Southwest due to the dumb cattle call, which I found demeaning and awful. So what if the plane turns around quicker if I spent an hour in line waiting to board so I don't end up with a middle seat in the last row? Then I had my daughter and we began flying SW because it was one of the few with family pre-boarding. Now I will never fly the airline again. I suspect there are many parents like me, unwilling to subject themselves and their kids to the insane wait in the cattle call line (very likely to create all kinds of pent-up craziness in my kid and any other one) and the uncertainty of seating. The airline is due to lose business, I'll bet. They're losing mine.

Posted by: Chicagomom | October 3, 2007 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Everyone, the cattle call is ending. You won't have to wait in line for an hour anymore. They are going to be giving boarding numbers with the groups so you will board in order.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 5, 2007 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Re: the earlier comment on United--hands down the worst U.S. airline. That's all I have to say.

Posted by: new dad | October 5, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse


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Posted by: stevenzfdsdft | October 6, 2007 2:09 AM | Report abuse

I've only flown SWA once in the last 10 years. The unassigned seating and the long lines at the gates are jst not worth any cost savings to me.

The last time I flew on SWA there was a guy who actually pulled out a portable lounge chair and sat in the "B" line for 1 hour!

If you really look around, the rates are not all that cheap anyway.

I've ALWAYS referred to them as "Cattle Call Airlines", even the boarding gates resemble cattle chutes! It really makes me want to say Mooo!!!!

Posted by: Mooo! | October 12, 2007 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Ann,

Your precisely the type of uptight person I love to have my kids sit next to! Get over it, or fly on a private jet!
============================================
The beauty of allowing people with small children to board first is that the rest of us know where they'll be sitting, so we can choose seats far, far away.

Posted by: Ann | October 3, 2007 11:52 AM

Posted by: Momzilla | October 12, 2007 9:14 AM | Report abuse

I fly for business (often first class), and have 15 month old twins. So, see both sides. To GoAwaySonUBotherMe, I'm guessing you are single, and will be for the rest of your life. Not well-liked, and have no feelings. Same with th eReality Check dork. Now, NWA does still pre-board families with small children on many flights. Not Orlando though, as it's pretty much all families going to/from there. I just flew for business tha they made that announcement. I fly out of Traverse City, MI all the time on NWA, and they ALWAYS announce pre-boarding for first class, then those needing assistance as well as families with small children. ALWAYS. Same with my connection in Detroit. So, depends on which airline and which airport.

Posted by: Parent, and business flyer | November 29, 2007 11:57 AM | Report abuse

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