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Feb 02

Which Airlines Are Most Family Friendly

Priority Boarding as a Family

If you’ve ever traveled, whether alone or with a family, you know the rat race when it comes to boarding the plane — it seems everyone and their mother gets up all at once and crowds right next to the check-in desk no matter what their priority is, God forbid it’s a small terminal and all hell breaks lose.

This could be especially stressful when you’re traveling with a child, possibly with a stroller. There is no room to maneuver and following the rest of the people could feel like being herded into a slaughter house, albeit very, very, very slowly

Thankfully, airlines, realize this difficultly and make it easier for families to board ahead of most passengers, in some cases ahead of all passengers, airline status doesn’t matter.

We live in a Delta hub, so I was actually happily oblivious to this, since with Delta passengers with strollers or car seats actually get to board ahead of first class and other elite members. It was always a major relief to be able to board the plane in a line-free environment, quickly collapse the stroller and leave it at the gate and get to our seats and get settled in prior to other people getting onto the plane. I actually think it benefits other people boarding the plane as you don’t want a potentially screaming baby waiting in a long line of people and then being disturbed by the parents trying to move into seats next to you. Well, apparently Delta’s policy is not a universal policy and depends from airline-to-airline, and United Airlines was one of the most un-friendly airlines in the USA for family travel.

Change is slow but change is welcomed

It was really shocking to me to read this article today 1 that United Airlines is finally reversing their policy starting in February and will allow families with children under two to board with a priority similar to Delta. I can’t appreciate that enough and if you live in a United’s hub this should be really great for you.

Status of the Industry

So now that we know the Best (Delta) and the worst soon to be also the best (United) how to the rest of the airlines rank? Here’s compilation of the current policies across some of the major US airlines:
* ALASKA AIRLINES: Families with children under two can board at the beginning of the process, before first class and elite customers.

  • AMERICAN AIRLINES: Families with children board before first class and elite members upon request only. The age is at the discretion of the gate agent.

  • DELTA AIR LINES: Families with car seats or strollers can board before first class and elite members.

  • FRONTIER AIRLINES: Families with children age three and younger board after the airline’s elite members and those who have paid for extra legroom but before the rest of the plane.

  • HAWAIIAN AIRLINES: Families with children under the age of two can board before first class and elite members.

  • JETBLUE AIRWAYS: Families with children under the age of two board after elite members and passengers in premium seats but before the rest of the plane.

  • SOUTHWEST AIRLINES: An adult traveling with a child six years old or younger may board during Family Boarding, which occurs after the “A” group has boarded and before the “B” group begins boarding.

  • SPIRIT AIRLINES: Families board after passengers who paid extra to board early and those who purchased space for a carry-on bag in the overhead bin.

  • UNITED AIRLINES: Starting Feb. 15, families with children age two and under can board before first class and elite members.

  • VIRGIN AMERICA: Families with young children can board after first class passengers, those in the extra legroom seats, passengers who paid for early boarding, those with elite status and those with a Virgin America credit card. They do get to board before other coach passengers.

So consider the above next time you’re planning your family vacation.

  1. While I’m linking and giving credit to Chicago Tribune I’m realizing that the actual original article was written by Associated Press — so the real credit should be to Associated Press — well done! 


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