Over the last few weeks, I have stumbled across several articles and blogs which describe the difficulties parents face when flying with children. It seems the airlines are making it exceedingly difficult for families to fly. In an earlier blog post, about Flying With an Infant, I had encouraged people to take advantage of early boarding for families offered by airlines. Unfortunately, it appears a growing number of airlines are not allowing families with kids to board early. Many of these articles and posts have arisen after United Airlines announced that they were eliminating this in time for the busy summer travel season. The rationale for eliminating pre-boarding? "We figured it would be better to simplify that process and reduce the number of boarding groups," said United spokesman Charles Hobart.
How is this going to simplify the process? When you're trying to juggle a squirming infant or toddler AND luggage, it helps to have extra time to get everything settled. I have traveled by myself with my baby on several occasions and having that extra time really helps. The flight attendants are usually free to assist you and you do not have to hold up other passengers from boarding the plane while you get your luggage stowed.
An angry mother even started an online petition on change.org to get United to change its policy back to allow families early boarding. Nearly 37,000 people have already signed this online petition. It will be interesting to note if this will bring about any change in United's policy. I suppose only time will tell if this new policy will cause more hassles and delays in the boarding process.
Another "unfamily friendly" practice regarding the airlines recently making the news ahead of the busy travel season is that "airlines are reserving a growing number of window and aisle seats for passengers willing to pay extra. That's helping to boost revenue but also making it harder for friends and family members who don't pay this fee to sit next to each other. At the peak of the summer travel season, it might be nearly impossible." Airlines are literally holding seats "hostage." "Frequent business travelers used to get stuck with middle seats even though their last-minute fares were two or three times higher than the average. Now, airlines are setting aside more window and aisle seats for their most frequent fliers at no extra cost." "To travelers who haven't earned 'elite' status in a frequent flier program, flights often appear full even though they are not. These casual travelers end up paying extra for an aisle or window seat believing they have no other option. But as flights get closer many of the seats airlines had set aside for those willing to pay a premium do become available — at no extra cost."
I have been on one too many flights where I have seen parents being seated away from their children. It is awful seeing them have to beg and plead with their fellow passengers to switch seats so they can be seated next to their children. What's worse, in my opinion, are the airlines who are pitting passengers against passengers. It seems as if they are purposefully trying to make the travel experience as painful as possible. What if someone really did spend more money to get that coveted aisle or window seat? Why should they have to feel "obligated" to switch seats so that a family can sit together? Why would the airlines ever think it's a good idea to have a toddler or young child sit by themselves away from their parents on a flight? This just boggles my mind. We haven't experienced this situation in any of our flights thus far but we may face this very real possibility on future flights. What do you think? Do you think the airlines have gone too far?