In an article in the St. Petersburg Times, writer Bridget Hall Grumet tells about her experience waiting with her pre-toddler to pre-board, only to not pre-board after all. The unnamed airline had dropped the practice unbeknown to her. (She later mentions an American Airlines and United flight, but they are not the ones Grumet initially described.)
We’ve posted in the past about airlines who have stopped pre-boarding families with infants and small children. Southwest, American, Delta and United no longer have pre-boarding, although Grumet says that if you ask gate attendants with American and Delta, they may let you board early if you have a small child. Grumet personally found that to be true on an American flight.
Although Grumet misses the perk of boarding early with a kid because it makes settling in on a plane that much easier, she does understand the airlines’ latest practice. The idea behind not making allowances for people with small children and infants, and others who need assistance, is that when they get on the plane in one group, it creates a bottleneck.
If people who need extra help are randomly spread out during the boarding process, it saves 10 to 12 minutes. That may not sound like much, but as airlines struggle to get people to their destinations on time, 10 to12 minutes can jam up arrivals and departures for more than that one airplane.
My thought is that if I were traveling with a small child, I’d not be in any hurry to board. Spend less time on the airplane. The problem with that strategy is that with overhead bins becoming more packed as people avoid the cost of checking a bag, there won’t be space in the bins. Then you’d be stuck searching out a bin rows from your seat. See Heather’s post on how the trying to find bin space can look to a flight attendant.
Here’s one of my solutions for combating the headache of traveling on a plane with a small child. When at all possible, take the train. Stay tuned tomorrow for my post on how train travel worked out for me. My six year-old got us on the train first.