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The Friendly Skies? Not If You Have Kids: Pre-Boarding Going the Way of Smoking

By carolyncastiglia |

family travel, flying with kids, preboarding with baby, taking baby on a plane, family boarding

Flying with kids gets harder all the time...

In the latest assault on families flying in the United States, United Airlines has ditched the pre-boarding policy that allowed passengers travelling with small children to claim their seats first. According to TIME, they join US Airways and American Airlines in nixing the courtesy. United says it “made its policy switch away from family pre-boarding in April to simplify the boarding process and to reduce the overall number of boarding groups.”

One New York City mother has decided to take a stand against the airline’s thoughtlessness, saying she worries “that if airline consumers let United get away with it, other airlines might follow suit.” Kaja Meade told, “Preboarding makes traveling with my family a lot easier. It can be stressful to travel with a baby and it takes time to get them situated on the plane. Preboarding is not an amenity, but a necessary service for family customers like me. Plus, I know other fellow flyers appreciate it when they don’t get held back because parents like myself need time to get our family seated.”

As of this writing, 34,009 people have signed Meade’s petition on ”Kaja’s petition has clearly hit a nerve with other parents who view preboarding as a necessary part of traveling — as well as with other travelers who agree that it makes boarding a smoother process,” said Tim Newman, senior campaigner at “Increasingly, customers like Kaja are taking to social media and using online petitions to push major companies to address their concerns.  As campaigns like Kaja’s build steam, companies are left with little choice but to respond quickly in order to avoid a public relations nightmare.”

I just don’t see how it’s good policy to not extend those travelling with small children the simple courtesy of allowing them to get settled before other passengers. And as Meade says, it’s to the benefit of other passengers, as well. TIME’s Bonnie Rochman plays Devil’s Advocate when she says, “Some passengers may harbor frustration with what could, in some circumstances, qualify as a pre-boarding hoax: several adults sashaying on board with just one kid — even an older child, who doesn’t need any more measurable assistance than an adult.” But I don’t know. I don’t fly all the time, but I do fly a few times a year, and I’ve never seen anyone abuse the privilege like that.

How do you feel about pre-boarding with your kids?

Photo via iStock

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About carolyncastiglia



Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. She’s appeared in TONY, The NY Post, The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Carolyn's latest posts →

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11 thoughts on “The Friendly Skies? Not If You Have Kids: Pre-Boarding Going the Way of Smoking

  1. goddess says:

    It’s only reasonable to let families get on board and get settled- and more importantly, seated together.

  2. Melissa says:

    Why not allow them on last, less time on the plane for the kids?

  3. Sara says:

    Makes more sense for them to go on last. Less time waiting on the ground, less time in line. It would be different if seats weren’t assigned (like on Southwest).

  4. Brandi says:

    I”ve flown with young children & I felt the less time we were stuck in one row the better. As long as there are assigned seats & I don’t have to put more than one bag in an overhead bin then I”m waiting until the last possible moment to get on that plane. It takes them several minutes to lock the doors, ect I’ve always felt that was more than enough time to get my daughter settled.

  5. Linda, T.O.O. says:

    When my 3 were small, if we had assigned seats then I was happier boarding LAST instead of first. Never did get the preboarding thing. It’s more sitting down being still and quiet for the kids.

  6. Robyn says:

    The problem with getting on last: more and more people are using up the carry-on space. If you get on last, you’ll never get your carry-on bags on the plane. For parents, this is a Bad Thing(tm).
    I find that parents need a lot more time to get things settled. If we got on last, the plane would probably be late leaving the runway.
    When you have unassigned seating, there’s no guarantee you’ll get seats together unless you’re first.
    If parents choose to get on last, that’s fine. However, we should be given the option of pre-boarding.

  7. bwsf says:

    We only did this when our son was an infant. It didn’t take us long to figure out that pre-boarding with a toddler is a bad idea–just more time for them to be stuck in the plane, bouncing off the walls. But, I think they should still allow families with babies some extra time to get settled. Like it’s not already hard enough to fly with a baby.

  8. Noreen Ryan says:

    American stopped pre-boarding a long time ago along with making you fold up your stroller before giving the agent you ticket. I had to deal with American with my son was a baby, he is now 6. I travel quite a lot with my kids, my daughter is 4, and fly Alaska Air. They allow pre-boarding for families with small children and anyone needed extra assistance. We can even push the stroller all the way up to the plane. I really like having that extra time to get the kids settled, getting things out and close by before stowing their backpacks away. Also like Robyn said people are taking up the overhead with their large bags. The worst is when they are sitting in the back of the plane and throw their large suitcases in the overhead above my seat. So no I won’t board last until my kids get a little older and I luckily also have frequent flyer status so I can still board pretty early. My kids travel so much that I don’t worry about them bouncing off the walls.

  9. Jamie says:


  10. Jamie says:


  11. Diana says:

    space above the seats is resigned for the seats below them not someone three seats away or further. just ask the stewardess to inform the passenger of there error and return their luggage. being a mother of now 6 rather be last then first so much easier. but if parents bringing their children along want to board first they shouldn’t have that taken away being paying customers. . read the rules, states overhead storage is resigned for the seats below if you are not assigned that seat that is not your storage to take, I have spoken up plenty of times on the grayhound and air flights….the offending passenger gets huffy but not my problem , and if your seat is stolen they will correct that as well. .

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