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United Airlines Changes Boarding Policy to Help Families with Young Children

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

I think it was all me. All it took was an angry tweet, an 800-word blog post … and voilà! United Airlines dispensed with its rather inconvenient practice of not giving priority boarding status to families with young children.

Yes. I think I will indeed take credit for this.

Allow me to explain: Last spring I was flummoxed to discover that United would not allow my family of four — including a very squirmy 2-year-old — to board the plane early so we could install and adjust my toddler’s in-flight harness without the hustle and bustle of other coach passengers boarding around us. The result? I spent the whole flight worrying about whether, in our rush to install the harness amid the general chaos of boarding, we might have done it incorrectly, forcing my precious fidgeter to slouch in his seat.

Not long after, I did what every good, social media-savvy mommy would do — I tweeted my discontent and then followed it up with a piece on Babble. For the latter, United provided me with a dissatisfactory response: “Ultimately we’ve decided that this method” — i.e. no “preboarding” for families with young children — “is the best process for the greatest number of our customers.”

Happily, United has since changed its mind. The airline announced this week that families with children age 2 and under can board before first-class passengers and those with “elite” status — the ones with zillions of miles under their (seat)belts — starting February 15, according to the Associated Press.

“It takes a little bit of the stress out of the travel situation,” a United official told the AP. “Some things are just the right thing to do.” (Side note: The AP has an awesome round-up of different airlines’ policies on preboarding for young families in its piece. If you travel with babies or toddlers, be sure to check it out!)

I’d like to think I was the one who ultimately convinced United of its original folly. Perhaps their initial response to me was just a knee-jerk reaction and, after giving it some more careful consideration (about 10 months’ worth, apparently), United’s higher-ups thought to themselves, Oh my, we’ve really upset this sweet, charming, devastatingly attractive Alice Gomstyn person, haven’t we? How might we redeem our misguided selves?

That sounds realistic, right? The change couldn’t have come about because other bloggers and advocates raised the issue before me, right? It couldn’t be that United ultimately determined that letting young families board first actually makes it easier for others — who no longer have to worry about tripping over toddlers as they find their own seats — to board later, could it?

Nah. It must have been my doing. Traveling parents of the world, you’re welcome! No need to shower me with gratitude, however. I’m just happy to help a fellow mom or dad fly high.

Article Posted 2 years Ago

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