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Flying with toddlers? Get in line!

By asoglin
Thursday, September 20th, 2007 at 2:23 pm in Family Travel.

planeOh noooooo! Having boarded four separate flights with a squirmy one-year-old last month, I can only wail in dismay in response to this story:

One of the privileges of parenthood is getting to be one of the first to board airplanes. But from now on the kids and their car-seat carriers will have to wait, at least if they fly on Southwest.

The airline said Wednesday that it’s tweaking its “open seating” policy, assigning boarding numbers – but not assigned seats – to passengers. It also plans to eliminate the practice of letting families board first. Starting Oct. 2, families who don’t hold the coveted “A” boarding passes will have to wait until passengers in that group have been seated – that’s the first 60 seats.


I’ll admit, I’ve never understood the appeal of Southwest’s so-called “open seating” scheme in the first place. I can’t stand the way people crowd cattle-like into the pre-flight holding pens, staring daggers at each other as a means of holding their territory. I hate the sprint down the jetway, the fight for overhead bins, and the inevitable, exasperating wait as people to settle in the first rows, and I can only stare longingly at the unreachable empty rows in the way back.

And now, I get to endure the whole thing while toting a cranky toddler.

And perhaps more importantly: If my precious pea and I don’t get to board first, those A-list boarders who find her less than enchanting won’t have the chance to choose to sit far away from us.

On a (possibly) related note: On our trip in August, Southwest made me sign vouchers acknowledging that they are not financially responsible for damage to our car seat and/or stroller — items they check in excess of the usual baggage restrictions. At the time, this seemed an understandable cost-saving measure, but now I wonder if there’s a larger trend.

–Sara Steffens

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No Responses to “Flying with toddlers? Get in line!”

  1. ItsAboutTime Says:

    Traveling with children should not be EVERYONE’S burden, so I am glad to see Southwest finally getting this one correct! If you have every flown into or out of San Diego or John Wayne airports, you have seen the pre-boarding line 50-passengers long. It’s ridiculous. If I arrive to the gate on time, I do not expect to wait for the convenience of families. The wisdom of pre-boarding the elderly and disabled remains intact.
    Another one for the good-guys!

  2. Vicki Says:

    I agree with ItsAboutTime. Those traveling with children have typically rushed to the gate five minutes before the flight, only to be escorted on ahead of everyone else who has been waiting for a long time. Sorry, folks: children can learn to wait, too. It builds character.

  3. jb Says:

    Such interesting comments! When I first started flying with my kids when they were little, I used the early boarding option, but quickly discovered that we all – us and our fellow passengers – benefited if my tots ran a few laps ’round the airport and boarded a little later in the process. Of course, that wasn’t on Southwest, where cattle call has its own special,tortuous meaning! But when you’re flying another carrier and you’ve got an assigned seat, why lengthen the time your toddler has to be in it?

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