July 25, 2014

United: No Preboarding for Kids

English: United Airlines Boeing 777 (N223UA) t...

United Airlines wearing the post-merger livery combining the United name with the Continental logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are you and your family heading off for Memorial Day weekend? Don’t forget your patience pills and noise cancelling earphones because United Airlines has jumped on the “no preboarding for children” bandwagon.

Is this a step forward or backward for childfree air travelers who resent special treatment given to families flying in coach class with babies and young children?

Though it’s still too early to say, what initially looks like an egalitarian step forward for childfree fliers could prove to be an aggravating setback. Though special treatment for parents may seem unfair, it actually speeds the boarding process by sorting and situating families (and their mountains of travel gear) so that childfree travelers can efficiently board without waiting in the aisles.

What better way to find out if United’s policy change is a step forward or backward than a travel swarm weekend? Memorial Day dishes up notoriously congested travel conditions, so we should have a pretty clear assessment by early next week.

“We figured it would be better to simplify that process and reduce the number of boarding groups,” said United spokesman Charles Hobart. The airline does allow passengers with children traveling in first class or business class to board early. (CNN.com)

United changed their preboarding policy back in Apri, but likely kept the the topic mum to avoid a public relations backlash.

“There are very few things a parent can count on when it comes to air travel these days, but one of those things was always the ability to board first to get your children settled in and all of their needs met before the throngs of people board the plane,” said [Kate] Hanni in an e-mail to CNN. “I hope United changes their mind.” (CNN.com)

While ending preboarding for children may be perceived as a less family centric customer service initiative, United still invites passengers who need special assistance for any reason to present at the gate prior to boarding so that a United agent can accommodate them. Stemming at least in part from United’s 2010 merger with Continental, the policy apparently represents a reasonable consensus across both airlines.

“We transitioned to a common boarding process across all aircraft,” Hobart said. (CNN.com)

Ready to be a guinea pig? Safe travels and don’t forget to weigh in afterward.

About virtualDavis

G.G. Davis, Jr. (aka virtualDavis) is a writer, storyteller, unabashed flâneur and eager-beaver uncle. Despite two whiz-bang nieces, two superstar nephews, and rewarding teaching/coaching stints at the American School of Paris and Santa Fe Preparatory School, he remains willingly, enthusiastically and happily childfree. His WNK posts are part of an ongoing attempt to understand why. Rosslyn Redux, a transmedia chronicle about rehabilitating an historic property in the Adirondacks, offers a more ironic twist on his childfree adventure. He also blogs at virtualDavis.com and EssexonLakeChamplain.com. Connect with G.G. Davis, Jr. via Twitter, Facebook or Google+.