United family boarding policy change is welcome news for passengers

February 3, 2016 | By Garrett Montgomery More

United Airlines changes its family boarding policy to allow families with children under the age of two to board flights before other passengers. Travelers are applauding United Airlines for following other companies like Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, and Southwest.

United family boarding policy

United modified its family boarding policy to allow families with young children to board early.

In a press release issued by United Airlines, Inc., headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, it was revealed that effective February 15 families with children age two and younger can board planes before other passengers. Travelers with small children will now be able to settle in their seats and fix their luggage in overhead bin space before others.

The move is being applauded because the world’s largest airline is one of the rare companies not to have this policy in place. For multiple reasons, in 2012, United changed its boarding policies eliminating the rule that made it possible for some families to skip in front of everybody else.

Like most other airlines, United kept its family boarding policy in place for passengers traveling first class and elite class. Sandra Pineau-Boddison, United’s senior vice president of customers, says the change in policy is part of a larger effort to make their clients happy and take out the frustration in the process. Pineau-Boddison stated:

“It takes a little bit of the stress out of the travel situation. Some things are just the right thing to do.”

According to experts, the policy change is also beneficial for the airline company:

“It also helps the airline get a plane out on time. Having all the strollers gate-checked at once frees baggage handlers who later have to deal with storing carry-on bags under the plane because there is no overhead bin space left.”

The current U.S. airline family boarding policies are:

Alaska: Families with children under two can board at the beginning of the process, before first class and elite customers.

American: Families with children board before first class and elite members upon request only. The age is at the discretion of the gate agent.

Delta: Families with car seats or strollers can board before first class and elite members.

Frontier: Families with children age three and younger board after the airline’s elite members and those who have paid for extra legroom but before the rest of the plane.

Hawaiian: Families with children under the age of two can board before first class and elite members.

JetBlue: Families with children under the age of two board after elite members and passengers in premium seats but before the rest of the plane.

Southwest: An adult traveling with a child six years old or younger may board during Family Boarding, which occurs after the “A” group has boarded and before the “B” group begins boarding.

Spirit: Families board after passengers who paid extra to board early and those who purchased space for a carry-on bag in the overhead bin.

United: Starting Feb. 15, families with children age two and under can board before first class and elite members.

Virgin America: Families with young children can board after first class passengers, those in the extra legroom seats, passengers who paid for early boarding, those with elite status and those with a Virgin America credit card. They do get to board before other coach passengers.

According to experienced travelers, it takes patience and lots of toys, books, and puzzles to distract children, who are flying for the first time.

What are your thoughts on United family boarding policy changes?


Category: News

Comments (16)

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  1. BSM says:

    Airlines should load planes from the tail forward. This eliminates jostling thru elbows and standing in the aisle (s) while other passengers situate themselves and their luggage holding up the rest.

    • JC says:

      This guy named Jason Steffen did some work on how best to load the airplane.


      The result is basically, nothing really helps. The free-for-all model that SW has is the most efficient way, according to this research.

    • Jenee V says:

      Loading from the tail is the same as loading from the front….the only difference is you will get hit in the back of the head inside the face. Either way there will be a line in the isle always.

      • Jessy says:

        I disagree on this one. If the plane was loaded from the back to the front, and people checked their luggage instead of carrying it on, it would be a very straight forward get on the plane, sit down, and move out. The delays getting on and off are entirely related to luggage, or people moving to get in and out of seats. I am a 100 flight a year guy and I see it every flight – guy gets on with a bookbag, a carry-on, and another smaller carry-on or laptop bag deal. Then they try and put the rollons in the wrong side, or they take up too much space. So when that happens, there’s no room for other people’s stuff, which has to go to the back. Or there is the classic “I am sitting in row 32 but I am going to put my bag over row 10”. So if everyone loaded from the back, and checked their luggage, we would all get to where we need to go sooner. It is actually a little senseless if you think about it, we load up “first class” first, just so we are onboard 30 minutes waiting.

    • marieD says:

      Airlines used to load the plane from the back forward. That makes more sense to me. I was in Group 2 for a flight and thought I would board fairly early in the process but by the time every elite category under the sun boarded, I was one of the last to board.

  2. Sammie says:

    People who choose to travel with kids inconvenience all the rest of the passengers the entire flight with that constant whining, screaming, and spitting and kicking.
    Personally, I would like to see them relegated to the very back of the plane where they belong so the rest of us do not have to deal with their disgusting children. Why should we be inconvenienced by waiting for them?

    • Auntlala says:

      Bravo! And those that choose to have families absolutely take advantage of their choice and EXPECT people that surround them to accommodate them with total disregard for others. There is no discipline or correction for their unruly children.

    • Rick says:

      Maybe you should just drive and stop whining then.

      • Sammie says:

        Or they should respect the general public and drive. I have thought about this over and over. I don’t think I should be forced to be subject to body fluids and physical abuse from any human even a child. As an adult, could you kick the seat of another passenger?

        • tammy says:

          Sammie did you forget to take your meds this morning? body fluids, physical abuse from a child really? To answer your questions yes adults have kicked the seats of other passengers.

        • dan says:

          What about those of us subjected to annoying, self-righteous people like you? Maybe airlines should also start requiring personality tests before boarding and then relegate fools like you to sit in the cargo hold

    • tammy says:

      What gives you the right to call children disgusting? I’m guessing by your comment that you just HATE children. There are plenty of Adults that have inconvenienced other passengers as well, and I’m sure you are one of them as your whining has just proven that. Take Rick advice and drive.

    • Rhonda says:

      your sense of entitlement boggles the mind. May you never have children they obviously would suffer for it.

  3. Frequent Flyer says:

    I’d rather have a plane full of screaming children than fly with United again.

  4. Sharon Bates says:

    Families should board last! WHY? The less time the child has to sit still on a plane the better. Boarding last, one they will see all the nice people sitting and two the passengers can run and hide when they see them coming!!!

  5. TR Pierce says:

    This policy will just allow the boarding process to be lengthened even more. Those of us that travel every week for business, sometimes on multiple flights, have to deal with people who bring their worldly belongings with them as well as strollers. booster seats, etc. and block/slow the process down. Business travelers know to get on, “bag up” and sit down! Families, not so much!!

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