Are you traveling with children to your holiday destination? Depending on your ages and the airline you have chosen, you may be able to board the plane early and settle into your seats before the cattle call the bus passengers.
Please note that policies may vary on different airlines. Some airlines invite families to board in front of everyone else, while others allow families to slip somewhere between elite passengers and regular bus fliers.
Why don’t all airlines offer the same policy? Airlines want to board passengers as quickly as possible, but they also want to reward their elite passengers. Additionally, airlines make money by selling early boarding privileges directly to passengers.
A smart guide for parents to fly with kids
Even if your airline offers family early boarding, there are caveats. For some families, boarding first can be counterproductive because it prolongs the time that young children are confined to their seats on the plane. Remember that once the passengers are boarded, the plane still has to roll on the runway and wait in line to take off. Boarding too early can mean your child is tied up for up to 45 minutes before the plane is airborne.
To minimize the time a child is confined to an airplane seat, many families use this proven trick: One parent gets in early and puts away the family’s carry-on bags and other belongings and installs the child’s car seat. . Meanwhile, the other parent waits in the departure lounge with the child until the regular boarding time. This gives mobile infants and toddlers more time to move before boarding the plane.
One thing families no longer have to worry about is sitting together, thanks to the passage of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization act in July 2016, which requires airlines to seat families with children under the age of 13. without forcing them to pay for premium seats.
American Airline Family Boarding Policies
Alaska Airlines: Families with children under the age of 2 can board first, before first class and elite customers.
American Airlines: Families with young children can board earlier than First Class and Elite members only on request. The maximum age of the child is at the discretion of the gate agent.
Delta Air Lines: Families with strollers (to check the gate) and car seats (to install on the plane) can board earlier than first and elite class members.
Frontier Airlines: Families with children 3 and under on board after elite members and passengers who have paid for extra legroom, but before all other passengers.
Hawaiian Airlines: Families with children under the age of 2 can board earlier than First Class and Elite members.
JetBlue Airways: Families with children under the age of 2 board after elite members and passengers in premium seats, but before bus passengers.
Southwest Airlines: One adult and one child 6 years or younger can board during the family boarding, which is after group “A” and before group “B”.
Spirit Airlines: Families can board after passengers who paid the most to board early and those who paid for overhead compartment space for a carry-on bag.
United Airlines: Families with children under the age of 2 can board earlier than First Class and Elite members.
Virgin America: Families with young children can board before regular bus riders, but after all other premium categories. (These include first-class passengers, passengers who paid for extra legroom and early boarding, those with elite status, and those with a Virgin America credit card.) Families can board before other bus passengers.
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