Family Boarding Policy: United Airlines Makes Drastic Change, Now Allows Early Boarding For Families

United Airlines is making a big change to their family boarding policy, and it is music to the ears of those with young children. The change is scheduled to begin on February 15, and United’s senior vice president of customers says the policy shift is part of a larger effort to be more attentive to passengers’ needs, a report from Consumerist explained.

United’s new family boarding policy allows families with children age two and younger to board the plane before other passengers.

Speaking with the Associated Press regarding the change, Sandra Pineau-Boddison, United’s senior vice president of customers, gave the following statement.

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

Previously, families with small children flying coach were allowed to board planes before others, which was a big convenience for moms and dads trying to herd their kids across the friendly skies. However, in 2012, United Airlines stopped allowing families to board early and the company got rid of pre-boarding for families entirely. According to a United spokesperson, the airline “figured it would be better to simplify that process and reduce the number of boarding groups.”

The move frustrated many parents when it was announced, and one upset mother wrote the below text on United’s website.

“I think it’s inconsiderate for United Airlines to not allow parents with infants to pre-board. It is extremely stressful for both parents and babies to maneuver the aisles with passengers with their carry-on while holding an infant. My daughter traveled on the red eye from San Francisco with her baby, who almost got smacked in the head by a passenger trying to put their suitcase into the overhead rack. I think this new policy is a terrible one.”

Shortly after United changed their family boarding policy, American Airlines, Delta, and US Airways decided to also end pre-boarding for passengers with children. At the time, an American Airlines representative attempted to explain the reasoning behind the change by saying that “pre-boarding for people with children could easily translate into most of the passengers for the flight.”

As a report from the Associated Press explained, boarding passengers as fast as possible is a top priority for most airlines, and a big part of their revenue comes from selling early boarding directly to passengers or via credit card partnerships.

Air travel is full of opportunities to disappoint customers, and based on major performance metrics (delays, cancellations, baggage problems and oversold tickets) United has been, since 2012, the worst or nearly the worst among its competitors. In 2012, according to a report from the Department of Transportation, United was responsible for 43 percent of all complaints filed by consumers against U.S. airlines. In a 2015 survey conducted by J.D. Power & Associates, United ranked last in customer satisfaction among U.S. airlines, reports Bloomberg.

United Airlines is struggling to improve the traveling experience for passengers and they recently agreed to pay $2.8 million in fines for tarmac delays and the poor treatment of disabled passengers.

“United is off-the-charts worse than anything I’ve ever seen,” says Lenny Mendonca, a retired senior partner at McKinsey. “Despite having flown more than 3 million miles with the airline, he says, ‘If I have any other alternative, I will fly someone else.’ ”

Five years have passed since United Airlines and Continental Airlines joined forces to create one of the largest airlines in the world, and the merger has not gone well.

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