As if air travel weren’t unpleasant enough these days, as if there are a few family travelers left in America who didn’t actually feel like second-class citizens when they fly, United Airlines last month stripped us of the last remaining perk we have when we parents travel with our young kids: They killed the early boarding program.
You know the program; the only thing about the flying experience that doesn’t make you want to go all Naomi Campbell on some flight attendant’s ass, the opportunity to schlep our kids and our stuff and our kids’ stuff on the plane before just about everyone else.
Now, however, even if you’re Octomom, you can’t get on the plane until your boarding group is called.
Formal news of this egregious policy change hit airwaves this week. In the stories, a United spokesperson was quoted as saying that the airline ended pre-boarding for families “to simplify the boarding process and to reduce the overall number of boarding groups."
Personally, I think that’s a crock of Diaper Genie—especially since the move comes at a time when airlines increasingly are charging fees for passengers to board early and sit in certain seats.
In other words, to quote the flack at United, I’m not sure how this will “simplify” anything.
Think about it. Boarding a plane as a family is a production. Allowing families to board early isolated this rigmarole, minimizing the risk of delay by managing it separately. Now, however, forcing families to board with everyone else undoubtedly will create logjams—which, in turn, will a) slow down the boarding process and b) “inspire” other passengers to loathe family travelers even more than they already do.
Sure, I understand the financial motivation behind this choice—if you’re an airline and you can get people to spend money to board early, why would you let them pre-board for free? But as a parent, I can’t help but see this as the latest step in a seemingly relentless effort to relegate family travelers to the roads. I won’t stand for it. And neither should you.