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United Airlines Will Let Families Board Early—Again

The Short of It

United Airlines will once again allow families with young children to board early.

The Lowdown

Families flying on United used to be allowed to board early, but they've been forced to board with everyone else since April 2012, when the airline revamped its boarding process. But starting Feb. 15, families with children age 2 and younger will get to settle in their seats before other passengers get on and start vying for prime overhead bin space.

Although family boarding policies vary from airline to airline—some let them go first, while others board families right after first class—United was the last holdout. According to Sandra Pineau-Boddison, United's senior vice president of customers, the move comes as part of a larger effort by the airline to be more attentive to passengers' needs.

"It takes a little bit of the stress out of the travel situation," she told ABC News. "Some things are just the right thing to do."

Here's a roundup of the current U.S. airline family boarding policies:

  • Alaska Airlines: Families with children younger than 2 can board first, before first class and elite customers.
  • American Airlines: Families with children board before first class and elite members upon request only. The age is at the discretion of the gate agent.
  • Delta Airlines: Families with car seats or strollers can board before first class and elite members.
  • Frontier Airlines: Families with children 3 and younger board after the airline's elite members and those who have paid for extra legroom but before the rest of the plane.
  • JetBlue Airways: Families with children younger than 2 board after elite members and passengers in premium seats but before the rest of the plane.
  • Southwest Airlines: An adult traveling with a child 6 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 Airlines: Families board after passengers who paid extra to board early and those who purchased space for a carry-on bag in the overhead bin.
  • Virgin America: Families with young children can board after passengers in first class, in the extra legroom seats, who paid for early boarding, who have elite status and who own a Virgin America credit card. They do get to board before other coach passengers.

The Upshot

Traveling with a family isn't always so easy. And obviously not all airlines are created equally when it comes to catering to kids. Knowing what to expect in terms of free snacks, free in-air entertainment, WiFi availability, and boarding policies can be half the battle.

What do you think; are you more likely to fly with United now that families can board first?

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