Southwest Airlines To Test New Boarding Procedure

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As I was on a work trip this week, I overheard some customer service employees mention that Southwest Airlines will be testing out some new ideas for family boarding. The test will initially take place at the Orlando airport and not all flights will have the new boarding test so be on the lookout if one of your flights does.

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While the exact specifics of the trial are unknown, it should be going on for about two weeks and the plan is that they are going to be experimenting with changing the age range for eligible children as while as when family boarding will occur in the boarding process.

Southwest‘s current Family Boarding states that an adult traveling with a child four years old or younger may board during Family Boarding, which occurs after the “A” group has boarded and before the “B” group. If the child and the adult are both holding an “A” boarding pass, they should both board with the “A” boarding group.

Bottom Line:

I have mixed feelings on this one. Part of me thinks – if the current system isn’t broken, then why fix it? But I also think that it doesn’t hurt to try something different.

What do you think about Southwest Airlines Family Boarding?  Any ideas on how to improve the system?

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  1. I hope the increase the age range for family boarding. I assume the primary reason for letting families board relatively early is to make sure they can sit together. A five-year old is too young to have to sit alone.

  2. A number of times I have seen parents with a 4 yr old or younger board along with the other children (of course) and also an extended family of 4 or 5 other adults trail along with them. Not exactly sure why they all need to sit together.

  3. I rarely fly SW and one big reason is the seating system. I’d be happy to see them try something different. I’m stuck flying them next week and dreading it.

  4. The only thing that’s has sometimes irritated me with the family boarding is when you see them get on “to sit together” and then they leave gaps (middle seat open). That’s kind of taking too much advantage of a nice gesture,

  5. I hate Southwests boarding plan regardless of family boarding. They are encouraging the practice of hogging windows and aisles by the early boarders.

  6. Umm… Susan, and with every other airline where passengers can pick their seats online beforehand, people DON’T hog the windows and aisles???

  7. From a SWA flight attendant. Children across the USA generally don’t start kindergarten until the age of 6. Which means that child could have very well been home with a parent since birth and/or attended some sort of school or day care where they know the drill and their surroundings and feel safe. Often we see kids that have never flown before. So, when the parent and child over the age of 4 boards after “family boarding” and we don’t have seats together, it becomes a problem. Flight attendants ask people to move around to get seats together and we often beg people over the PA. We generally get lucky and people move, however, we get the evil, snake eye from the person who moves. They are not happy about it, they picked that seat!! It is stressful for the child and parent if they sit one here and one there. Often the seats could be rows apart and we have a younger child scared because they have to sit between strangers with the parent somewhere else. Also, I have seen the passengers that have the child sit in that center seat get grumpy because they have a kid next to them. Our goal is to get people from point “A” to point “B” happy!

  8. This actually occurred on my flight today from ATL to DCA. Was a bit disruptive, as it was not announced in advance, although the folks with children seemed to know the drill. I know some love SW and it serves its purpose – low cost carrier for Joe Public, but this is just another reason to never fly again (not my normal airline), as I saw approximately 20 people board ahead of me for this reason alone. I still managed to get my aisle seat with no problem in position B-1, but felt a little put out by this. Many others said the same.

  9. Ok. So I know I am in the minority here from the comments I have read but I think they should do away with family boarding all together. Either pay $13 per person for early bird check in or stalk you computer screen exactly 24 hours before your flight like the rest of os have to. I was on a flight recently, paid the $26 for the 2 of us for early bird check in, we got b-1 & b-2. I wasn’t thrilled but thought it is what it is. After the entire A group boarded they board a ridiculous amount of “families”. When I say families I mean mom, 1 dad, 1 little kid, a 10 year old and 2 teenagers in a family. I am obviously only guessing here but all together it was about 25 people. I truly wouldn’t have a problem if they let 1 parent on with a child 4 and under but letting the other parent with the 3 other siblings is not ok in my book. I thought to myself why did I pay extra money to board… We did wind up getting seats together otherwise I would have tried to get a refund.

  10. I’m very nervous as I didn’t know about 4 and under policy. My daughter will be turning 5 on our vacation. There’s no way she’d be able to put on an oxygen mask on by herself is something happened and we couldn’t sit together. And she’s be so scared sitting apart from her family. Boy did I make a mistake booking w/this airline. No one should be worrying like this before a trip. It’s a matter of safety of a child. It should be under 8. 5 is too young.

  11. Gina,
    It says 4 and under, but honestly Southwest is good with Family boarding! Don’t take advantage of it and have 10 people board with you, but if you and your daughter want to do family boarding they won’t turn you away!

    If people have an issue with family boarding, simply don’t fly Southwest. Southwest has always been a “family” airline, and I’m sure that’ll never change. Personally, when it’s just me flying I have no problem boarding last even…I will take the middle seat, mainly because when I fly with my child who is 5, and has severe anxiety, i expect to be able to board earlier with her. If/When i’m alone and someone with a child gets separated from them i will volunteer my window/isle seat (no matter if i paid the extra amount or not) I wouldn’t want to be separated from my child, nor would I want to be sitting next to someone else small child.

    It comes down to common courtesy. No matter what, it won’t slow any process down the same amount of people will be getting on the plane no matter what.

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