There’s one main airline within the U.S. with no assigned seats: Southwest Airways. As an alternative, you line up on the gate in ascending order of boarding task, then step onto the aircraft and declare your most well-liked out there seat in a first-come,-first-to-pick association. There are as much as 60 individuals in every boarding group.
The Southwest boarding process is mostly not as unhealthy as it could sound. Nonetheless, on the very least, it is an uncommon method that may provoke anxiousness for households and others who cannot verify seats collectively prematurely.
For years, Southwest has allowed time for household boarding (for these with youngsters 6 and beneath) between its A and B boarding teams in an effort to make sure dad and mom and little children can sit collectively. This helps forestall a scenario the place center seats are the one choices left for kids towards the latter finish of the boarding course of.
Now, Southwest is experimenting with a dramatic shift within the household boarding course of.
Based mostly on a number of stories — together with my very own boarding expertise at Dallas Love Subject (DAL) in late 2022 — some Southwest flight boarding bulletins are using an expanded household boarding age vary that features youngsters all the way in which as much as 13 years outdated.
That wasn’t the one boarding change I noticed on my Southwest Airways flight in late 2022. The youngest flyers as much as age 6 had been invited to board throughout a portion of the preboarding course of, which occurred earlier than the numbered boarding assignments had been referred to as.
Southwest Airways didn’t verify this potential check or any alteration to the household boarding course of to TPG. As an alternative, the corporate states that the boarding coverage stays unchanged to incorporate youngsters 6 and beneath between the A and B boarding teams, in line with an organization spokesperson.
The present revealed coverage leaves dad and mom with children as younger as 7 in a worrying place. With youngsters too outdated for household boarding, these households need to hope they’ll test in quick sufficient to safe boarding place. The alternate options: They may buy the airline’s EarlyBird Check-In, which begins at $15 per individual, or they might pay for A1-A15 assured early boarding positions which promote for $30-$60 every, when out there.
Associated: Best credit cards for Southwest flyers
Join our each day publication
Whereas it didn’t verify trials of any expanded eligible household boarding age vary, the airline has beforehand shared that it’s conducting a targeted trial of early boarding for children 6 and under.
Getting that youngest age vary on first earlier than common boarding is logical as a result of that group probably has automobile seats and strollers; thus, they’re slower to get on board. Within the Atlanta trial, households taking part in that early boarding should choose seats behind the exit row. This might alleviate some issues about younger households getting early entry to the widely most well-liked first few rows when there are different flyers who paid additional to be larger within the boarding order.
Solely time will inform if extra Southwest Airways flights board with the expanded household boarding age ranges. Nevertheless, it is price observing that this might be a straightforward means for the airline to maintain households with children ages 13 or youthful seated collectively with out further charges — one thing a Department of Transportation notice despatched in June 2022 instructed airways to do.