Well, at least one is trying to be. Southwest Airlines recently announced that it is experimenting with innovative ways to board and seat traveling families. The company calls it their “Family Boarding and Seating Plan” and has been testing out a few different ways to conduct boarding for those people single passengers glare at in the gate area.
According to Southwest officials, most of the testing has been done on flights departing from San Antonio, Texas. Some of the boarding and seating options being tested by the airline include: having designated rows for family seating, having families board with no onboard designated area, and pre-boarding families as they would normally.
Those familiar with Southwest know that the airline currently has an open seating policy. Basically, seating on the plane is first-come-first-serve, so allowing families to board first provides them with the opportunity to sit together. In regards to having a designated seating area in the plane for families, the company is quick to point out that the approach is not intended to segregate families from business travelers.
Personally, I found the timing of Southwest’s family boarding and seating experiment to be quite interesting. It follows quickly on the heels of several high-profile incidents involving passengers with children, including the one involving the mother and her chatty tot who were booted from a flight after a frustrated flight attendant couldn’t convince the mom to give her child Benadryl.
Another incident involved a mom who dumped the contents of her child’s sippy cup on the floor of an airport after security agents said she couldn’t bring the liquid with her on the plane. The Transportation Security Administration took the unusual step of posting a video of the incident on its website.
There is also the incident which took place earlier this year—a family was forced off an AirTran flight when their child threw a tantrum and refused to wear a seatbelt. And who can forget the highly publicized incident, which took place last year, involving a nursing mother who was kicked off a plane because she refused to cover up.
Let’s face it; when it comes to air travel and children everyone seems to have an opinion. On one side you have the passengers who are extremely outspoken about unruly children and crying babies. And on the other side, you have those who say passengers and even flight attendants are sometimes needlessly hostile to parents trying to deal with the challenge of traveling with young children.
As for Southwest’s family boarding and seating experiment, airline officials say they will continue their testing for a few more weeks, and then use the data collected to draw a conclusion.
To read the lessons I’ve learned flying with my child and to find out what I think about airlines becoming more family friendly check out these related articles: