Are families getting stiffed by airlines? There’s been lots of chatter recently over perceived family-unfriendly moves by carriers: charging parents and children extra to sit together, tossing a crying 3-year-old from a flight after he refused to buckle up, doing away with family pre-boarding.
It’s this last straw that broke Manhattanite Kaja Meade’s back. Meade is mom to Dex, who’ll turn 9 months old later this month. They fly a lot, and Meade says her sanity depends on airlines’ time-honored practice of letting families with young kids board the flight ahead of the plebeians.
The recent news that United Airlines is joining US Airways and American Airlines in jettisoning family pre-boarding prompted Meade to get all 2012 on them. She logged on to Change.org and created a petition late last week addressed to the CEO of United Airlines, which has a more rigid policy than do US Airways or American. “I’m calling on United to fly high for families and keep preboarding for families,” states the document, which more than 36,000 people have signed. As of Wednesday, Meade had not been contacted by United.
In an explanation on Change.org of why she’s so fired up, Meade wrote:
Preboarding makes traveling with my family a lot easier. It can be stressful to travel with a baby and it takes time to get them situated on the plane. Preboarding is not an amenity, but a necessary service for family customers like me. Plus, I know other fellow flyers appreciate it when they don’t get held back because parents like myself need time to get our family seated (for example, by popping in and out of the aisle a couple times in the first few moments on the plane.) I’m also concerned that other travelers who benefit from preboarding, like elderly travelers and those with disabilities, will eventually be impacted by these changes in airlines’ policies.
A gerontologist by training, that’s not just idle talk. If everyone from babies to elderly folks are impacted, says Meade, perhaps this is not a policy that makes much sense. “It adds an element of communal distress that doesn’t need to be there,” says Meade.
And, like Meade notes, don’t forget about the child-free passengers; they’re going to be ticked off too if they’re forced to tap their toes in the aisle while parents dart back and forth trying to situate tots, car seats, diaper bags and sippy cups. “Family pre-boarding helps babies settle in, and happy babies make the flight more enjoyable for all the other passengers,” noted Margie Robinson, a mother of twins and former frequent flier.
Meade took to the skies with Dex most recently on Wednesday. Needless to say, she did not fly United.