Southwest Airlines: Kids Can’t Board First

After hearing complaints from business travelers who whined about families pre-boarding, grabbing all the best seats before the first boarding group, Southwest Airlines has decided to have families board between groups A and B.  This is a strangely family-unfriendly move from an airline that has always treated kids well.  I appreciate that business travelers (like myself) have it hard and paid more for tickets and boo hoo.  If you’ve ever traveled with kids, you know it sucks and having a bit of extra time on the plane is useful.  No mini-skirts?  No pre-boarding for kids?  Not a great PR week for Southwest…


  1. In the article they stated that it wasn’t fair that families with children show up at the last minute and get onto the aircraft first. If they only realized how difficult it is too carry an infant through security (taking apart car seats, taking off shoes, etc.), finding a restroom to change diapers, breast feeding, all while dragging strollers, car seats, diaper bags, etc.!!! Getting to the gate takes people with babies longer and we are usually sweating, tired and anxious when we do finally make it there!!!

    I find this very disturbing as I travel (mostly alone) with our young son often and find the pre-boarding necessary! We need time to get settled, get the car seat strapped into the seat, settle the baby, etc. If a woman is breast feeding, we need to find a seat we feel comfortable in (location).

    Shame on SW Airlines.

  2. On a recent flight the flight attendant actually said: “If you are travelling with small children, I’m so sorry!” during the spiel about putting on your O2 mask first. They also dismantled the children’s play area at our home-airport. They seriously do not want families to EVER fly with them again! My sister who flew the same weekend reported that a flight attendant told an irritated father that “we want to serve our passengers that fly with us often” whereupon the father said: “I fly with you often!” I think this is a calculated move on SW’s part to get the families OUT.

  3. I think I was on the flight Wanda mentioned. The very unfriendly flight attendent had the nerve to say this as the women behind me tried to negotiate her infant carrier through 17 narrow rows so she could get a seat with her other children.

    I also traveled with my 2 and 5 year old and we were lucky we had an A 30 ticket because we were at the back of the plane trying to find a row of three together.

    I appreciate that buisness people are frustrated but they were once children themselves and I am sure they wouldn’t want their mothers treated they way people and flight crew treated families on this flight. I am used to the glares from people with out children when your child is having a hard time. But preboarding families is a way for a buisness traveler to find a place to sit far away from families if they choose. When we are made to board the plane last I cannot control if I am sitting behind you and my child is kicking your seat. This is a calculated move to ditch the families.

    In the Sacramento Airport the SW children’s play area has been removed. The statement is clear SW doesn’t want my “families” buisness.

  4. I came iupon this blog searching for information about why Southwest treated me and my family so horribly this past week on a trip to Disneyland. I fly by myself with Southwest for work all the time and never noticed their treatment of travelers with kids. I was stunned! My five year old started crying vociferously after he was seated with strangers. The flight attendant told him to be quiet or he was going to be kicked off the plane and he wouldn’t get to go to Disneyland.

    Do you think I will ever fly Southwest again if I am controlling the choice?

    Do you think I am going to tell EVERYONE I KNOW about this experience?

    I think this is a symptom of what happens when a company becomes so larger that they stop looking at customers as individuals.

  5. I recently flew 4 times with Southwest over the last 2 months after they changed their boarding process for families, and I have to say, I REALLY hate it. It has become so difficult to travel with my 1 year old alone, that I am contemplating switching airlines.

    Because of the new boarding process, and since I was traveling alone, I purposely purchased a “Business Select” fare to help me get settled sooner since I also had to gate-check and fold-up her stroller and car seat. I checked in online as soon as I was eligible to and got the boarding position A1. Great for me, right? But did that do me ANY good? NOPE! Not a single flight attendant or boarding attendant bothered to assist me at the end of the jetway while I was holding my daughter in one hand and was trying to fold the stroller with the other. And of course no other passengers bothered to help either…they were too busy getting on the plane. So what happened? I ended up paying almost 3x what I should have, and about half the passengers boarded before me. What kind of service is this?

    On the other 3 flights, I also struggled in this same way, rushing to try to get the stroller folded and carseat set aside as others hoarded past me while no SW employees bothered to help.

    This is an outrage. While I appreciate the new boarding process with assigned positions, I absolutely ABHORE how families are forced to board later rather than first with the disabled.

    And before I forget, I want to share what I went through while I was checking in my lap child at Chicago’s Midway. Normally, there is a counter on the side set aside for the disabled requiring assistance, and for families needing assistance (e.g., verifying the age of a lap-child). When I approached the counter, after the lady in front of me, I was told that I had to go stand in the extremely long line “with everyone else” because “this counter” is only for “handicapped needing assistance”. So I proceeded to the very long line and struggled to pull my luggage with one hand, push the stroller with the other, and appease my frustrated crying daughter like some circus entertainer for all to see. As a result, my baggage was “late checked”, and when arriving at my home airport, my luggage didn’t make it. Did I need all that stress? NO. Can Southwest avoid all this hassle for families. Yes. My suggestion is they get a move on fixing this problem, or they’re going to be losing a lot of once-loyal customers like me. Please, PLEASE change families back to pre-boarding!!!

    (Note: Feel free to forward this to Southwest Airlines on my behalf.)

  6. if your kids need to be boarded 1st with you, just but the select fare, and quit whining. u gotta pay for things.

  7. by the way, go ahead and fly the other airlines if you are so outraged and you are probably loyal to southwest because of the great airfares they provide and ontime service and other advantages of flying southewest, but if you want to whine about switching to another airline if you don’t get your way, you will pay a lot more. and just maybe they won’t be much different, hey- the airline industry is under a lot of financial pressure these days… so get a grip….. and most important people, why not just buy the Southwest select fare and get on the plane first. If it’s that important to you, pay for it.
    It doesn’t cost that much more, But if you have one of those deep deep discount fares, think about it … it is that big of a deal to board between a and be? quit whining and grow up

  8. I flew to Disney with a 4 year old and 7 year old. After asking several employees, I was told family’s with children 4 years old or younger can board after the A Group. I had the first B group # myself and my family had lower B #’s. The lady behind me had the second B # and went off for about 5 minutes. What numbers do they have, you can not have concurrent numbers, ect. Finally I told her the airline said family’s with children under four could board together, her kids were about 10 and 12. I told her she could just go in front of us, but her husband ( Unlucky guy, she was a real b&$*@. ) set her straight and let us board first. This was the only negative our Disney vacation. Point being, she didn’t know about the policy, but really had the same concern of me, just her kids were older she worried about them sitting together. It was awkward. SOLUTION: Let the family’s board first, but they must start at the back of the plane, and fill up every possible seat. I will either pay the top fair to be seated first or fly another airline ( which for us means a different airport for direct flights )

  9. James A. Brabazon

    Update, after writing and talking to a southwest employee, we have change airlines. This means for us using Boston’s Logan instead of the more convenient TF Green in Providence. Being assured of sitting together with my 6 and 10 year old is that important. I think family’s with children older than 4 should be aware that there policy is first come first serve, and jumping threw hoops such as registering kid age verified online to print their boarding passes and ect. to try to help you get on earlier together are a hassle. Until they assure families can sit together, we have change to jetBlue.

  10. Just came across this and I thought I would add my two cents.

    As a business traveler, I love flying Southwest, and one of the main reasons why I love it is BECAUSE of this policy. Business travelers make up an enormous portion of the revenues for airlines, so the fact that Southwest has chosen to target that segment is a perfectly reasonable business plan. (I myself fly them between 2 and 6 times a week, every week. Sorry, but your annual trip to Disney can’t really compete.) Besides, all of this whining from the parents above sounds familiar – probably because I have to sit next to their whine-y kids on all the other airlines! Shoot me now. And seriously parents, all of this could just be solved in you just CHECKED IN AND GOT THERE EARLY.

    Bottom line: I’m paying twice as much for a ticket as you are and doing it multiple times a week. As a result, I get to sit in front. You want to sit in front? Pay up. Period. Until then, keep your and your kids’ whining in the back of the plane and away from me.

  11. Wow! Sarah. I can obviously tell you don’t have kids, and if you do, I feel sorry for them.

  12. I guess Sarah was never a kid herself, and her parents didn’t love her enough to take her to Disney. I have a feeling she is really fat. Just a guess.