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Won’t be Flying on United Airlines Again Anytime Soon

I’ve had the opportunity to fly with children cross-country twice this year, once on Northwest and once on United.

Northwest offers early boarding for those traveling with small children which was so great as I was traveling by myself with my 2 month old baby.  It was so nice to be able to board the plane and get situated without holding up the line.

So after that experience, imagine my disappointment when I learned a month later when traveling with my husband, 3 year old, and 3 month old that United doesn’t offer early boarding for those traveling with small children, only for disabled passengers.  There is so much that goes into boarding when you have kids with you, holding up the line of the entire plane of passengers only adds to the stress. 

Your family can only move as fast as its slowest member.  And anyone who has traveled with small children knows how slowly they can move down the jetway, onto the plane, down the aisle, until they come across their seat.  My husband and I were busy trying to quickly collapse the stroller at the end of the jetway so we could gate check it and my infant’s car seat then lugging Me with all of our stuffour toddler’s car seat down the aisle, installing the car seat, trapping, err buckling, her into the car seat, ensuring proper drinks, snacks, coloring books, crayons, headphones, iPods, laptops, and movies are organized within the pockets in front of us, and storing all carry-on bags and jackets in the overhead bins and beneath the seats in front of us.  Both my husband and I were sweating by the time we sat in our seats.

When I inquired with the United gate personnel scanning boarding passes, she assured me that ‘studies have shown’ that early boarding of those with small children was not as efficient as having everyone board at the same time.  Only disabled passengers are granted early boarding.  Apparently, it’s more efficient for the disabled to board early, but not those with small children even though I’m fairly certain that a disabled person would have been able to board the plane quicker than us.  When I told her that Northwest offered early boarding and how disappointed I was that United didn’t extend the same courtesy, her response was, "Well, you do have a choice on who you fly."  Nothing like a warm and fuzzy response right before you hold up an entire plane’s worth of people.

When I combine the no early boarding with the fact that United will start charging $25 for a second piece of checked luggage on May 6, 2008, I realized that United just doesn’t care about traveling families.  This past trip, we were gone for a week, so we checked 6 pieces of luggage not including the stroller and car seat that we gate checked and then we each had luggage we brought on the plane – a small backpack for my daughter, a huge backpack for my husband, my large diaper bag, and a briefcase containing our laptop.  I can’t imagine paying $75 in ‘excess luggage’ charges, in addition to the cost of our tickets, just for the privilege to fly United.  How can anyone go on an extended trip with two small children and only check three bags?

I would be very interested in knowing how this affects the number of families that chose to fly United.  I know for certain that their numbers just decreased by one.

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6 comments to Won’t be Flying on United Airlines Again Anytime Soon

  • Lisa Hecker

    I fly quite frequently and often with our three and five year olds. Southwest recently changed their policy to allow families with small children to only board after Group A and not early boarding. I guess watching my children board before stuffy business travelers was too much to bare……..as this change in policy occured after too many A class boarders complained. People have to be pretty far removed from having small children to not get that they take extra time. After reading your experience on United I will definitely not use that airline.

  • Maya Mouawad

    Thanks for the tip … I haven’t flown United for a while, but this policy “won’t fly with me and my 3 kids” anymore! We’ve flown both as a family and I’ve gone on short business trips by myself, and I can say that, in both cases, it’s great to have families with children board first. Not only do kids move slower down the jetway, they also tend to have limited patience for the waiting time and the lines before boarding the plane. I always end up leaving my place in line to follow one (or sometimes more than one) of my kids who was bored of waiting and decided to “go for a walk” or got suddenly hungry! I’m glad you shared your experience.

  • Umm, that’s just not right. Especially about the extra baggage fees their instating. I’m so glad that Frontier Airlines will be starting service to my town in May so that I can choose NOT to fly United. I hope you’ve sent in an official complaint too.

  • Vikki

    Thanks for the tip. We haven’t flown in a while, but we are getting ready to fly my husbands (ex-daughter-in-law) and her 3 children out for the summer from Georgia. She will be flying alone and will need as much help as she can get. We won’t be buying the tickets from United. We will chose a more child friendly airlines. I now know to find out what airlines offer early boarding prior to buying the tickets. Thank you Jen!

  • And this is why I will not stop flying on these airlines that remove this courtesy… because it’s a courtesy to ALL its patrons to let families with small children preboard. If the other passengers mind my taking 3 times as long as a kid-free person, they can take it up with the airlines! Sorry, but I sure won’t hurry and I sure won’t feel bad about holding things up.

  • Timothy

    I would just like to take a moment to officially apologize to each and every passenger flying first class or who managed to board ahead of us that I bumped, bruised, thwacked or otherwise accosted with our luggage as I walked down the aisle.