I commented earlier about some challenges I thought I would face while traveling with my family, and said I would reserve judgement about the new lack of preboard for families until after my flight was done. Well, we traveled from MCO - PVD and back again last week, and I can say the new policy didn't work too well for us. On our first leg 3 of the 4 of us had A boarding cards, (because we had a lap child so one of us had to get that entered at the airport when they could verify the birth certificate). There was really no point in having an A card though. There was no way I was going to keep my 3.5 & 1.5 year old at the front of the line, despite being at the gate virtually first. I watched people start lining up, and it made me cringe, knowing that I should be waiting, but figuring it was better to let the kids burn energy while waiting instead of on the plane. So, we boarded at the end of A...technically before the "family preboard" but essentially between A & B. It was a challenge to find a full row, and then one additional seat across the row. I know we annoyed a few people with all the stuff we carted down. The flight attendant ended up asking people to move to accomodate adjacent seating for our family. I felt badly about that, but what other choice did we have? At least the gentleman who moved got a free cocktail!
It was pretty much the same story on the way back....only difference is that we couldn't get boarding passes online because we didn't have a printer where we were staying. I was told when we got to the airport, however, that I could have checked in, and "reprinted" a boarding pass.
Will I fly SW again...probably. Was the experience horrible...not totally...but it certainly inconvenienced another passenger who had gotten on and selected an aisle seat before we got on. In the future, I will certainly consider other carriers iwhen booking, nstead of just keeping my eye out for the typically cheaper SW fares. Guaranteed seating with my husband and kids in a good location is just too important.
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In response to nsx at flyertalk.com who states to notify the airline when you get to the airport about a lap-child: In my experience, because I have done this before, a new boarding pass will be reissued when you notify them at the airport of a lap-child. The new boarding pass will not necessarily be in the same boarding group that you were issued on-line. You must get the new boarding pass before you go through security, after waiting in line at check-in (which can take a really long time), otherwise, you can't go through security with the lap-child (in case you were thinking you could notify the gate agents.)
And for people like Getthemthehelloutofway...if you are so important, buy a first class ticket on an airline that assigns seats and has a separate section for jerkslikeyou. You might even consider chartering your own plane. At least then someone will be forced to pretend you are a civil human being.
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I read a number of comments from travelers, and then the responses from Southwest, and then decided to post my own. I have flown Southwest as an individual, as part of a couple, and over the past 3 1/2 years, as a mother with my growing family. As an individual, I was on the ball, and always got there early enough to check-in for group A or B so I would have some choice of seat. I never stood in the actual boarding line to be at the front; I just waited until my group got on and then got on. I thought standing in the line for an hour was silly, but having an A or B got me somewhere comfortable, no matter if I was first or 60th. This worked well, and I liked being able to sit away from the families, who all tended to crowd together at the front.
Now I am a mom. We've flown with our 3 1/2 y.o. since 9 wks, our second took her first flight at 5 wks, & has been just as good. They are typically no louder than most people carrying on general conversations. What I've already found challenging is that I can not check-in online with a lap child. I used to buy my kids seats regardless of their age, just to guarantee the space, but they often sat in my lap anyway, and 2x now, Southwest has asked me to give up my already paid-for kids seat because someone else wanted to buy a ticket. So, I have to wait in the tickey line already to check-in. I don't have the chance to check in early. There is no way I can get into group A with my situation. Preboard was the only option. I have a flight schedueld for late October where I will be looking for 3 seats together and carrying a lapchild.
Without the ability to check-in online with a lap-child, and no availability of assigned seats, there is no way for my family to get into group A and guarantee the number of seats together. We'll see how happy kid unfriendly travelers are then when they have my kids spitting up breatmilk on them as I nurse them to keep them quiet.
I'll reserve my final decision about whether I will continue to fly SW until after that flight, but one of the reasons I have stuck with them without reserved seating is because I could still sit together with my family even though there was no assigned seating.
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