Unfriendly Skies: Should Families Be Able to Board Airplanes First?

Do you think it's fair for families to board first?Do you think it's fair for families to board first?In the latest assault on families flying in the United States, United Airlines has ditched the pre-boarding policy that allowed passengers travelling with small children to claim their seats first. According to TIME, they join US Airways and American Airlines in nixing the courtesy. United says it "made its policy switch away from family pre-boarding in April to simplify the boarding process and to reduce the overall number of boarding groups."

One New York City mother has decided to take a stand against the airline's thoughtlessness, saying she worries "that if airline consumers let United get away with it, other airlines might follow suit." Kaja Meade told Change.org, "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."

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As of this writing, 34,009 people have signed Meade's petition on Change.org. "Kaja's petition has clearly hit a nerve with other parents who view preboarding as a necessary part of traveling - as well as with other travelers who agree that it makes boarding a smoother process," said Tim Newman, senior campaigner at Change.org. "Increasingly, customers like Kaja are taking to social media and using online petitions to push major companies to address their concerns. As campaigns like Kaja's build steam, companies are left with little choice but to respond quickly in order to avoid a public relations nightmare."

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I just don't see how it's good policy to not extend those travelling with small children the simple courtesy of allowing them to get settled before other passengers. And as Meade says, it's to the benefit of other passengers, as well. TIME's Bonnie Rochman plays Devil's Advocate when she says, "Some passengers may harbor frustration with what could, in some circumstances, qualify as a pre-boarding hoax: several adults sashaying on board with just one kid - even an older child, who doesn't need any more measurable assistance than an adult." But I don't know. I don't fly all the time, but I do fly a few times a year, and I've never seen anyone abuse the privilege like that.

- By Carolyn Castiglia
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