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Boarding with young children - updated wording

SWDigits
Active Member
Posting as I just saw an article that Southwest updated the boarding wording for those traveling with young children to clarify two adults are able to board with them (bold emphasis added by me):

"General boarding starts with Business Select customers, who are guaranteed positions at the front of the A Group, followed by Rapid Rewards tier Members and the remaining Customers in the A Group, two adults with children age six and under, then groups B and C."

Source:
https://www.southwest.com/html/customer-service/airport-experience/index-pol.html

Southwest customer | Home airport DCA | Community Chamption
5 REPLIES 5
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Re: Boarding with young children - updated wording

chgoflyer
Top Contributor
Solution

Background: Southwest changed the policy as a reaction to an incident in 2017 involving a same-sex couple who were denied Family Boarding when traveling with their three children and a grandparent.

 

Southwest Airlines updates family boarding policy after Naples same-sex couple claims discrimination

 

While the change from "one adult" to "two adults" might seem to be odd or unneeded (as that's been the defacto policy all along) it makes somewhat more sense in light of this info.

 

The intention would seem to be clarification that two adults can board with a child under age 6 during Family Boarding, but only two adults (no extended family) and that those adults do not necessarily have to be mother and father.

 

While I do hope that agents enforce the two adult limit, I find that the policy as written is still vague. And this can cause problems -- especially when enforcement is at the discretion of individual gate agents. I realize that no policy can cover every possible situation, but I think Southwest could do better here to help manage customer expectations.

 

Lets take the family in the incident as an example. Two parents, twin boys age 3, daughter age 5 and grandmother. Strict application of the new policy would mean that everyone could board together -- except the grandmother. Which is impractical and makes no sense, really. If broken up into three groups of 1 adult + 1 child then everyone should be able to board during Family Boarding. (And should have when the incident occurred, even with a "one adult" limit, but they were denied by the agent.)

 

Discretion by the agent would seem to be necessary, since many different family situations exist, and one rule may not cover every possible group. But agents having discretion led to the situation above. Smiley Wink So,I'm not sure what the right answer is.

 

Perhaps, ultimately, this is just another aspect of an "open boarding" system that will always present challenges.

 

 

 

Re: Boarding with young children - updated wording

DancingDavidE
Top Contributor

@chgoflyer wrote:

 

Discretion by the agent would seem to be necessary, since many different family situations exist, and one rule may not cover every possible group. But agents having discretion led to the situation above. Smiley Wink So,I'm not sure what the right answer is.

 

Perhaps, ultimately, this is just another aspect of an "open boarding" system that will always present challenges.

 


This I think is a great clarification for the preponderance of families traveling with one or two parents and one or two kids. So very good in that regard compared to the vague (but nearly identical in practice) "an adult traveling with..." statement that we had before. 

 

I think it helps in the case of the extended adult family members that the gate agent will have new authority to rely on to limit the number of adults - that's great too.

 

I presume they can situationally allow more in their judgement. 

 

Still not clear necessarily that if there were three kids, and three adults, would they be prevented from lining up in two groups as you mentioned? 

 

 

 

 

Home airport MDW, frequent visitor to MCO to see the mouse.

Re: Boarding with young children - updated wording

chgoflyer
Top Contributor

@DancingDavidE wrote:


This I think is a great clarification for the preponderance of families traveling with one or two parents and one or two kids. So very good in that regard compared to the vague (but nearly identical in practice) "an adult traveling with..." statement that we had before. 

 

I think it helps in the case of the extended adult family members that the gate agent will have new authority to rely on to limit the number of adults - that's great too.

 

I presume they can situationally allow more in their judgement. 

 

Still not clear necessarily that if there were three kids, and three adults, would they be prevented from lining up in two groups as you mentioned? 

Or, alternately, now that they mention two adults instead of one, what happens when two parents and two children try to board, but one child is over age 6? Previously, it would seem to make sense for one parent to board with the younger child and the other two to board at their assigned positions, since technically they only allowed a single parent with the under age 6 child, but now that they allow two, everyone boards together? Or would the older child (say, 8 years old) be stopped from boarding, and told to board at their assigned position?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re: Boarding with young children - updated wording

DancingDavidE
Top Contributor

@chgoflyer wrote:

@DancingDavidE wrote:


This I think is a great clarification for the preponderance of families traveling with one or two parents and one or two kids. So very good in that regard compared to the vague (but nearly identical in practice) "an adult traveling with..." statement that we had before. 

 

I think it helps in the case of the extended adult family members that the gate agent will have new authority to rely on to limit the number of adults - that's great too.

 

I presume they can situationally allow more in their judgement. 

 

Still not clear necessarily that if there were three kids, and three adults, would they be prevented from lining up in two groups as you mentioned? 

Or, alternately, now that they mention two adults instead of one, what happens when two parents and two children try to board, but one child is over age 6? Previously, it would seem to make sense for one parent to board with the younger child and the other two to board at their assigned positions, since technically they only allowed a single parent with the under age 6 child, but now that they allow two, everyone boards together? Or would the older child (say, 8 years old) be stopped from boarding, and told to board at their assigned position?

 


Many of us had already interpreted the previous wording of "an adult..." that if two adults were traveling with a child then they were both an adult...

 

So the new example defintely locks down the interpretation of "an adult..." traveling with a child (regardless of number of other adults traveling with the same child to now be restricted to two adults.

 

I think additional clarification would be that adult status is confirmed by having an adult ticket, as opposed to age where according to other common definitions a ten year old wouldn't be an adult, but it seems Southwest would consider them to be in the two adult count.

 

In practice, we and many others were always allowed to board with two adults and one baby. I'm confident that internal training on the matter supported it. The issue was gate agents using discretion to allow three (or more?) adults in some cases but not others, or perception of being prohibited even if the internal guidance was clear. 

 

 

Home airport MDW, frequent visitor to MCO to see the mouse.

Re: Boarding with young children - updated wording

chgoflyer
Top Contributor

@DancingDavidE wrote:


Many of us had already interpreted the previous wording of "an adult..." that if two adults were traveling with a child then they were both an adult...

 

So the new example defintely locks down the interpretation of "an adult..." traveling with a child (regardless of number of other adults traveling with the same child to now be restricted to two adults.

 

I think additional clarification would be that adult status is confirmed by having an adult ticket, as opposed to age where according to other common definitions a ten year old wouldn't be an adult, but it seems Southwest would consider them to be in the two adult count.

 

In practice, we and many others were always allowed to board with two adults and one baby. I'm confident that internal training on the matter supported it. The issue was gate agents using discretion to allow three (or more?) adults in some cases but not others, or perception of being prohibited even if the internal guidance was clear. 

 


 

I think your post highlights the confusion caused by the vagueness of the policy, both then and now.

 

Not everyone would interpret "an adult" to mean "two adults." Despite your experience, this specifically was often a cause of frustration and complaint from other customers, who encountered a gate agent enforcing the policy as written. In fact, the couple involved in the incident which eventually led to the policy change were told at one point that only one adult could board with the children. (While possibly due to a personal bias regarding the same-sex couple, the agent had the policy wording to back them up.)

 

I, of course, have no idea what any internal guidance on the policy might have been.

 

Discretion can be a good thing, and it can be a bad thing. Smiley Wink