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Possibly first time flying southwest with family.

Travelfan85
New Arrival

possibly going to book southwest for the first time next February . However I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about their boarding procedure.  I’ve heard there’s no saving seats ... family boarding only one parent gets to board with the kid while the other has to board in their group. Would early bird be worth it for this first time flying southwest or Is family boarding a better option. ?  I’m on the fence about getting it .  Now the saving seats issue , I’ve heard that’s not allowed and frowned upon by the flight attendants. I just would like to be able to sit by each other.

9 REPLIES 9
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Re: Possibly first time flying southwest with family.

rtbarron
Active Member

In regard to saving seats, Southwest has no policy. Saving seats is accepted and is done quite frequently.

Early Bird Check In is a good option but, contrary to common assumption, it does not guarantee you an A boarding position (although I've never received anything other than A when using it). The benefit of EBIC is not having to remember to check in right at 24 hours before your flight. You're automatically assigned a boarding position at 36 hours prior to your flight and can check in whenever you wish withn 24 hours of your flight.

Re: Possibly first time flying southwest with family.

dfwskier
Rising Star

@rtbarron wrote:

In regard to saving seats, Southwest has no policy. Saving seats is accepted and is done quite frequently.

 


If you chose to save seats (I do), I'd suggest that you save them by putting bags or articles of clothing on the seats. Most people boarding after you will see these items, and assume the seats are occupied.

If anyone asks if the seats are taken, just say yes. No further explanation is needed. Doing so makes it less obvious that you are saving seats than by simply pulling down tray tables.

Re: Possibly first time flying southwest with family.

DancingDavidE
Top Contributor

@Travelfan85 wrote:

possibly going to book southwest for the first time next February . However I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about their boarding procedure.  I’ve heard there’s no saving seats ... family boarding only one parent gets to board with the kid while the other has to board in their group. Would early bird be worth it for this first time flying southwest or Is family boarding a better option. ?  I’m on the fence about getting it .  Now the saving seats issue , I’ve heard that’s not allowed and frowned upon by the flight attendants. I just would like to be able to sit by each other.


The seat saving issue has been discussed quite a bit...but at least I can weigh in that you can have two adults with a kid for family boarding, so that part that you heard was not true about splitting up the parents.

 

Family boarding works great as long as you already have gotten your gate check tag and are ready to board at the designated time. I wouldn't also get EBCI if you are planning on family boarding.

 

 

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

Re: Possibly first time flying southwest with family.

chgoflyer
Top Contributor

@DancingDavidE wrote:

@Travelfan85 wrote:

possibly going to book southwest for the first time next February . However I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about their boarding procedure.  I’ve heard there’s no saving seats ... family boarding only one parent gets to board with the kid while the other has to board in their group. Would early bird be worth it for this first time flying southwest or Is family boarding a better option. ?  I’m on the fence about getting it .  Now the saving seats issue , I’ve heard that’s not allowed and frowned upon by the flight attendants. I just would like to be able to sit by each other.


The seat saving issue has been discussed quite a bit...but at least I can weigh in that you can have two adults with a kid for family boarding, so that part that you heard was not true about splitting up the parents.

 

Family boarding works great as long as you already have gotten your gate check tag and are ready to board at the designated time. I wouldn't also get EBCI if you are planning on family boarding.

 


Just to be clear, official Southwest policy actually does only allow one adult with a child age 6 or under. That said, it's most often not enforced, and both parents (or 2 adults) are usually allowed to board with a child (or multiple children) during Family Boarding. Also, the age requirement is enforced fairly loosely (since minors don't have ID anyway), and if there's at least one child that appears to qualify, other minor children are generally allowed to board along with everyone.

 

There are occasional reports of a specific OPS agent strictly enforcing the policy, and while the inconsistency is certainly problematic, these situations are generally the exception.

 

Re: Possibly first time flying southwest with family.

LindseyD
Retired Community Manager

I know that @ElijahBrantly travels with his family as well - he might also be able to weigh in with his experiences and advice.

 

Re: Possibly first time flying southwest with family.

elijahbrantley
Rising Star

Hey hey! What @chgoflyer said. I actually had to read the family boarding policy, and it’s rather vague. It says “An adult traveling with a child six years old or younger may board during Family Boarding.” This caught me off guard because (as stated), I see whole families get on together all the time, and it seems to be largely allowed. It’s not uncommon to see one youngster, the parents, and their grandparents board during family boarding. 

 

Personal opinion moment: as much as I like SW boarding, this is one area that is not that great. If the policy were enforced as it reads, it could make family boarding difficult, even if sitting together is not important. 

 

Anyway - my situation is slightly difference because we usually pay for my ticket while my wife is my companion and my kid is a lap child. Kid boards with either of us, but I get to go pretty early since I am A List Preferred. So I usually save a seat, and either I care baby or she does...doesn’t matter. BUT, the kid just turned two which mean it’s gonna be more like this: I get priority boarding as ALP, wife as companion has a separate later boarding position, and kid booked on points has yet another boarding position. I think I’m this case, I will board in my position to save seats, and they will come on in family boarding. Not ideal, especially for the kid having her own reservation and spot. She clearly can’t board alone. 

 

All this may may be way more than you bargained for or needed, but I think it shows that it can be rather complex. You are right to do your research! I would simply recommend trying family boarding; I think as long as your kids are relative young (with at least one under 6), and you don’t have 10 people trying to board with one kid, you should be fine. 

-A List Preferred, Companion Pass holder, Community Champion.

Re: Possibly first time flying southwest with family.

DancingDavidE
Top Contributor

"An adult" - and then also another parent, who is also an adult?

 

I haven't seen parents be split up before, zero times in hundreds of family flights, do we think this happens often?

 

 

 

 

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

Re: Possibly first time flying southwest with family.

DancingDavidE
Top Contributor

@elijahbrantley wrote:

Hey hey! What @chgoflyer said. I actually had to read the family boarding policy, and it’s rather vague. It says “An adult traveling with a child six years old or younger may board during Family Boarding.” This caught me off guard because (as stated), I see whole families get on together all the time, and it seems to be largely allowed. It’s not uncommon to see one youngster, the parents, and their grandparents board during family boarding. 

 

Personal opinion moment: as much as I like SW boarding, this is one area that is not that great. If the policy were enforced as it reads, it could make family boarding difficult, even if sitting together is not important. 

 

Anyway - my situation is slightly difference because we usually pay for my ticket while my wife is my companion and my kid is a lap child. Kid boards with either of us, but I get to go pretty early since I am A List Preferred. So I usually save a seat, and either I care baby or she does...doesn’t matter. BUT, the kid just turned two which mean it’s gonna be more like this: I get priority boarding as ALP, wife as companion has a separate later boarding position, and kid booked on points has yet another boarding position. I think I’m this case, I will board in my position to save seats, and they will come on in family boarding. Not ideal, especially for the kid having her own reservation and spot. She clearly can’t board alone. 

 

All this may may be way more than you bargained for or needed, but I think it shows that it can be rather complex. You are right to do your research! I would simply recommend trying family boarding; I think as long as your kids are relative young (with at least one under 6), and you don’t have 10 people trying to board with one kid, you should be fine. 


You boarding and then them boarding works fine, and there will be plenty three-seat rows available at family boarding as well. 

 

I think the 737-800 changing tables are in the rear, and the -700's are in the front? So maybe it's a little more desirable to board early on -700 flights than for the -800's...but its been working out fine for us either way.

 

 

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

Re: Possibly first time flying southwest with family.

chgoflyer
Top Contributor

@elijahbrantley wrote:

Hey hey! What @chgoflyer said. I actually had to read the family boarding policy, and it’s rather vague. It says “An adult traveling with a child six years old or younger may board during Family Boarding.” This caught me off guard because (as stated), I see whole families get on together all the time, and it seems to be largely allowed. It’s not uncommon to see one youngster, the parents, and their grandparents board during family boarding. 

 

Personal opinion moment: as much as I like SW boarding, this is one area that is not that great. If the policy were enforced as it reads, it could make family boarding difficult, even if sitting together is not important. 


 

A while back, there was a brief period of strict enforcement re: not allowing adults in addition to parents to board with the family, following an incident where a gay couple were denied Family Boarding (the couple wanted to board with a grandparent as well). I still frequently see social media posts from someone upset that their grandparents (aunt, uncle, etc.) couldn't board with the family at Family Boarding. Which is how it should be, IMHO. Much like Preboarding, Family Boarding has become somewhat of a free-for-all. If you're the unlucky one who -- despite purchasing EarlyBird Check-In -- has a B or later boarding position, you suffer. Admittedly, since seat-saving is allowed, it's ultimately not that different really whether the OPS agent enforces policy strictly or loosely, but I do think that consistency would help avoid customer anger and stress.

 

Southwest's boarding system certainly has it's challenges.