For families, traveling by air is a juggling act of navigating ticketing, security, and seating. While many airlines allow families to pre-board flights before normal boarding, Southwest’s no-assigned seating policy has been a drawback for parents who want to ensure they sit with their children.

As it stands, Southwest allows adults traveling with children ages six and under to board after group A but before group B, regardless of their assigned position. Depending on the number of families on a given flight, things can get tricky when considering how many people are boarding during the A group embarkation. Thus, the boarding process may cause a bit of unease due to the uncertainty of adjacent seating being available for a family to sit together.

The carrier is now working to help alleviate this family pain point. Now, for a limited time at least, Southwest is allowing families to board first in a trial test for the airline.

During a recent media presentation in Dallas, Southwest said that it is planning a week-long trial in mid-December to allow families traveling together to board before group A at four departure gates in Atlanta, as reported by Travel Weekly. Pre-boarding families would be required to select seats behind row 15 on the aircraft.

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Photo Credit: Southwest Airlines

A Step Toward Improving Flying For Families

A Southwest spokesperson confirmed to AFAR that “altering the boarding process for families, which will be tested soon at one innovation station in our network, was mentioned as one idea, of many, in a larger discussion about evaluating the efficiency [of] our boarding process.” An “innovation station” is Southwest’s term for an airport where it is trying out new programs and ideas.

The spokesperson also added that the trial run “is not an indication of a forthcoming policy change,” however it is a glimmer of hope that permanent changes could be on the way.

Helping families sit together on flights is becoming a priority as the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a notice that it would begin monitoring airlines for changes that ensure families are seated together at no extra cost. The DOT noted it will decide if regulatory action will be required “to ensure airlines’ seating policies and practices are not barriers to a young child being seated next to an adult family member or other accompanying adult.”

In the meantime, there are a few ways to work the Southwest system until a more family-friendly policy is implemented. The swift action-takers know that setting a reminder to check-in 24 hours before the flight is one of the best ways to get ahead in the Southwest boarding queue. Another option is to pay $15 per person to check in before the 24-hour check-in window, improving your chances of grabbing a spot in the preferred A group.

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