Southwest's family problem

With all its boarding policy changes, Southwest is keeping itself in the news. If you missed it last week, this USAToday.com David Grossman column about the new tension between families and business travelers due to Southwest's revamped boarding policy is a pretty good read.

Here's the problem created by the elimination of family pre-boarding: On full flights or flights that stop more than once and add passengers, finding space for families with small children to sit together has become a challenge.

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Grossman details the awkward situation he witnessed on a Baltimore-Kansas City-Oakland flight recently where the only empty seats for families boarding in Kansas City were single middle seats. The flight attendants "begged, cajoled, and finally threatened to remain in Kansas City" until enough passengers gave up their aisle and window seats to clear out the rows for the families with small children.

This will likely only get more complicated with the introduction of the "Business Select" fare category, which is Southwest's new ploy to get business travelers (and others willing to shell out) to pay more to secure first-boarding rights.

I have to say I didn't initially think much about Southwest ending the family pre-boarding. But after reading the article, it struck me just how important it can be. Plus, with the old system, you'd know where the screaming babies were located before you chose a seat.

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