Families traveling on Southwest Hawaii flights, and their ability to sit together, have been an issue. Many of you have commented on it since Southwest began service to the islands. Family travel is synonymous with Hawaii travel, and this is a concern for those families and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Southwest to trial very early boarding for families, without regard to a boarding position.
If you’re flying on Hawaiian, Alaska, American, Delta, or United airlines, you have, in most cases, the opportunity to have seats pre-assigned. That ensures that families can travel together.
Southwest does it all differently via boarding groups and positions. On check-in, guests receive both a boarding group and a number. Editor Jeff recently got A59, for example (end of the seating in the first boarding group). Passengers line up by their position once their group has been called. It works better than we once feared, as we weren’t familiar with Southwest before they arrived here in Hawaii.
Currently, families with children six and younger board after the first theoretically 60 guests in group A (and before group B). Generally, that works on a plane with 175 seats, but not always, especially if you have a large family group.
This month Southwest tests families board first – with a caveat.
As we understand it, based on comments by Southwest at their Media Day presentation, the trial, to initially take place in Atlanta, will work like this. Families with a child six or under will be allowed to board before the A-group, regardless of their boarding assignment. However, they will be required to take seats after the first 15 rows.
Southwest’s goal is to both please family travelers and to reduce aircraft boarding time, which, on a Hawaii flight, is between 40-50 minutes.
DOT says to do it or else.
Recently, the US DOT has said that airlines should allow families to be seated together without additional cost. This summer, the government said they might seek a regulatory alternative if that doesn’t happen.