Ad­vice for fly­ing fam­ily-friendly skies

Lexington Herald-Leader (Sunday) - - Living - BY LYNN O’ROURKE HAYES

Man­ag­ing young chil­dren in small spa­ces can be a chal­lenge. Take that ef­fort to 30,000 feet and, well, do­ing a lit­tle re­search be­fore em­bark­ing on an air travel ad­ven­ture is ad­vised.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port, Best Air­lines for Fam­ily Travel, is­sued by The Points Guy (TPG), some air­lines are in­her­ently more fam­ily friendly than oth­ers.

Here are five fac­tors to con­sider.

1. TOP HON­ORS GO TO SOUTH­WEST

TPG ex­am­ined the 10 largest U.S. air­lines, look­ing at 10 dif­fer­ent, equally weighted cri­te­ria rel­e­vant for trav­el­ing fam­i­lies. South­west Air­lines came out on top.

Its cov­eted South­west Com­pan­ion Pass, no ex­tra fees and fam­ily board­ing pol­icy nudged the air­line to the top of TPG’s picks for fam­ily travel.

Its ex­ten­sive – and ex­pand­ing – do­mes­tic route and award pro­gram are an added bonus.

2. A CLOSE SEC­OND: JETBLUE

When con­sid­er­ing seat com­fort, snacks and en­ter­tain­ment, JetBlue of­fers a bet­ter onboard ex­pe­ri­ence than South­west and is con­sis­tently a top pick for fam­i­lies, the re­port de­ter­mined.

Its less than stel­lar on-time ar­rival rank­ing, im­por­tant when trav­el­ing with young­sters, bumped it down just shy of the top spot. Hawai­ian Air­lines re­ceived the best on-time score.

3. EARLY BOARD­ING MATTERS

“While there’s some logic to board­ing young chil­dren on the air­craft at the ab­so­lute last sec­ond to min­i­mize time on the plane, the re­al­ity is that if you need to in­stall a car seat or en­sure space for your carry-on bags, be­ing onboard early is cru­cial,” said Sum­mer Hull, the TPG fam­ily travel ex­pert. United and JetBlue take TPG’s top spot for early board­ing, as they al­low young fam­i­lies onboard early in the process.

In fact, United en­ables fam­i­lies with chil­dren 2 and un­der to board even ahead of first class.

4. SEAT AS­SIGN­MENTS ARE KEY

Have you ever ne­go­ti­ated a seat trade with a per­fect stranger so you could sit with your child? Se­cur­ing seats to­gether is a top pri­or­ity and fam­i­lies don’t want to pay ex­tra for the priv­i­lege.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, the top air­lines in this cat­e­gory are JetBlue, Hawai­ian and Alaska, which all in­clude com­pli­men­tary seat as­sign­ments for all tick­ets.

South­west’s open seat­ing pol­icy is also a way to en­sure prime seat­ing, as chil­dren ages 6 and un­der can board af­ter Group A.

5. AIR­LINE LOY­ALTY PRO­GRAM FOR FAM­I­LIES

Mak­ing the most of travel dol­lars and cre­ative re­sources is key for fam­i­lies. Air­line loy­alty pro­grams can make a dif­fer­ence. JetBlue of­fers the most fam­ily-friendly poli­cies due to its “free fam­ily pool­ing of miles” op­tion for all mem­bers.

Let your fa­vorite air­lines know which ser­vices and ameni­ties mean the most to you and your clan.

For this re­port, TPG fo­cused on the 10 largest U.S. air­lines – South­west, JetBlue, Delta, Hawai­ian, Alaska, United, Amer­i­can, Fron­tier, Spirit and Al­le­giant – as mea­sured by their to­tal num­ber of do­mes­tic pas­sen­gers. For more in­for­ma­tion, go to www.the­p­oints­guy.com.

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