Tips: Kids & Planes

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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. 

Top Honors. 

TPG examined the ten largest US airlines, looking at ten 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.

A Close Second. 

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.

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, “ explains Summer Hull, the TPG family travel expert. United and JetBlue take TPGs top spot for early boarding, as they allow young families onboard early in the process. In fact, United enables families with children two and under to board even ahead of first class.

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 six and under can board after Group A.

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.

For this report, TPG focused on the ten largest U.S. airlines — Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, Hawaiian, Alaska, United, American, Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant — as measured by their total number of domestic passengers.

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