The weather has turned warm, a long weekend awaits and I can’t help but fantasize about exotic summer travel.
Those fantasies do not include airports.
The logistics and cost of air travel can be the worst part of a family trip. And, this summer, traveling with children is looking to be even more expensive and hassle-filled.
The Associated Press is reporting that base fares are expected to average $431 this summer or 3 percent higher than last year. That doesn’t count the likelihood of extra fees, including new ones that may be essential for families to pay.
First, more and more airlines are allowing passengers to pay extra to reserve certain seats. These tend to be seats with more legroom or on the aisle or by the window.
That means on a crowded flight, a family might have the choice of sitting railroad style in a series of middle seats, or pay extra — in the range of $25 per seat, one way — for the luxury of sitting beside one another.
Some smaller airlines, such as Spirit, are even charging passengers extra to make an advancement seat reservation. If a passenger doesn’t want to pay the extra charge, he and his family will be assigned random seats at check-in, according to AP.
Add to that what USA Today’s Nancy Trejos reported today: United will no longer allow families to board before other passengers.
United officials told Trejos that the change is intended to streamline the boarding process.
Anyone who has tried to maneuver luggage and children through a cramped airplane aisle knows there will be nothing streamlined about doing so amid a crush of other passengers.
Other airlines have a range of policies for boarding families, from allowing them to pre-board to allowing early boarding on a case-by-case basis.
But airlines often follow each other when it comes to unpopular policies. One will impose an extra bag fee or entertainment surcharge, and the others quickly follow.
The question is: At what point does the cost and hassle of air travel become prohibitive for families?
Do you plan to travel by plane this summer? What’s your strategy?