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Summer travel season sees airline changes for families

May 23, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
There was a time when travelling with your toddler could get you on a plane faster -- you could settle in before the masses boarded and relax a bit.

But it appears that those days are done. Some airlines are doing away with family perks, just as the Memorial Day weekend kicks off.

Los Angeles International Airport expects some 760,000 travelers to fly through the airport this summer, a 7 percent drop from last year. But projections for summer travel are up by 4 percent, which means nearly 20 million passengers could go through LAX over the next three months.

LAX police say they're ready for the crowds. LAX Chief of Police Michael Hyams says officers will be on-foot, on motorcycles and on bikes ready to respond to emergencies and direct congested traffic.

The Transportation Security Administration is gearing up as well, incorporating new risk-based security measures to minimize the wait in security lines. Children under 12 no longer have to remove their shoes. Within the month, adults over 75 will also be allowed to keep shoes and jackets on and won't have to remove laptops from their carry-ons.

That's all good news, however, other changes within some airlines could make the summer travel experience for families with children much more frustrating. United Airlines is joining the ranks of other carriers doing away with pre-boarding for families with small children. United confirmed the change took place when it merged with Continental Airlines earlier this year.

"It makes the traveler feel a bit degraded. As a family guy you want to get on the plane, you want to make sure your kids are safe and sometimes in all this hassle, it makes it much more inconvenient," said traveler Ernesto Cruz.

Some airlines are allowing passengers to pay more for access to window and aisle seats, which could make it tough for bigger families to sit together.

"As airlines continue to do this, I think overall the image of air travel as it once was is declining and it's becoming more like the bus," said Cruz.

LAX officials are trying to prepare people for the big crowds and the long lines, and they are urging travelers to arrive at the airport 2 hours early for domestic flights and three hours prior to international flights.

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