American Airlines just recently announced that it will allow passengers who do not have any luggage to stow in the overhead bins to board early, after elites but before Group 2. Presumably, this move is intended to reward those who travel light (or pay to check bags) and speed up the boarding process by getting more efficient travelers seated more quickly.
It occurred to me when I heard this announcement, however, that this move might actually be helpful to families with children who don’t have access to pre-boarding in many instances anymore. Normally, you probably picture families lugging loads and loads of gear on board airplanes. This was certainly true when my daughter was an infant and I was still learning how to be an efficient traveler, but now that she is four years old, we rarely use the overhead bins at all. We check a big bag or two with all the family’s luggage and then each carry — at most — a small backpack as our carry-on. Since my daughter is small and doesn’t need her legroom, we store one or two of these bags under her seat so we can access snacks, games, and electronic devices easily throughout the flight. We could certainly be travelers who might be able to take advantage of this new policy, even though we probably don’t fit the demographic that anyone intended!
The Points Guy rightly points out that it remains to be seen how this policy is going to be enforced in practice. For example, will gate agents allow parents who are gate checking strollers but are not using the overhead bins for the remainder of their luggage to board early? Presumably this wouldn’t be very efficient, as parents folding strollers can and do clog up the boarding area (I know I’ve been guilty on occasion). But it is technically within the letter of the law. Stay tuned to see how this will all shake out!