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Toddling Through the Silicon Valley

By Cheryl Bac

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About this blog: I'm a wife, stay-at-home mom, home cook, marathon runner, and PhD. I recently moved to the Silicon Valley after completing my PhD in Social Psychology and becoming a mother one month apart. Before that, I ran seven marathons incl...  (More)

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Gate Pass Frustration

Uploaded: Jun 27, 2018
A few years ago I was so excited to learn about gate passes. I could travel solo with the kids and my parents and/or my husband could drop me off and pick me up right at the gate. It sounded too good to be true, and I guess it was.

I greatly appreciated using a gate pass when I first traveled alone with two kids. My flight was delayed and my parents were able to help me juggle grabbing food, bathroom runs, water breaks, and periodically checking for status updates. Having help going through security and keeping the kids happy while waiting at the gate was wonderfully helpful.

On a recent flight, we weren't able to use the gate passes as I had planned. I called the airline ahead of time to get more information about obtaining a gate pass for my husband and my parents. I was incorrectly told that it would be no problem getting one at the airport- traveling alone with three young kids definitely warrants a gate pass.

Gate Pass 1: I decided not to even try to get a gate pass when we arrived at SFO. In order to just request one, I needed to wait in the full service check-in line. I had already checked in online and I had no desire to wait in an extra long line for something that was suppose to make my travel experience easier.

Gate Pass 2: When we arrived at our destination, I learned that my parents were unable to obtain a gate pass. They waited in line only to be denied one. Their ticketing agent believed gate passes were only issued when children were traveling alone.

Gate Pass 3: I decided not to try for a gate pass for our flight home because the regular check-in line was exceptionally long.

Gate Pass 4: My husband tried to obtain a gate pass to pick us up at SFO but was denied.

I understand that different airlines and different airports may have different policies about gate passes, but I wish it was easier to find out exactly what these policies are. Traveling alone with young kids is challenging enough. A gate pass is suppose to make that experience easier, and this time it was one of the more frustrating parts of my trip. In the future I doubt I'll even bother requesting a gate pass. The time and energy required for me or a relative to just ask for one, especially when it's unclear whether it will be given to us, is just not worth it.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Judy, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Jun 27, 2018 at 1:14 pm

Years ago everyone could enter the gate area to greet or send off travelers. It was nice to sit with my parents before boarding a plane. But the gate area was always so crowded with mostly people saying goodbye to or picking up travelers. Then 9/11 happened and everything changed. Security was tightened and the only ones allowed near the gate were passengers and airport personal. That's the way it is now and what people need to expect when traveling by plane. I didn't know about the special gate passes, but can imagine that if all parents with their small children traveling are requesting passes for non travelers, it will only make the security lines longer and crowds at the gate larger. I'm sorry it is difficult for you to travel but I'm glad to hear it's not so easy to obtain the passes. Security is important for everyone.

Posted by Getting a gate pass, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis,
on Jun 27, 2018 at 2:02 pm

Getting a gate pass is a registered user.

I did a little research and gate or escort passes are for people accompanying minor children who will travel alone, elderly or disabled. You can not get one at the airport, you need to call the airline ahead of time. So it sounds like the airlines were following the rules. But it is really tough traveling alone with small children!

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 27, 2018 at 10:24 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Thank you both for sharing your thoughts.

I originally found out about gate passes in 2015 when a ticketing agent brought them to my attention. I was traveling alone with 2 kids and appreciated the extra help.

We might have been very lucky to get two gate passes that time. Or maybe things have changed over the passed couple of years.

My current understanding is that it really depends on the particular ticketing agent that you ask. Some are very lenient and happy to grant gate passes. Others are very strict.

Posted by Mother of 4 , a resident of Palo Verde School,
on Jun 28, 2018 at 9:02 am

I have only heard of gate passes once when my husband took one of mine who was traveling alone. He was very surprised and grateful although the child had done the flight many times before with us and fairly competent. It only worked at the departure end but at the arrivals end the meeting relative did get a phone call to make sure that there was someone waiting at the pick up area to meet before leaving the plane.

It would never occur to me when traveling alone to expect a gate pass, mainly because I have been dropped off at the curb and renting a car at the other end. However, I think that when you travel with young children, preparing them well is the key. I always make sure that each of them has a job (looking after the stroller, the diaper bag) as well as looking after their own carryon backpack, and explaining each stage as it is about to happen. I find that if I give them the responsibility angle it helps.

But, I won't tell about the time the TSA agent sent my 4 year old through first and then told the rest of us to wait as the 4 year old picked up backpack and started walking off who knows where with me shouting "stop that child" as I was powerless to do anything. The said 4 year old said to me when I saw him "I know where to go as I've been here before" when at last I was allowed to go through and grab a hand.

Posted by Reader, a resident of another community,
on Jun 28, 2018 at 8:37 pm

As far as I can tell about airline customer service, much of it depends on who you talk to.

You don't need to be a frequent flyer to see this. From news reports about various airline employee-customer incidents, it is clear that there is a *LOT* of inconsistent application of airline customer service policy. Flight attendants ignoring clear and present danger to passengers, other incidents where passengers are indiscriminately punished.

And this isn't really specific to the airline industry. It's depressingly common to have an almost incomprehensibly unsympathetic conversation with a customer service representative at any major company, but if you hang up and call up you might reach someone who actually cares.

The problem with airport airline agents is that you don't have much recourse in getting a second opinion. Their colleagues are standing there listening to your conversation.

Unfortunately, this is the world we live in here in 2018. So many people really don't care.

Posted by Cheryl Bac, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 28, 2018 at 10:40 pm

Cheryl Bac is a registered user.

Mother of 4 - Oh no! So glad you were able to grab your four year old's hand before they went too far. Thanks for sharing the story.

Reader - Thanks for commenting and sharing your opinion. Yes, I am very grateful whenever I speak to customer service representatives that act like they care, are polite, and are truly helpful. Good point about how getting a second opinion can be a challenge at an airport ticketing counter.

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