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.