Southwest Airlines is preparing to offer its customers the ability to book unaccompanied minors (UMs) on its website, replacing its current UM booking system which requires customers booking UM travel to complete their transactions and fill out the necessary paperwork once they arrive at the airport.
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines says it will soon offer this service via southwest.com, giving passengers the added convenience of entering their information online and giving them more time to spend with their young travelers at the airport before the children depart. Children ages five through 11 traveling without an accompanying passenger aged 12 or older must travel as unaccompanied minors on Southwest Airlines. Unaccompanied minors may only travel on nonstop or direct flights. The UM program does not permit direct or connecting flights.
“We continuously evaluate our UM process to ensure that we deliver the best possible service to our young customers who are traveling alone,” says Teresa Laraba, Southwest’s senior vice president of customer services. “During a recent audit, we identified several opportunities, including the creation of an online booking tool for UMs and an enhancement in the employee training that comes along with handling our young passengers who are flying solo.”
However, Southwest’s new UM service comes at an increased cost ― a service charge of $50 each way in addition to the cost of the fare or the point redemption for the ticket under Southwest’s Rapid Rewards frequent-flyer program. At present Southwest charges a fee of $25 each way for the UM service.
Southwest says that, even with the increase in service charge, the airline will continue to absorb some of the cost associated with the extra care necessary to safely transport unaccompanied minors.
The new UM service charge will apply to tickets purchased on April 23, 2010, and later. Children traveling on tickets booked before April 23 (even if traveling after that date) will still pay $25 each way at a Southwest ticket counter.
“The increase in our UM service charge will help us cover the added costs that come along with safely transporting our youngest travelers, while still allowing us to maintain our competitive low fare advantage,” says Laraba.
For additional information on Southwest’s unaccompanied minor program, visit the company’s website at www.southwest.com.