Judging by the new round of airline fees, probably not much!
Southwest Airlines opted not to charge for carry-ons (other airlines opted out too), but then announced it was doubling the fees it charges unaccompanied kids to fly.
There has always been a fee for “UM’s aka/Unaccompanied Minors, as they’re called in the biz, but Southwest’s jump from $25.00 to $50.00 each way says a lot about the “fee-madness" that has infected airlines everywhere, especially since only a year ago Southwest didn’t charge for kids flying alone.
We assume the new fee has nothing to do with discouraging children from flying alone, though we suspect it does. Solo Kids require special attention, an alert staff and often lots of TLC, traits not normally found in any airline.
Parents sending a "UM" need to check each airline’s policy very carefully.
Some airlines will waive the carry-on baggage fee for kids traveling alone.
Others promise a snack.
But all make it clear they are not baby sitters!
Check the cut-off ages too. Southwest’s policy applies to kids 5-11, but in some instances, teens are subject to the UM fee.
Worst of all is the possibility that your child may arrive at an unintended destination!
Last June Continental sent two kids, 8 and 12, to wrong destinations, causing one family travel web site, The Vacation Gals, to urge parents to think less in terms of fees and more in terms of the airline’s experience with UM’s.
Tips from family travel experts include:
• Study the Unaccompanied Minor rules of the airline, and have copies of all paper work.
• Be sure your child has emergency numbers and food. Having some cash and a working cell phone are very good ideas.
• Be certain your child gets on the aircraft while you observe from the gate area.
Since so many factors are at play here (remember Murphy’s Law) it’s best not to let your child fly alone the very first time she or she is flying.
Would you let your child fly solo?