There are a number of reasons children may end up flying as unaccompanied minors. And because Southwest is one of our readers’ favorite airlines (think Companion Pass), we’ve compiled the latest information regarding what you need to know if you have a child flying on Southwest as an unaccompanied minor.
Southwest allows children ages 5 to 11 to fly as unaccompanied minors.
What to know about flying Southwest as an unaccompanied minor
There is an additional $50 fee each way for a child flying as an unaccompanied minor. Children can only fly solo on domestic nonstop flights or those with same-plane service, which does not require a change of planes. Children can only be checked in and picked up by authorized parents or guardians.
Southwest considers kids 12 and older “young travelers” and allows them to travel alone without the additional fee.
Booking your ticket
You can book an unaccompanied minor like any other reservation, using either Southwest points or cash. When you enter your child’s birth date, you’ll be asked if they will be traveling with someone over the age of 12. Simply answer “no,” and Southwest will prompt you to fill out a special travel document with parent or guardian contact information.
When booking, avoid the last flight of the day because if the flight is cancelled, there will be no other option for rebooking until the following day. Double check all information on the ticket to make sure it is correct, and if it’s not, call Southwest to make changes.
What to bring the day of the flight
On the day of the flight, arrive at the airport at least two hours before departure. Stop by the Southwest ticket counter to pick up an unaccompanied-minor lanyard for your child to wear at all times, as well as an escort pass for yourself that lets you accompany your child to the gate.
Have this form filled out and ready to give to the gate agent.
You’ll also need:
- The child’s itinerary
- Your photo ID
- Your child’s birth certificate
- Name and contact information for the person picking your child up at the destination
It’s a good idea to have your child use the bathroom before boarding the plane. They will pre-board before other passengers and will be introduced to a flight attendant upon boarding. Be sure you stay in the gate area until the plane has taken off. You can monitor the flight progress via the Southwest app on your smartphone.
Picking up the child
The person picking up your child must be the person you designated when you checked your child in for the flight. This person should arrive about 45 minutes ahead of the scheduled arrival in case the plane is early. Your pickup person must show a photo ID and a copy of the child’s itinerary at the Southwest ticket counter and then will be given an escort pass that allows them to go to the gate to greet your child.
Tips for a smooth flight
Once the flight is in the air, a flight attendant will check on your child periodically. Upon landing, an airline employee will escort your child off the plane to meet the designated person who is picking up your child. Again, a photo ID will be required.
Here are more tips for a smooth flight:
- Send your child with a small carry-on bag that includes a copy of the child’s complete itinerary with dates, airline name, flight numbers, departure and arrival times, and the reservation record locator number. The itinerary should also have contact information for you and for the person who is picking up. Also provide emergency contact information.
- Pack a snack or sandwich because Southwest doesn’t serve meals.
- Pack a stuffed animal, blanket or other loved item to help keep the child from feeling alone or scared.
- Send activities or coloring books for entertainment.
- Charge all devices beforehand, as there are no outlets on Southwest planes or send a battery-powered portable charger.
- Pack headphones so volume is not an issue. Make sure children understand the crew’s directions about when they can and cannot use their devices.
- Write their names (first initial, last name) on the inside of any clothing that may be removed, like sweaters or jackets, which are good to bring along because the temperature varies on the plane.
- Ensure that your child knows never to leave with a stranger and to stay with the uniformed airline employee or airport police officer.
The U.S. Department of Transportation publishes a helpful booklet available online for more tips called “When Kids Fly Alone.” Here is the complete information from Southwest regarding unaccompanied minors.
For more information about flying Southwest and their loyalty program, be sure to read our Southwest Rapid Rewards review.