United Airlines earlier this month quietly changed its unaccompanied minors policy to restrict young fliers traveling alone to nonstop flights only.
United’s new policy began with tickets purchased on or after Dec. 5, a spokesman said via e-mail. “We will no longer accept unaccompanied minors aged 5 to 11 on itineraries that involve connections, a change that’s similar to the policies of several of our U.S. competitors,” spokesman Charles Hobart said.
Also, the optional service extended to travelers 12 to 17 years old will no longer be available on itineraries that involve connections, Hobart said. United will provide an escort for unaccompanied minors who were ticketed before Dec. 5. The airline charges $150 each way for the service, above and beyond the cost of the ticket.
By comparison, American Airlines says it accepts unaccompanied minors on direct, through and connecting flights, unless the connecting flight is the last flight of the evening or requires an overnight. Southwest Airlines allows unaccompanied minors 5 to 11 years old on nonstop and direct flights, which means a stop by no change of planes. (There is a change on a connecting flight.)
Brian Sumers, writing at the L.A. Airspace blog, notes that “ensuring that a bunch of 5- to 11-year-olds are taken care of during a layover is not the easiest thing. I imagine that this policy change will make the program more efficient for United.”
More efficient maybe, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t ruffled feathers. Many weighed in with comments on a forum topic on FlyerTalk.com. MSPGabe writes in part: “That is a HUGE change from what it used to be, and will certainly affect parents who send their children as unaccompanied minors.”
Anyone affected by the change in United’s policy?