Airline policies can be cumbersome, arcane, even byzantine.
One frequent flyer program who works for a major airline told me earlier this year that he finds himself in meetings with his colleagues, talking through how a change might work to the program, and he’ll find himself having to stop and have someone remind the group how things are structured to begin with. The programs can be too complicated for even the program’s own executives to understand.
But through an email exchange with Reid F., here’s one that I really struggled trying to puzzle through.
Effective with tickets purchased September 3, American adopted the US Airways unaccompanied minor policy. Children aged 12 through 14 traveling alone now have to travel as unaccompanied, at a cost of $150 each way. Previously the policy applied to children up through age 11.
This is consistent with Delta’s policy although the fee is higher than other airlines.
Customers 16 years of age or older traveling alone may book travel online. Customers who are 15 and traveling alone must book travel by calling Reservations.
Fifteen year olds do not have to pay an unaccompanied minor fee. But I assumed they would have to pay a telephone booking fee. (Unless the 15 year old is also a 100,000 mile flyer).
And yet this all, actually, makes sense. I reached out to American to ask about the policy and a spokesman explained,
[I]t has to do with the way our website is programmed…15 year olds can’t accompany a younger passenger alone, so we don’t classify them as “adults” when booking. 16 year olds can accompany a younger child traveling alone, so the website allows a ticket to be purchased for them alone… [W]e ask people buying such tickets to call Reservations. We waive the phone reservation fee in those cases.
They only let ‘adults’ (who would be eligible to accompany a younger child) purchase tickets online. If a 15 year old could buy a ticket online, then the way their website is programmed a second passenger who was, say, 11 could be added to the reservation online. But American policy wouldn’t allow the 15 and 11 year olds to travel together unaccompanied. Rather than programming their website to allow 15 year olds to book online but not allow anyone younger to be part of the reservation, they require 15 year olds to book by phone.
But they do not impose a telephone booking fee for this as I had initially assumed.
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