British Airways has announced that, due to “a decline in demand”, they have taken the decision to stop offering their Unaccompanied Minor service (Skyflyer Solo) with immediate effect.
The British Airways release to the travel industry opens with the headline that the Unaccompanied Minor service is to end on 31 January 2017….but that’s only for existing bookings.
British Airways has said:
We will honour all bookings that have already been made for unaccompanied minors, but new bookings will cease from 24 February 2016.
Bookings made and ticketed before 24 February 2016 are not affected by these changes but, should customers wish to put through a date change, the date of travel must be before 31 January 2017.
Bookings made and not ticketed will be, according to British Airways, “cancelled automatically”.
The airline goes on to say:
In line with existing policy, we will continue to take bookings for 12 to 18 year-olds who wish to fly independently. However, children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult aged 16 years or over.
British Airways have set up an FAQ for anyone who needs more information.
If, like quite a few people, you find yourself in a position where you you were planning on booking British Airways’ unaccompanied minor service but just hadn’t got around to it, the Virgin Atlantic may be your best option.
Virgin Atlantic’s Offering
It would appear that Virgin Atlantic still offer an unaccompanied minor service and full details can be found on their “Children Travelling Alone” webpage.
This is what Virgin Atlantic have to say:
If your child needs to travel alone for some reason, don’t worry, we’ll make sure their flight goes smoothly.
We’re happy to accept unaccompanied children on flights from the age of 5 up to 15 – and it goes without saying we’ll make sure they’re OK throughout their journey.
- The parent/guardian of the travelling child must stay at the airport until the child’s flight has departed
- Children under five must always travel with someone aged sixteen or over – we can’t fly them on their own
Booking the Virgin Atlantic service seems pretty straight forward and the fist thing to note is that you cannot book online.
- Bookings should be made via the Virgin Atlantic reservations team (0344 209 777) or through a travel agent.
- You’ll be sent a “declaration of indemnity” form to be completed and signed.
- One copy on the declaration of indemnity is to be returned to the UK support center while the other should be retained for the day of departure – no form, no travel.
- It’s up to the parents/guardians to ensure the child has all the necessary visas/ESTAS required for wherever they’re traveling to (don’t forget that Canada has recently introduced a US style ESTA requirement)
- Once the child has been checked-in they’ll be in the hands of Virgin Atlantic and they’ll take things from there.
- Upon landing the child will be escorted through immigration and customs and be handed over to whomever was named on the declaration of indemnity form as the recipient. That adult will have to be able to provide ID before the child is released into their care.
That’s the bare bones of the Virgin Atlantic unaccompanied minor offering. For more details, including what could cause Virgin Atlantic to refuse to accept your child and special instructions for travel to South Africa, make sure you read the Virgin Atlantic “Children Travelling Alone” webpage.
I heard murmurings about this from some of the British Airways staff at Heathrow T5 last week but I had no idea that the axe was about to fall so soon. The lack of notice given to parents seems unnecessary and bad PR – this is going to affect a lot of families.
Would it have been that hard for BA to continue to take bookings for travel up to the end of the year? Apparently they’re manning the service until January 2017 anyway and, presumably, there isn’t a massive staffing demand from the service (if numbers are low enough for it to be terminated) so why not give more warning?
I realise that I tend to bash British Airways quite a bit but I do try to be even handed and I’ve making a concerted effort to look for the good (I love their tea!) rather than focusing on the bad (I won’t start!). But sometimes it just seems like they can’t help themselves, and this is just another example of something small that could have been handled a lot better and without much effort either.
Featured image: Marco Giumelli via Flickr
[…] the end of February British Airways announced, somewhat suddenly, that offering an unaccompanied minor service was simpl…. They used the excuse of “a decline in demand” but they may as well have said that […]
I am extremely disappointed with BA decision, considering I had called the prior week to enquiry about the service and tried to book for the flights a week after and was told they no longer offered the service. I would suspect for a company such as BA they would give families plenty of notice before cancelling the service, a rush decision can never be beneficial for companies.
It was a very disappointing, sudden decision by British Airways and one I’m not sure I understand. I hope you managed to find another airline to accommodate your needs. If you’re having any issues, take a look at this post I ran the other day on airlines that offer an Unaccompanied Minor service…one of them should be able to help out:
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