For a variety of reasons, such as the greater incidence of divorced families or Grandma and Grandpa retiring to a sunny part of the country, children travelling by themselves represent an increasingly important share of the travel demand that airlines experience.
As far back as 20 + years ago out of the six hundred million passengers on planes, statistics showed in 1997 that an estimated seven million were children travelling alone – U.S. DEPT. OF TRANSP., AIR TRAVEL CONSUMER REPORT.
If this rising demand in requests for Unaccompanied minor travel were not enough in itself then imagine the challenge the airlines face with an airline market itself that has exploded in terms of passenger growth and regional footprint and complexity.
The number of scheduled passengers handled by the global airline industry has increased in all but one of the last 15 years. Scheduled passengers refer to the number of passengers who have booked a flight with a commercial airline. Excluded are passengers on charter flights, whereby an entire plane is booked by a private group. Worldwide, commercial airlines’ passengers air traffic revenue is estimated to come to around 567 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. It is was expected (prior to the Covid-19 pandemic) that 2020 would set a new record in terms of the number of scheduled passengers with over 4.72 billion predicted to travel.
Three main reasons are generally cited to explain the ongoing global growth in air travel. First is the increase in low-cost carriers, who have almost doubled their market share over the last 15 years. Second is the growth of the global middle class, especially in China. Both these developments have increased the number of consumers able to afford air travel. Finally, there is also the growth in airport infrastructure spending, led by the Asia Pacific region, which has increased the global carrying capacity.
The rising number of children traveling has created the need for the airlines to develop policies and procedures regarding the special needs of these passengers.
The challenge ahead – Airlines are going to have to rise to the challenge to address this in terms of ensuring safety for unaccompanied minors as well as ensuring that the logistics and information required to support this service are fit for purpose.
Currently there can be little doubt that the lack of harmonisation between airlines in their policies and procedures in terms of rules, price transparency and service provided means that unaccompanied minors will continue to be a growth area but perennially underserved in terms of customer experience. Country and regional rules make this landscape even more changeable.
Some airlines will no doubt rise to the challenge and others may simply decide that it is a task too hard to deal with and remove themselves from even offering the Unaccompanied Minor Service. One thing is sure and that is that there is currently and will continue to be huge demand of unaccompanied minors travelling.
*Photo for attention only.