Air New Zealand Introducing New Tracking of Unaccompanied Minors
Photo courtesy of Thinkstock
It’s one of the most stressful types of airline travel, and you’re not even the one stepping on the aircraft.
But your child is.
Millions of children fly unaccompanied every year – heck, Southwest Airlines estimated that 300,000 kids flew by themselves on their airline alone in 2013 – with little more than a cell phone to tell parents that they’ve arrived at their destination.
But what if you could receive real-time information on your child from start to finish? The peace of mind alone would be worth it, and that’s what Air New Zealand is looking to do with the help of an ingenious new program. Air New Zealand carries about 28,000 unaccompanied minors every year according to the New Zealand Herald, and its newest innovation is to give those children a digital wristband to wear in the color of their choosing. It’s more than just a fashion accessory, however.
Air New Zealand’s digital wristband contains a chip that connects to a mobile app which airline employees can access. The flight crew can then send texts and/or photos to family members with exact real-time information, including the boarding process, in-flight information, when the plane has landed and, most importantly, confirmation the child has been picked up by the adult on the other end of the flight.
According to airlinetrends.com, this is also very similar to what China Southern Airlines has done in having employees take photos of unaccompanied minors in the airport, at the boarding gate and in the airplane. The photos are then uploaded to a site only parents and guardians can access, so that adults can see how their children are doing during the course of the flight.
In many respects, while that might sound invasive and somewhat creepy, it beats the alternative. Earlier this year, United Airlines made a huge gaffe involving an unaccompanied minor. After a parent paid for a ticket and a $300 free to have her unaccompanied minor put on a United flight from Washington to Newark-Liberty to visit his grandparents, the airline failed to deliver the boy once the flight arrived in New Jersey. Part of United Airlines' unaccompanied minor policy includes a guarantee that all minors will be escorted to the arrivals area by a company employee. The boy was not.
In the meantime, the boy’s grandfather was given incorrect information about the terminal where the flight was going to land, creating 30 minutes of anxious moments before the boy, the grandfather and the mother back in Washington all connected via text messages between themselves.
Air New Zealand’s new tracking system is expected to roll out before year’s end.
More by Rich Thomaselli
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