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Elderly Travel Tips for Southwest
Summertime is a fun time for trips and activities both for grandparents and their grandchildren as well as the elderly parents in our family. This, of course, can include airplane trips. Will you be flying Southwest Airlines with your Sandwich Generation elderly parents or grandchildren in the upcoming months? Having just returned from a long plane trip with one of my grandkids, I have a couple of new travel tips for air travel with seniors and elderly parents specific to Southwest.
Southwest Policies Favor Caregivers
I do want to start off by saying that Southwest is my absolute FAVORITE airline, starting with their usually cheaper prices. The Southwest Airlines Baggage Policy of no charges for your first two suitcases is wonderful for holding down our costs! Best of all, not charging penalties for flight changes means that if the Sandwich Generation issues of caring for elderly parents and helping with grandchildren require us to change our plans unexpectedly we save a ton! You have to pay for whatever the new ticket price is, the same as other airlines. But if you totally cancel, the money you spent is held in credit til your next flight OR you can give it to someone else who will be flying. That is a BIG help.
More Air Travel Tips for Seniors
There are a couple of of other things they do that are slightly different from many of the other airlines:
As many of us know, when flying with Southwest Airlines you do NOT get a seat assignment. Instead when you check in you get a letter and number assignment that is the order for you to get in line to board the plane. What many people still don’t realize is that you can go to Southwest.com during the 24 hours before your flight (starting at exactly 24 hours before takeoff), enter your confirmation number and name, and get your boarding position assignment. The earlier you logon (and it is only available via computer, not by phone), the more choice you will have in where you get to sit. These are especially valuable air travel tips for Seniors and Boomers in the Sandwich Generation traveling with one or more family members needing extra help.
Your boarding position will be a letter A-C and a number 1-60. Southwest boards minors traveling alone and those passengers qualifying for Southwest’s blue disability card and their companions first. You do need to get that at the counter and I would do that as soon as possible. I would also still check in as early as possible, particularly if you have a family member with special needs that aren’t readily apparent. We have dealt with that and while 99% of the time we have had no problem, once or twice we were not seated right away or given a blue disability card. In addition, if something causes you to run late getting to the airport, having an A1-60 ticket will still help tremendously.
After the minors and special needs passengers are seated, the next passengers to get on are those with boarding passes with the letter/number combos A1-30 first, A31-60 next. Then they let any families with small children who have B or C boarding assignments go (those with A get to board in their spot in line), then B1-30, B31-60, C1-30, and finally C31-60.
Saving Time With Earlybird
Want more air travel tips for seniors and boomers? Here’s one that costs a bit but could be well worth it. You are allowed to pay a fee per passenger each way to get an automatic Earlybird check-in which should give you an excellent boarding assignment. Many business travelers do this but it can add quite a bit to the flying expenses of the Sandwich Generation. Just for my grandchild and myself it would have been an extra $40 on the last trip. Throw in my senior mom, and then it’s $60. With ticket prices running higher already, that’s an expense I’d like to skip thought there are many times I do it, if time is at a premium. If it is something you would like to do, be sure you sign up for it between 25 hours and 36 hours before your scheduled take-off time. And the earlier you sign up, the better your seat assignment.
Otherwise, be sure to take advantage of the Southwest early check in so you can get an A or high B boarding assignment. The earlier you check in the better. With so many business travelers paying extra for the earlybird option or Business Select full price, I’m finding that even when I log on right at the 24 hour mark, I’m only getting A40 – A50 and sometimes even into the Bs. That’s not bad but I used to get A16 – A30 all the time! The reason it is important is to be able to ensure everyone you are flying with can get seats all together.
Part 2 is A’comin
For more air travel tips for boomers and seniors on this topic, including some special tips for Senior Citizen travelers as well as all of us Sandwich Generation Grandparents, be sure to check back next Friday for part 2 of Southwest Airlines Online Check In Tips For The Sandwich Generation.