This is the first time my 13 yr old son will be flying His father and I will not be accompying him on the flight. I have no idea how to do anything dealing with flying I've never flown in my life. My spouse and I will be arriving at the airport with our son. What are the steps you follow once arriving at the airport I've already purchased his ticket. Does it get mailed to me or do we pick it up at the airport? Thanks
Air travel can seem like a big scary, crazy, foreign idea, but really it's pretty straightforward and hopefully this first trip for your son can foster a love of traveling. The key item to remember is you can always ask ANY Southwest employee for help while at the airport or on the plane. They will all try to make the process as easy as possible.
Now that you've purchased a ticket for your son, 24 hours prior to his departure you'll want to go on southwest.com and click "check-in". There you'll put in his name and confirmation number that are on the email you received when you purchased the ticket. When you finish check-in you'll get a boarding pass with a boarding position (A, B, or C with a number 1-60). If you can, print that out, but it's not required as you can get one printed at the airport. It's a good idea to at least have the confirmation number with you when you go to the airport.
Depending on what airport he is departing from and what time the flight is you'll need to determine how early to get there before the flight. 2 hours before departure is a good rule of thumb, but if you provide more information about the flight you booked we can provide more specific info.
When you arrive at the airport find the Southwest ticket counters. Some airports have kiosks that let you do the process yourself, but all airports have full service desks too where a Southwest employee can do all the work for you. Here you will drop of your baggage that you want to have checked (aka transported in the plane as cargo and not carried on by a person). He can check up to 2 bags, each weighing no more than 50lbs. If you didn't print your boarding pass at home you can also get one printed here. Since your son is flying alone you can request an escort pass so an adult can accompany him through security. You'll then be informed of what gate the flight is departing from. You can also see this information on TV monitors throughout the airport.
Proceed to security with your carry-on bag. This is typically a smaller bag/backpack/purse where your son can have a book, tablet, laptop, phone, headphones, and a snack or two. Adults will need an ID (drivers license is one option), kids under 18 do not need an ID. All items must go through an x-ray machine and every person will go through some sort of scanner. There are plenty of TSA staff around security to help you and can instruct you what is required. Some times you will need to remove your shoes and belts, other times it's fine to keep them on so ask for clarification. You cannot take liquids or gels in a container larger than 3.4oz so no water bottles (unless they are empty), soda cans, or jelly filled doughnuts (yum) and TSA also frowns on weapons of any sort so leave those at home.
After security you'll walk to your gate. Some airports require taking a tram, bus, or train to get to the gate, others are small enough to only require walking. Again, you can look at monitors to determine what gate you need to go to. Once at the gate it's not a bad idea to ask a Southwest employee if you are at the correct gate. "Is this the gate for the flight to xxxx?" Once you know you're at the right place the waiting game begins.
30 minutes prior to departure boarding should begin. While there will be plenty of announcements explaining how boarding works, here's the summary. On the boarding pass you'll find your boarding position. A group people line up first in numerical order. After they board A1-30 first, then A31-60, all the B group people will line up and repeat the process. Then C group people do the same thing. Your son should line up in his assigned position. For example, if he is B43, he will wait until after the A group people board and the announcement is made that B group people should line up. Then he should find the sign post that says his number range and he can find his place in line. "Hi, I'm B43, what number are you?" always works to find the right spot.
Once on the plane your son can sit anywhere he wants on the plane. He can look around and find a seat he likes. Depending on his boarding position he may have lots of choices, or just a few seats remaining. His carry-on items should either go underneath the seat in front of him (where his feet also go) or in the overhead bin above his seat. If he has ANY questions he can ask a Southwest employee on the plane and they would be happy to help him out. During flight they may offer drinks and snacks, all are included in the price so let him know he's allowed to accept what is offered and can even request refills or additional snacks if time and weather conditions allow. It's also a good idea to bring your own snacks depending on the length of the flight. It's always a good idea to keep headphones off until after all the safety announcements are made so he know what to do just in case there is a problem. Phones should be turned to Airplane mode during flight and headphones should be worn if using a device with sound.
For the sake of simplicity I'll assume there is only one flight involved with this trip, but if there is a stop in a city other than the destination city we can provide more details about what to do if you provide the itinerary.
Upon landing at the destination your son should follow signs and proceed towards the baggage claim area. He can be met there by the adult picking him up. It’s also possible for an adult at the destination to get an escort pass from the Southwest ticket counter so they can meet your son at the gate he arrives at. The adult will need your son’s name and information about what flight he is on.
And that’s about it. Lots of words, but it’s really not that complex. As I said, if you provide more specific information about the trip we can give you more details about what to expect at the airport. Hope that helps, please post again if you have other questions and we’d love to hear how the trip goes.
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