UK leisure carrier Thomson lets kids ‘check-in’ their teddy bear

By Raymond Kollau,

UK leisure carrier Thomson Airways, which carries over five million passengers a year to more than 80 holiday destinations across the globe, last month launched a novel front-desk process that allows young holidaymakers to ‘check in’ their teddy bear before they get onto the plane. Teddies can be registered prior to flying and receive a special boarding pass, which can be exchanged for a VIB – ‘Very Important Buddy’ – tag at the gate.

The idea is to help ensure that children take extra care and do not misplace their favourite companions amid the flurry and noise of a busy airport. Gatwick Airport’s lost-property department receives up to 30 lost stuffed animals every month and each loss leads to shed tears. As the Daily Mail nicely puts it: “It can be one of the most upsetting issues affecting a junior traveller – that moment of carelessness or distraction that sees a teddy bear left lying on an airport seat, or lost by a baggage carousel, spinning around in sorry silence amid the last remaining suitcases.”

For Thomson the main objective of the ‘teddy bear check-in’ is for children to pay closer attention to their toys when flying. Says Carl Gissing, Director Customer Service at the airline: “As a family-friendly tour operator, we like to make a fuss of children travelling on our holidays, both in resort and on their flight,” . “We know that kids will love checking their toys in and taking home the VIB tag as a souvenir.”

TAM Kids

Another sympathetic concept launched by an airline to engage kids when flying is TAM’s ‘Comandante Kid’ initiative, which is part of the Brazilian airline’s TAM Kids program. With parental consent, children up to 12 years of age can sign up for TAM Kids and receive an official ‘Comandante Kid’ badge. Children flying with TAM and wearing the badge are then invited to help the crew aboard by welcoming passengers over the plane’s PA system or distributing candies before the flight departs (videos here and here). Kids can also visit the cockpit after the aircraft has landed.


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