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The Mature Traveler

Southwest Airlines Lowers Some Senior Fares

October 02, 1988|BILL HUGHES | Hughes is a 30-year veteran travel writer living in Sherman Oaks

Southwest Airlines has lowered its Senior Fares (age 65 and older) selectively in 13 states. From $19 for a flight from Los Angeles to Phoenix to $99 for such destinations as Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, New Orleans and Nashville, Tenn. All require at least one stop en route.

The lower fares match the airline's regular 21-day advance-purchase Fun Fares offered to all ages. But the Senior Fares do not require advance round-trip purchase. Nor must they include a Saturday stopover. And they are refundable if cancelled.

However, Senior Fares do have restrictions. They are only usable on flights between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and all day Saturday. Proof of age must be shown, if requested, at the time of departure.

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Mature travelers (age 50 and older) make up the overwhelming percentage of recreational vehicle owners. According to a University of Michigan survey, nearly 10% of all heads of vehicle-owning households over age 55 own 30% of the nation's 7.5 million RVs.

This year the newest of these vehicles can be seen at the Los Angeles RV Show to be held Nov. 4-13 at Dodger Stadium. Based on ownership and rental trends, the American Assn. of Retired Persons estimates that 9 million senior Americans use RVs on an annual basis.

AARP reports that RV trips account for 18% of all trips taken by seniors (to AARP, age 50 is a senior), even surpassing flying in the 55-to-59 age group. In addition, 72% of all RV trips are made by travelers 50 and older.

Because the over-50 generation is the nation's fastest-growing population group, according to AARP, it is likely that both the RV ownership and use rates will rise proportionately.

The 60 million Americans over age 50 reportedly represent more than 35% of the U.S. adult population and control 76% of the assets. Their income totals $886 billion, of which about three-fourths is said to be discretionary.

Mature Americans not only take more trips in RVs than any other age group, they take longer trips. Compared to travelers age 50 and younger, who average 4.8 nights a trip, travelers in the 50-plus group average 6.5 nights a trip. Those 65 and older average 8.2 nights.

The RV Show will offer five RV units as part of a major giveaway: a folding Coleman camping trailer, Kit travel trailer and truck campers from Coachmen, a Lance Camper and Perris Valley Campers.

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Insight International Tours, a specialist in mature travel, said it is not too early to start planning for the Oberammergau Passion Play in 1990, especially for senior tour groups.

The Toronto-based tour company, which works through travel agencies, has an Oberammergau (West Germany) brochure to help senior tour group leaders with their planning. Any group leader planning for 11 paying passengers gets a reduction of 50% on the tour, or travels free with 16 paying passengers.

For the free brochure, see any travel agent. If not available, have the agent call Insight at (714) 261-5373.

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