Traveling With Kids: Children Flying Alone

Millions of children fly alone each year. You can make sure your child is ready for this adventure with a little advance planning. For your child's safety and your own peace of mind, take every precaution to ensure an uneventful trip.

Logistics

Provide the airline with contact information for the adult who will drop the child off at the airport as well as the person who meet the child at the destination. Include names, addresses, and phone numbers of each party, as well as your own. Make sure the person picking up your child has identification. Whoever picks up your child needs the child's full itinerary.

The child should carry identification, cash, a cell phone, and ideally a credit card of yours as well. If you can get away with it, send the child with only a carry-on bag marked with their name and address inside and out.

Give yourself plenty of time. There will be paperwork. The person who takes the child needs to remain at the airport until the flight has departed. Introduce the child to the gate agent and remind the agent that your child is traveling alone. The gate agent should give your child's travel documents to the flight attendant, who will then give them to the gate agent at the destination, who will check the identification of the person picking up the child.

If your child has special dietary or medical needs, put these in writing to the airline

Unaccompanied Minors Rules

Rules vary from one airline to another, but the general guidelines are that children ages 5 - 12 who travel without a parent or guardian are "unaccompanied minors." They may or may not be allowed to make connections, but if they do you will probably be charged and additional fee.

  • Most airlines require a child to be at least five years old to fly unaccompanied.
  • Many airlines require a child to be at least eight in order to made a connecting flight.
  • If your child is over twelve, you can request an airline escort, but generally it will not be required.

Expect to pay anywhere from $40 - $99 each way as an escort fee for unaccompanied minors. The exact fees are determined by each airline depending on the age of the child and whether or not a connection is made.

Remember that legally your child is treated the same as an adult passenger. The airline does not take on any special responsibility for the guardianship of your child during flight.

Safety

Go over safety reminders with your child before you get to the airport. Make sure the child understands they are not to speak to anyone besides the gate agent and flight attendant. The airlines are wonderful to children and you really have little to worry about. Just make sure the person picking the child up on the other end arrives early enough to get to the gate.

Explain to the child they need to be a big boy or girl. It doesn't hurt to bring up emergency scenarios such as the case that the airplane needs to land in another location. Explain that the flight attendants would take care of the child. Inspire confidence and your child will not let you down.

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Isabella Snow profile image

Isabella Snow 9 years ago

I used to fly from JFK to LAX every summer when I was a kid. It was fun, because you get special treatment from the flight attendants. But once you land, I was always on my own!! I had to make them go with me to find whomever was picking me up, and they always acted rather annoyed at having to help a 10 year old find the baggage claim!

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