Here’s what you need to know if your child will be flying solo.
1. Age matters. An “unaccompanied minor” (the airline’s term) is usually considered to be between 5-11 or 5-14 years old. Most airlines will not accept children younger than 5 flying alone.
2. You may need proof of age. Most airlines will ask for proof of the child’s age at check-in, especially if they are young. Bring along a birth certificate to be safe.
3. You probably won’t get a discount. Most airlines don’t offer youth fares anymore. In fact, you will probably have to pay a fee for escort duties (the airline will arrange for someone to get your child on and off the flight, as well as help them make connections).
4. Airlines need advance warning. Let the airline know at the time of booking that your child is traveling alone so they can make necessary arrangements. Be aware that unaccompanied minors are usually not allowed to fly on the last flight of the day, or on “red-eye” flights, in order to avoid hotel stays due to bad weather or flight delays.
5. Early arrival is important. Unaccompanied minors are usually pre-boarded, so airlines recommend allowing plenty of time to check-in and go through security. A relaxed pace will also be less stressful for your child.
6. You may have to choose a non-stop flight. Each airline has different rules, but many will not allow younger children to fly alone on connecting flights.
7. Siblings flying together usually pay only one escort fee. Plus, they’ll be able to entertain each other.
8. You need to stay until take-off. Most airlines will request that you stay at the gate until the plane departs, in case the plane needs to return due to mechanical problems or other delays.
9. Whoever picks your child up will need to be cleared through security and ID checks. Make sure your child has not only your phone numbers and other contact information, but the contact information of whomever is picking them up. It’s also a good idea for your child to have a cell phone or calling card with them (make sure they know how to use it first!)
10. Airlines can’t administer medications. If your child is on prescription medications they’ll need to be able to take it themselves; if they can’t ask, your doctor’s advice.