5 Tips for Sending a Child Alone on an Airplane


Are you sending your child alone on an airplane? Maybe they’re going to summer camp and you can’t get time off work or perhaps they’re going to visit a family member in another state or country. Check out these five great tips to help you prepare.

Plan Ahead

You should never arrive at the airport without informing your airline that your child will be traveling alone. Your child might not be allowed on the plane. Airlines take unaccompanied minors very serious so you need to make plans ahead of time to ensure the airline knows your child will travel alone and that you have paid your fees.

All airlines will charge extra fees for sending unaccompanied minors on an airplane. Here is a breakdown of how airlines typically define a minor and assess fees. (Note: It is recommended you look at each airline’s policy as they may differ and are subject to change.)

Age 0 – 4: Cannot be sent on a plane alone. A parent or guardian must travel with them

Age 5 – 7: Can travel alone on direct flights only, no connecting flights.

Age 8 – 11: Can travel on domestic direct and connecting flights. If there is a connecting flight, an airline attendant will escort the minor to the next gate.

Ages 12+: Can fly direct and connecting flights without an airline attendant to escort them from gate to gate. You can still have this done if you pay the fee.

For an international flight, anyone below the age of 17 must have a signed letter of consent from both parents or legal guardian. These guidelines can change depending on your airline, but if you haven’t booked a flight yet, they’re a good indication of what to expect.

As for fees, you will pay somewhere between $50 to $150 extra for unaccompanied minors. Usually the fee varies depending on how old the child is, whether or not the flight is a connecting one and the airline itself.

Example:

Southwest: $50 each way for anyone under the age of 12

American Airlines: $150 each way for anyone under the age of 14

United: $150 each way for anyone under the age of 12

Delta: $150 each way for anyone under the age of 12

Scandinavian Airlines: €30-40 per direction for anyone between the ages of 5 and 12

Air France: €50-100 each way for international flights for any child between 5 and 14

Find an airline that fits your needs. Your child’s safety – not your wallet – should be your first priority.

Don’t Schedule a Connecting Flight

Sometimes it cannot be helped, but if it can, do not schedule a connecting flight for your minor. Flying alone can be a scary experience for any kid. Having to worry about making a connecting flight can only add more stress.

If you have to schedule a connecting flight, make sure your child knows the flight attendants will be there to help. Part of the fee includes an escort to the connecting gate. Make sure your child knows this before heading to the airport.

Choose Smaller Airports

The size of an airport can be just as intimidating as flying itself. If you can, try to schedule flights out of smaller airports. For example, if you’re flying out of Chicago, book flights through Midway instead of O’Hare. A smaller airport looks less intimidating, and your child will have an easier time navigating on their own.

Pack Emergency information and Fun Games

Your child should have two things: all emergency information and a few fun games and bellowed toys. The information should outline what to do in case of certain events. If the plane is delayed for example, write down what your child should do. If a flight is cancelled, explain what to do and who to contact so your child feels safe and secure.

A favorite toy or game can make the flying experience more fun and enjoyable. Make sure your child has something that makes them feel secure – a stuffed animal or blanket.

Don’t Check a Bag

The last thing you want your child worrying about when he or she lands is baggage. Most airlines allow a small suitcase and a bag or backpack to be carried on. Pack these bags with all your child’s essentials and don’t even worry about checking bags. Make this journey as easy as possible for your child.

Sending a child alone on an airplane can be scary, but if you plan ahead and talk with your child about traveling alone, the experience can be a rewarding one. Tell me, what worries you the most about sending your child alone on an airplane?

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Caroline Glassell, owner of Travel Barista, is a world-wide traveler, freelance travel writer, and multi-lingual mom of two daughters. Growing up in both Sweden and Portugal she developed a passion for travel at a young age. Her love of travel ultimately brought her to over thirty 

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