Air Travel for Unaccompanied Minors

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In these times of cheap flights and high divorce rates, there are a great number of minors flying unaccompanied by their parents.

If you’re worried about your your children flying on their own, there are a few things that you can do to ensure they’re safe throughout their journey.

Unaccompanied Minors Flying

To clarify, children between the ages of 5 and 14 who are traveling without a parent (or guardian) are classed as ‘unaccompanied minors’.

Before sending an unaccompanied minor on a flight, you’ll have to fill out a form containing their vital information (name, date of birth, etc.).

You can then pay for the airline to have someone escort your child (for a fee of around $80 – $100) from the plane (once they’ve reached their destination) either to their connecting flight or into the care of a pre-named person.

Age Guidelines

The problem with this whole thing is that every airline seems to have their own policy regarding unaccompanied minors flying, but as a general rule this is what you can expect on domestic flights:

  • Children aged 1 – 4 cannot fly unaccompanied by a parent or guardian.
  • Children aged 5 – 7 can fly direct from one destination to another unaccompanied, but cannot go on a journey that involves connecting flights. They must also be escorted by airline personnel.
  • Children aged 8 – 11 can take connecting flights, but they must be escorted by airline personnel.
  • Children aged 12 – 17 may fly unaccompanied and without an airline escort, but they must have a signed note from their parent/guardian giving them permission to do so.

As stated previously, these are only a list of general age guidelines, so it’s best to contact your airline before booking to be sure that your child is allowed to travel unaccompanied. For example, US Airways do not allow children younger than 15 years of age to travel unaccompanied on a journey that involves them getting a connecting flight.

How Much Does it Cost?

The standard rate for airline escorts is around $80 – $100. The price can sometimes be a lot more, however, if your child needs escorting to a connecting flight.

Here are a few examples of the fees charged by some of the top airlines:

  • American Airlines – $100 for a nonstop or connecting flight.
  • AirTran – $25 for a nonstop flight; $40 with connection.
  • Delta – $100 for a nonstop or connecting flight.
  • United Airlines – $99 for a nonstop or connecting flight.

These prices listed are for domestic flights within the USA. For international flights, the prices are often higher and the age restrictions are often stricter.

Note that the price you pay for an escort is the same whether you’ve got one child or five (so long as they’re all traveling in the same party).

It’s also worth noting that although children can often get reduced priced tickets, if they are traveling unaccompanied the chances are they’ll be charged the price of an adult ticket.

Tips for Success

Whenever and wherever possible, book your children on non-stop flights. If, however, this isn’t a possibility, try to make it so the connection is done at a smaller, low-key airport where there will be less people and fewer opportunities to get lost.

Create fun ‘travel pack’ for your child so that they have lots of things to do whilst on the flight. Coloring books, magazines and video games are great.

Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and check in. You want to whole experience to be as relaxing as possible for your child.

Let your child know where they’re going and where they’re changing flights. Try to get them to learn their travel itinerary.

Give your child a photograph of the person they’re supposed to be meeting at the other end. On the back write down their name, telephone number and their address. In addition to this, make sure that this person meeting them (the one in the photograph) is carrying some kind of photo ID with them.

Lastly, most airlines won’t allow you to book unaccompanied minors on late night connecting flights (i.e. after 9pm). This is because these are generally the last flights of the day, and if they’re cancelled your child will be waiting around in the airport for hours on end (until they can board another flight in the morning). Not good!

Related posts:

  1. How to Avoid Your Flight Being Cancelled

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