It’s probably scary, isn’t it? Allowing your child to embark on a flight alone? My friend Jossie was so scared and paranoid when her daughter had to fly to Massachusetts to meet her grandparents.
Jossie became very anxious immediately upon hearing about the story of nine-year-old Stacey, who went missing after a similar independent flight. Th police found Stacey two months after her kidnapping, where a stranger had coerced into leaving the plane with him.
Jossie almost cancelled her daughter’s flight when she heard Stacey’s story. But one of her coworkers talked her out of it and walked her through the process. And Jossie’s daughter made the trip to Massachusetts just fine.
No matter how many scary stories you might have heard, many children have taken flights alone without any incident. All you need to do is take the necessary precautions and make the necessary arrangements for your child’s first flight alone.v
Things You Should Know And Do Before Allowing Your Child To Fly Alone
1. General Age Guideline
- Children between ages 1-4 cannot fly unaccompanied by an adult.
- Children between ages 5-7 are only allowed to fly without adults on direct or non-stop flights.
- Children aged 8 years and above are allowed to take connecting flights.
Pro Tip: Book a direct flight for your child if possible, and avoid booking any last-minute flights. If you have to book connecting flights, make sure they are booked with the same airline.
2. Booking the Flight
Don’t book flights for your child online. You have to either call the airline, call a travel agent, or visit the airline yourself. Make sure you do the necessary research on available flights online before calling and visiting, so you can make the right booking for your child. If you have any problem with the booking, you can contact a customer service representative.
You should consider signing up for the unaccompanied minors program which most airlines offer. You will be charged an extra fee for the unaccompanied minor, which is completely separate from the airfare. The fee ranges between $25 to $150 depending on the airline and the destination. When two or more children from the same family are traveling together, most airlines charge you for only one child’s fee.
The unaccompanied minor’ fee provides your child with an airline representative escort to help him board the plane and another airline representative to meet him at his destination and deliver the child directly to whoever you have authorized to pick him up.
Pro Tip: Avoid booking a flight for your child later than 6 pm. In fact, the best flight time to book for your child is the first flight of the day because there is little danger of delays or layovers.
3. Packing For Your Child’s First Solo Flight
How you pack for your child’s flight will be determined by the distance he or she will be flying. It is advisable for your child to have a backpack.
- Your child should have a copy of his or her itinerary, birth certificate, copy of his ticket and a passport (if your child is traveling abroad). The birth certificate is a precautionary measure, especially if your child looks younger than his age.
- Pack some snacks and give your child money for food in case there are delays or layovers.
- Don’t forget to pack entertainment. You don’t want your child to get bored and wander around looking for something to do. Only you know what can entertain your child for the number of hours he’ll be on the airplane. So pack books, small toys, iPod or anything that he can safely use for entertainment on the plane.
- Pack some essentials (toothbrush, underwear, extra clothes) in case one of his checked bags gets lost. You should also include a sweatshirt or sweater to the bag, so he or she doesn’t get cold in a chilly plane.
- Remember to pack a cell phone or calling card with your child. It is important for your peace of mind and so your child can call for help if there is any need.
Pro Tip: Remind your child to turn off his or her electronic gadgets during takeoff or landing, as per flight rules.
4. Prepare Your Child Mentally
If this is the first time your child will ever be flying, you’ll need to mentally prepare him for the flight. Tell your child the rules to keep in mind, especially during take-off and landing. You should also tell your child about the entire process of his flight alone, how the airline representative will take him to the airplane and that he can ask a flight attendant for something to drink or where to pee.
Since he will be required to wear a badge indicating he is an unaccompanied minor, inform your child of how important it is that he or she does not remove the badge. Don’t forget to warn your child not to talk to strangers and not to leave the airport with anyone he or she doesn’t know.
5. Dropping Your Child Off At The Airport
You need to take your child to the airport at least two hours before his or her flight time. This will afford you enough time to fill out the necessary paperwork and get the gate pass you would need for going through security without a ticket. You should also take along your government-issued ID, so the airline can accept your child on board. This also applies to the person who’ll pick up your child at the airport.
Remember to make all the necessary arrangements, fill out all the paperwork, pack all that your child will need for a long or short flight and prepare him mentally for the trip. Even if it’s his second or third flight alone, you shouldn’t take any chances.
Related Post: If you are an adult flying solo, check out these 25 Tips for Successful Solo Travel.
Has your child ever flown as an unaccompanied minor? If you have other tips or tricks to make the trip easier for the child or parent, please let us know in a comment below.
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