Unaccompanied Minors – How Old Can You Be to Travel Alone?
Divorce obviously brings about change and sometimes a significant change in residence for one or both spouses. What happens when one parent must leave and one parent must stay? Kids are asking themselves, What happens to the children…especially the young children? Most parents (especially in these depressed economic times) cannot afford to pay for a plane ticket just to accompany their young child to go see their mom or dad…and then turn right back around and fly home. So that leaves parents to make a very hard decision. How old can you be to travel alone?
Well – lets first start at the beginning, what are the rules via the airlines?
(1) All children between ages 1-4 must travel with an adult.
(2) Children between the ages of 5- 7 may travel unaccompanied, but only on direct flights (they cannot change planes). Call the airline to ask about their unaccompanied minor service.
(3) Children between 7 – 11 can take connecting flights and the airline will have someone escort the minor to their connecting flight (for a hefty fee).
(4) Children between 12-17, can take connecting flights on their own (no one will escort them).
The unaccompanied minor service will cost anywhere from $75 – $100 (each way) varying between airlines. Even though the airline will take your money to assist with your children…they do NOT take legal responsibility for your child. One of the airline’s sites states the following “…you will have to agree that the airline is not taking on any special responsibility of guardianship during the flight. Legally, an unaccompanied minor is treated in the same way as an adult passenger.”
So what do you do? Do you fly with your child? How do you share costs?
There is really no right or wrong answer, it is a personal decision that must be made between yourself and your spouse. Here are some things to consider;
How old is he or she?
If your child is 5,6, or 7…the decision to let them fly alone should not be taken lightly. Depending on the length of the flight, and the ability of your young one to listen to instruction, play quietly by himself or herself, and maturity to handle being all alone on an airplane surrounded by strangers, the best answer may be to take it slow. Common sense tells me the best plan is to have the child make the flight with mom or dad a few times to slowly prepare them to fly alone after they are comfortable flying in general. This can help the child get used to the flight, the plane, and perhaps meet some of the flight attendants they would fly with. It is all about increasing the comfort level of your child.
Discuss what they should do if a flight is late, when the captain says to fasten your seat belt, how to use their earphones, the video game (available on some flights). Not only will your child gain confidence by flying with a parent a few times prior to taking a flight all by themselves, but the parents will also gain confidence sending their kids on the plane by themselves after they see first hand how their child handles themselves on the plane. This should give you an answer to the question, “How old can you be to travel alone?”
After your young one reaches 8, 9, and 10, it may be an easier to let go…but traveling a couple times along with them is still a good idea. Flying solo can be nerve-racking even as an adult, there are a lot of details to keep straight and a lot of things going on.
The main thing to keep in mind is to make the decision subjectively…just because your sisters, friends, brothers little kid has been flying alone since he was 5 does not mean yours should too. How old can you be to travel alone needs to be evaluated on their own, not in comparison to others the same age. And bottom line, if you have a bad feeling and it does not seem right, don’t do it. It is your precious baby…it is OK to want to protect him or her. They can fly on their own next year! 🙂