There are many reasons why your children may need to take a flight alone. Whether they are heading to visit their grandparents in another state or leaving for camp for the summer, there are many rules and regulations regarding children flying alone. It is important to check into the unaccompanied minor flight policies of the airline you are using because the regulations differ from airline to airline.
So, what are the regulations for children flying alone? Not all airlines have the same rules regarding children flying alone. However, most of them allow children over the age of 5 to travel as an unaccompanied minor.
The following limitations and qualifications are the norm for most airlines:
|Age||Limitations||Are Unaccompanied Minor Procedures Required?|
|Under age 5||Not allowed to fly alone||N/A|
|Ages 5 to 7||Allowed to fly alone only on nonstop flights; cannot travel alone on flights with connections||Yes|
|Ages 8 to 11||Allowed to travel alone on any kind of flight||Yes|
|Ages 12-17 (domestic flights)||Allowed to travel alone without any limitations||Only by parental request|
|Ages 12-17 (international flights)||Allowed to travel alone without any limitations||Yes, for most carriers. Some may not require it.|
Can Kids Fly Alone? – Rules and Regulations
Every single airline is different when it comes to its rules and regulations about children flying alone.
The following factors must be considered when booking your child’s solo flight:
- The child’s age
- The kind of flight being booked
- The specific airline’s solo flight age restrictions
- Whether or not an unaccompanied minor program is offered by the airline, required by the airline, or desired by the parent
- How much the unaccompanied minor program fees are
For most airlines, the following age limitations apply:
- Children under the age of 5 cannot fly alone.
- Children ages 5 to 14 can travel alone as unaccompanied minors.
- Children ages 15 to 17 can travel alone without restrictions, but parents can request unaccompanied minor services.
Kind of Flight
The kind of flight can determine whether or not a child is allowed to fly alone, as well. If the flight is a nonstop flight from one place to another, young children ages 5 to 7 can travel on it alone.
However, if the flight has a connection, the child must be at least 8 years old to fly on it alone.
Specific Airlines’ Age Restrictions
There are many different airlines, and they all have varying policies about children flying alone.
Some of the various rules and regulations that govern the flights of unaccompanied minors at different airlines are:
- With Alaska Airlines, children flying alone cannot be booked on flights that begin between 9 pm and 5 am.
- With American Airlines, children 2 to 14 years old can travel as an “accompanied minor” with someone 16 years of age or older.
- With Delta Airlines, all children flying as unaccompanied minors get a trackable wristband, access to a Sky Zone lounge just for kids, and a personal escort.
- With Hawaiian Airlines, children 12 years of age and older can travel alone on domestic without needing to use the unaccompanied minor program.
- With JetBlue, unaccompanied minors can only fly on nonstop flights.
- With Southwest Airlines, only children aged 5 to 11 are considered unaccompanied minors.
- With Spirit Airlines, unaccompanied minors can only fly on direct flights that don’t require a change of aircraft or flight number.
- With United Airlines, the unaccompanied minor service is not available for children ages 15 and over.
Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, and Sun Country Airlines do not allow children under 15 to fly alone.
Unaccompanied Minor Programs
Not all airlines offer unaccompanied minor programs or services. The airlines that do offer them require them for certain ages and will provide them for older children at the request of the parent.
Unaccompanied minor programs vary from airline to airline but typically will make sure that your child is boarded onto the plane, introduced to the flight attendant, are provided a chaperone for connections, and released only to the designated person when they arrive at their destination.
Costs for Unaccompanied Minor Services
Unaccompanied minor programs and services vary in price.
Some basic price points (for one unaccompanied minor) for these programs at various airlines are:
- Alaska Airlines – $50 to $75
- American Airlines – $150
- Delta Airlines – $150
- JetBlue – $100
- Southwest Airlines – $50
- Spirit Airlines – $100
- United Airlines – $150
A more detailed look at the cost of unaccompanied minor programs according to the number of children traveling alone is: (Chart reflects United Airlines costs.)
|Number of Unaccompanied Minors||Fee for Service for a One-Way Flight||Fee for Service for Roundtrip Flights|
How to Prepare Your Children for Flying Alone
Flying alone can be very nerve-racking or even a bit scary for children, especially younger ones. It’s important to make sure you prepare your children for their flight with everything they need – documents, information, and anything else they may require (like asthma inhalers). If they know what to expect when they are going through the motions at the airport, they are less likely to become anxious.
Tips for arrival at the airport and settling in your child or children include:
- Get to the airport ahead of time. It is recommended to arrive 1-2 hours early for a domestic flight and 2 hours early for an international flight.
- You should expect to fill out an unaccompanied minor form, get through airport security, and make sure your child reaches their gate in time for pre-boarding.
- If you have someone else dropping your child off at the airport, make sure they know that all of this must be done before the child is allowed to board. Also, make sure the person that is dropping your child off for their return flight knows these steps.
- Bring the address and the home and cell phone numbers of the person that is meeting your child at their destination. The airline will need this information to ensure your child is delivered to the correct person.
- Some airlines will give the child a special badge to wear. This badge identifies them as an unaccompanied minor, and they should not take it off until they are safely with the person who is picking them up at their destination.
- Have your child use the bathroom before heading to the pre-boarding gate.
- As an unaccompanied minor, your child will be brought onto the plane during pre-boarding. Each time your child is passed off to another airline worker, ID must be shown. You and the person picking up your child at their destination must also show ID.
- Stay at the gate area until you know that your child’s flight has taken off.
Things that your child should know before flying alone include:
- Do not leave the airport with anyone they do not know.
- Find an airline employee or airline police officer if they need help.
- If they are made to feel uncomfortable by anyone seated near them, let the flight attendant know.
- Explain about any connections or plane changes they should expect or may experience.
- They should know the name of the airports they are landing at and coming home to.
- If your child is an unaccompanied minor, make sure they know to wait for their chaperone or escort before getting off of the plane.
- If they have any questions at any time, they can ask a flight attendant. Let them know that there is a flight attendant call button above their airplane seat.
- Tell them about the changes in pressure that can make their ears uncomfortable. They can help ease the discomfort by yawning or swallowed lots of times or chewing gum.
- Talk about the sounds that airplanes make that may sound alarming and advise your child to keep their seatbelt on at all times while on the plane.
Your child should pack the following items in their carry-on luggage:
- A copy of their complete itinerary with dates, airline names, flight numbers, arrival times, departure times, and the reservation record locator number.
- A document with your home, work, and cell phone numbers and the phone numbers for the person your child is meeting at their destination.
- A note with your name and the child’s name in case the bag is lost.
- Light snacks – make sure to check the liquid quantity limit for the airline you are using if you child wants to pack drinks.
- Anything your child will need in the first 24 hours of landing in case their checked luggage is delayed, like medicine, glasses, and a change of clothes.
- A sweater or jacket in case they get cold on the plane.
- Entertainment items like books, small toys, games without many pieces, coloring books and crayons, video games, or personal stereos with headphones.
Most airlines allow your children to fly alone starting at age 5, and they also offer unaccompanied minor services that vary in price to help make sure that your child reaches their destination safely.
With the advancements in airport security and strict protocols in place that ensure your child is in good hands for their entire flight, you shouldn’t have to worry about them reaching their destination safely!