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Is Your Child Flying Alone? Here’s What You Need to Know!

Is your child flying alone to see Dad or Grandma and Grandpa during the holiday season? Unaccompanied minors (UM), in airline terms, are a common occurrence to the airlines though can be a confusing nightmare to us parents!

My kids flew to see their dad often and I was always the parent doing the sign-of-the-cross at the gate as they boarded – so your stress and anxiety about having your kids flying solo is something I am all too familiar with.

Child Flying AloneAre these the questions you’re asking? (I know I did!)

  • At what age is a child considering an unaccompanied minor?
  • What is the cost of flying solo?
  • Can I walk my child to the gate?
  • Can my young child fly alone on an international flight?
  • What if there is a flight connection – who will walk my child to their next flight?
  • What if there is a flight delay?
  • Can the person meeting my child meet them at the gate?
  • How does my child buy a snack on the plane when they do not have a credit card? (When my kids flew, there was food and it was free, but reliving that history is pointless!)

The first of these questions are answered here with information pulled from several airline sites. Airline rules are known to change often, so always check with your airline before booking your child’s ticket.

Airlines’ Unaccompanied Minors Information

United – $150 fee each way. Ages 5-11. 5-7 can only do non-stop. 8-11 can travel on any flight, as long as it’s not an overnight connecting and not the last flight of the day. Ages 12-17 can either pay the service charge or travel as adults. Can walk to gate. United’s FAQ

Delta – $150 fee each way. Parents can walk to the gate (gate pass). 5-7 Non-stop only, 8-14 can connect.

Southwest – $50 fee each way. Only non-stop or direct (not changing planes). Ages 5-11. Parents can meet at gate.

American Airlines – $150 fee each way. Two or more UM in the same family can share the fee. Ages 5-11. 5-7 cannot change planes. Parents can walk to gate.

JetBlue – $100 fee each way. Ages 5-14. Non-stop. Gate pass.

Frontier – $150 fee each way. May fly international, but only on Non-stop flights. Gate pass. Ages 5-14.

Alaska Airlines – $25 fee each way, $50 if on connecting flight. Ages 5-12, 5-7 can only do direct. Gate pass.

British Airways – Travel from US $100 fee. Ages 5-12. No Gate Pass.

KLM – Within Europe, €50 Nonstop, €65 with Transfer. Intercontinental, €75 Nonstop, €90 with Transfer. Ages 5-14. During a long transfer at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, children will stay in Junior Jet Lounge. No Gate Pass.

Emirates – No fee mentioned. Ages 5-12. They’ll make a cake for the child if it’s their birthday.

Lufthansa – €50/$75 within Europe, €80/$120 Intercontinental. 5-11.

Air New Zealand – No fee mentioned (unaccompanied minors are charged the best adult fare). Can be booked online or by phone, but not on their mobile app. Ages 5-11.

Asiana – There is a fee for international flights, but it is not listed on the site. There is no fee for domestic flights in Korea. Ages 5-11 (International), 5-12 (Domestic).

If your child will be flying on an airline other than one of these mentioned, use Google and search on “unaccompanied minor” + your airline’s name or call your airline directly.

Here are even more things you need to know:

  • Do not leave the airport until you know your child’s flight is up in the air — not just backed away from the gate. If there is any kind of issue that brings the plane back to the gate (mechanical or weather), you’ll want to be there if your child disembarks.
  • Have your child carry some form of ID. It may be his or her name on the back of your business cards (with your mobile number listed also!) or a copy of his or her itinerary.
  • Send with your child a list of any and all family members who will be at either end of the trip as well as their mobile numbers. The UM paperwork should have most of this, but be safe and have your child carry a second copy of this.
  • Also send your child with snacks to eat along the journey. While the airline may offer a complimentary snack to your child, you know best what type of foods they’ll eat. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich, crackers, fruit, nuts or other easy to pack items are best.
  • If your child is carrying a mobile phone, ensure your mobile number is programmed in it and that the child knows how to call you. Also be sure they know how to turn off the phone and turn it back on or set it to airplane mode (and when!).

Saying good-bye as your child walks down the jetway is tough enough. Not knowing all the rules shouldn’t stress you out more. If you have more questions, ask away!

[Editor’s note: This article has been updated and is current as of November 2015. As always, check with the airline for their current rates.]

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