If this summer is going to involve your child flying back and forth alone at least once between you and your co-parent for the first time, you’re likely more than a bit nervous. As you browse airline websites and see that solo kid travelers are called “unaccompanied minors,” you may feel less than reassured.
Major airlines have services for unaccompanied minors (UM). However, those services – and their rules – vary by airline. Generally, the services are for children somewhere between 5 and 15 years of age. What matters is that your child is old enough and mature enough to travel alone.
Services and seating
When shopping for airlines, start with ones that fly non-stop between your location and your co-parents. Some airlines require UM passengers to take non-stop flights.
Airlines charge different amounts for their UM services and offer varying levels of personal attention. If your child is on the younger side or has never flown alone, you want an airline employee to be with them from the time you say goodbye until they’re buckled into their seat and who will escort them off the plane to their co-parent. You also want to make sure someone will keep an eye on them during the flight. Remember, though, that flight attendants aren’t babysitters. If your child needs to be watched constantly, they aren’t ready to fly alone.
If you can book a seat for them in business or first class, they will be near the front of the plane and likely get a little additional attention. If you can’t, at least get them as close to the front and the cabin crew as possible.
Look through the airline’s information about what kind of ID and other documentation is required, how far you can accompany your child and where they can be picked up. Have a safety talk with your child. Be sure they know how to get help and how to contact you.
If airline travel is going to be necessary as your child moves between you and your co-parent, it’s wise to include some provisions for it in your parenting plan. This will make things less stressful for everyone.