Unaccompanied Minor Traveling by Airplane

Updated on July 15, 2011
B.C. asks from Gilbert, AZ
17 answers

I am really looking for moms who have experience in this situation. My kids are 6.5 and 5. My MIL would like them to fly from AZ to San Francisco for memorial day weekend. She has mentioned it before, (I actually posted about it before, but asked if you would or wouldn't do this) but nothing ever came of it which I was glad because I am not fully comfortable with the idea. My husband is OK with it and my kids really want to do it, but honestly, I am kindof scared to death of the idea. I told my husband to give me a couple of days to think about it and do some reseach, make some phone calls, etc. I think my kids would be fine on the plane, they are very easy going and not easily scared. They have been wanting to go on a plane for quite awhile. But, I worry how they would handle an emergency. They are obviously not use to being on their own and getting help from people other than myself, my husband, teachers, etc. Who knows, maybe they are more equipped then I give them credit for. Anyway. if this is something your children have done, or if you are a flight attendant and have experience, please fill me in. I am not really looking for opinions as to whether or not you would do this. I am looking for people with experiece, Thanks so much.

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So What Happened?

Just thought I would update for those of you who may be thinking it about doing this yourselves. My yo neice ended up flying out and staying with us, then my kids flew back with her. We still did the unaccompanied minor because of my neices age. At least now I know how it all works and it went very smoothly. I had a pass to wait with my kids until they got on the palne at the gate. Then my MIL had a pass to wait at the gate when they got off of the plane. So they did not even have to walk through the airport with an attendant. My daughter did cry when she got on the plane, but a flight attendant sat with her and gave her some chocolate. Next year, I will definitely let them go by themselves since they have already done it and I know that it is very safe for them!

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answers from Fort Wayne on

I wouldn't do it. No way. There are way too many variables out there. Not to mention all the creeps. My answer would be to tell her that you'll all come or she can come to you. I think read somewhere that the airline will assign them a flight attendant to help them get on and off the plane, but you don't know the flight attendant. Kidnapping and molestation are two of my biggest fears when it comes to my kids. I would be absolutely petrified that the flight attendant was a nut or that there would be another nut job on the plane with them.
I think that it might be ok if they were maybe 10 or 12 but definitely not at 6.5 and 5.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

That age is right on the edge for me. I let my daughter do it about 6, but only on a direct flight. TRansfers can get tricky. Is a direct flight possible?

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answers from Chicago on


My daughter (who is now 10 - almost 11) has flown 2-4 times per year since the week after she turned 5.

She flies American Airlines on a direct flight from Chicago O'Hare to Oklahoma City. It's a direct flight and is about 2 1/2 hours "gate to gate" from take-off to landing.

We have NEVER had a problem and my daughter actually LOVES to fly by herself. I get my own 'boarding pass', we go through security and I take her to one gate where the gate agent escorts her to her seat. After they land the gate agent escorts her off the plane where her dad is waiting at the gate for her. Also you are required to stay in the airport until the plane is off the ground - not just away from the gate.

Typically, they seat her in the first row of coach (even if the ticketing agent doesn't do this they will switch them when you check in. Once we book an unaccompanied minor seat they block out the seats next to her unless the plane is full. I think in over 5 years of flying 2-4 times each year (so approx 15 times) she has had to sit with someone twice.

The only even sorta bad experiences that she had was
1. she did vomit during one flight - but we always pack an extra change of clothes in her carry-on and the flight attendant was SUPER helpful and she wasn't even upset when she got off the plane.
2. We also had one time a couple years ago where the plane got to the end of the runway and sorta started to almost takeoff and then the pilot re-landed and they switched planes - so that was a nice 6 hours in O'Hare while we waited for the replacement plane. But Regan said it was "exciting" and none of the passengers even got out of sorts about it.

As far as helpful hints:
She used to take a portable DVD player & headphones with her and she would watch a movie. I just made sure she knew exactly how to work it so she could do it herself. Now she has a DS and an ipod and she can read actual books, so she hasn't taken the movies in a while. But, I would definitely recommend that. Since 2 are flying I would send ONE movie so there are no fights about what to watch.

Here's the deal about emergencies - there really truly aren't that many on airplanes. It's MUCH safer than flying (even when you count in the general public interactions....lol). I have found that when I am flying and I see how people react to unaccompanied minors other passengers are MUCH MORE TOLERANT than kids flying WITH parents - I think the protective instinct comes out. So, I would imagine if they are well-behaved kids and want to do it then would think they would be fine.
Also - most of the issues you hear about are kids who have problems on flights that change planes. American doesn't even let you fly non-direct until your kid is 8 - by then Regan would have know if she was on the wrong connection. And I think in the last 6 years I have heard of maybe 3 issues with unaccompanied minors..... WAY LESS than car accidents or kidnappings. Yet, people who DON'T do it think it's very unsafe..... it's really not.

One note- I chose American Airlines even though they have a heftier fee per kid because (at least 5 years ago) they had to request to escort an unaccompanied minor. So, I felt like it would be better than if just 'any old attendant got *stuck* with a kid'.

Also typically if it's their first flight they get to meet the pilot and tour the plane and all that *fun* stuff. So they should have a good time.

I definitely understand your concerns - for the first 2 flights she took, I cried the whole 2 1/2 hours after take-off until her dad called to say she was there.

But now I take something to read and book a mani-pedi!!!!!!!

Good Luck with your decision!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I actually got the babysitting service from Delta when my daughter was 14. I was still scared to death. But the stewardesses watch the kids like hawks and cater to their every whim.
They almost didn't let my daughter come with me when I went to pick her up because I had put her dad on the paperwork instead of me, he was driving around the airport. They were dead serious and would not let me have her until I produced my military dependent ID which matched hers.
So make sure ANYONE who is going to get the girls is on the list.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from State College on

I flew by myself when I was about ten with a connecting flight andenjoyed i. There were younger kids on one of my flights too and they had no problems. We were escorted every where and checked on many times during the flight.

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answers from Jacksonville on

My daughter has been flying alone since she turned 5yrs old(she'll turn 11 this July). She goes to her dad's in Michigan every summer from South Carolina and now this year it will be Florida since we moved there. But I've never had a problem and neither has she. For children your age, the flight will have to be non stop. They won't allow kids under the age of 8yrs old to have connecting flights. Also, there are the unaccompanied minor fees that run about $100 each way on top of baggage fees each way. I still prefer for my daughter to fly non stop (around 2-2 1/2 hr flight) so I'm looking at $512 (before taxes), $200 in UM fees and $50 for baggage but all that will be split in half because her bio dad and I share the cost. You can book the ticket online and then call the airline to inform them of the minors and they will take your info and the info of the person that is going to be getting them.

When you get to the airport to check them in, you'll get a gate pass for yourself because you'll have to sit at the gate with them and stay until their plane is in the air. There is special seats on the plane, normally at the front where they place the kids so the flight attendants can keep an eye on them. My daughter has gotten tours of the cockpit before and put in first class on Sprit airlines! I send a backpack with my daughter with some coloring books, small hand toys, reading books and snacks. I go over the safety rules like not talking to anyone but the attendant, etc. In the mean time, whom ever you said will be getting the kids from the airport when they land will also have to get a gate pass (in other words, they need to get to the airport as if THEY were flying) because they will have to go through security and wait for the kids at the gate they land in. They will either be first or last off (depends on the airline) and they will check their ID with the info on the paperwork that traveled with the child. They will sign it and off they go to get their luggage. That person will have to do the same thing you did when taking the kids back to the airport, they will get a gate pass and have to sit with them till the plane takes off. You'll go to the airport and get a gate pass and wait for the kids to land.

The only bad thing I've ever experiences is her flight out being delayed so we are sitting there bored to tears at the gate but that's about it. She's never complained about anything and seems to enjoy it.

Good luck!

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answers from Austin on

Our daughter did this when she was 8yrs old alone. . She went to visit my mom in Connecticut.
I am not sure if your kids are old enough, call the airlines.

Our daughter flew American Airlines and they were great. She had a special badge she wore on a lanyard. We sent her with some snacks, her books, some money. We also had a list of phone numbers in case something happened so she herself could call. (we had practiced using a regular phone a cell phone and a pay phone.

She had one plane change and she was escorted from one airline personal to the other.

She said that on each plane there were other kids and they all sat together. One little girl "seemed nervous" so our daughter played some games with her. She said she would get nervous that they were going to forget her, but each time the plane landed the flight attendant reminded the kids to "stay in their seats till everybody else got off the plane" and then they were taken to the next airline person. She said their badges were scanned and the children were asked their names.

She did great on the way and then on her way back. She really matured on those trips. She also became more aware of what goes on at airports.
She enjoyed it.

My husband was a nervous wreck. I was a little worried. My mom had our daughter call us the moment my mom was with her to pick her up. It helped a lot.

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answers from Savannah on

I was very young when I would fly back and forth from Houston, TX to Mobile, AL.....before my brother was not born yet, so I'm thinking I was 3 years old. (That age may be different now; that was 33 years ago, lol). My great aunt would walk me to the plane with some special shredded gum to chew on the plane (ha) and a flight attendant would take me to my seat and get me settled in (people with special needs: handicapped, very young, etc are loaded onto the plane and settled in before all the other people get on). The flight attendant would check on me regularly and then she would escort me from my seat to my grandma who was waiting. The exact same thing would happen on the return flight. I flew back and forth many times like that, as my great aunt and grandma would "share" me (ha). Nothing out of the ordinary ever happened, and I was always really proud of myself and enjoyed traveling. My brother flew at 15 from New Orleans to Las Angeles, but for some reason something happened and the plane had to land overnight in El Paso, TX. I know mom was really upset because she didn't know what was going to happen, but basically the airline drove him (not a shuttle, but the actual airline rep) to a hotel, hooked him up with dinner from room service, and he was very happy with that situation. They picked him up the next day and took him to the airport. Now my nephew, who is 10, flies once a year (twice so far) from Denver to Atlanta to be visit us. He's a responsible, smart young guy, and has no problems. You can contact the airline when purchasing a ticket and tell them the situation and they will tell you what all they do and prepare you for everything. But basically with my nephew, we stay in line with him to get his boarding pass, and we get a pass to go through security since he's a minor. We hang out with him at the gate and give hugs when time for him to board, just like when I was a kid. But because he is 10, I let him find his own seat...but for younger children, I would suggest mentioning that they may need help when you are at the gate, to the person at the desk. Make sure they have gum, and a little backpack that could fit under the seat with things to keep them happy and occupied, and I always call my brother when the plane leaves, and he calls me when the plane lands so we know our nephew made it fine.

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answers from Phoenix on

alot of airports like children under a certain age to be accompanied by one adult they will not let them fly alone that young.


answers from Houston on

My brother did this when he was about 5.... of course that was like 20 years ago, so not sure how much has changed! Anyways, he airline had a program where he was pretty much escorted the whole way by staff and the unattended kids even sat together in a section of the plane... the only way I would allow this is with an escort, so definitely see what the airlines offer. Maybe choosing a smaller airline with a straight flight (meaning no having to change planes or anything) would be easiest.



answers from Kansas City on

I remember flying alone starting when I was about 10 on a direct flight from S.FL to Boston. My mom would walk me to the gate and my aunt would pick me up from the gate in Boston. Some things to take into consideration...have your kids flown before? (You said they've been wanting to go on a plane for a while--so I'm not sure if they've flown). If they haven't, it's hard to know how they'll react. Also, things can happen unexpectedly. Just this week a Southwest flight had to make an emergency landing because a hole blew open during flight. It was going from Phoenix to Sacramento and landed in Yuma. Just something else to take into consideration.



answers from Phoenix on

Wow!!! I am surprised how strong some people feel about this! Especially if they have no experience with it! First of all, based on the age of your kids you would have to pay a small fee and they would have an airline employee responsible to be with them at all times. The employee will take the kids to preboard and get settled. The kids would sit in the first or last row right next to the flight attendants and the flight attendants will make sure if someone sits next to them that it is someone that feels comfortable with helping them in an emergency. The kids would then be the last off the plane, again accompanied by the airline employee. Unfortunately because many children must fly unaccompanied to visit the non-custodial parent, this is not uncommon and definately not NEGLECT!!! You need to check with each airline to find out what the agelimit is for kids. Your kids may be alittle too young.



answers from Washington DC on

No experience but I would never do it. Couldn't feel safe so far way, the plane is the least of it. If you do„ don't forget to give MIL limited medical power of attorney.



answers from Chicago on

My daughter flew as an unaccompanied minor when she was 8 and again at 10 from chicago ohare to portland oregon. It was a long flight We paid for the united attendent thing where they take them at the gate and hand them over at the other gate to an adult who has to sign for them. both flights were fine.

My son flew from chicago midway to arkansas on southwest. those were much shorter flights. he was 10 at the time of those flights.

The kids had a blast felt grownup. i wouldn't do it again thought too much weird stuff happening on planes.



answers from Youngstown on

i am an airline captain in the netherlands. i am working for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. you know, the blue aircraft.... i saw many children fly in my aircraft and the flight attendant will take much care of your children when you are using the UM service. better known as UNACCOMPANIED MINOR service. the airline will charge 60 euros for and in USD is that kind of 76 dollars. then your child gets a sign on his/her neck with the letters UM on it. this is a sign for flight attendants to keep an eye on them. from the check-in desks on the airport of departure your children will be ferried to the right gate and they will be companied by ground crew of the airline all flight long. nothing happens on the aircraft and if something happens (unlikely) then the fligh attendants will instruct everyone on board and after that they will fully focus on your children cause UM children are priority. if you are flying with AMERICAN AiRLINES probably they will have a private stewardess..... (especially nice for the boys :) )

i hope have informed you enough and i hope to see you on board of a KLM flight in the near future. if you book now for a flight scheduled 10 months later you'll get 20 percent disount.

kind regards,
KLM Crew


answers from Washington DC on

i flew alone when i was 10. it was incredibly fun, even though (or maybe because of) missing the connecting flight and spending the night in new york with a stewardess and her family.
airlines were much more interested in customer service back then, which may be why i got such royal treatment. but it sounds as if airlines today still do accommodate kids this way and take good care of them. i'd just do a lot of research on the airline you choose.



answers from Phoenix on

I think the child has to be 5 to be unaccompanied. The first time I flew alone was 8. Maybe she can come pick them up, and you can go get them. That is how we do it. I think by 2 years they will be totally fine, or even next summer. But it's also a maturity thing. Have they never been on a plane before? If this is their first time I would say absolutely not.

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