There are plenty of reasons for children to need to fly alone these days, from going to visit relatives abroad without parents, to logistics surrounding school terms finishing at different times.
From this month, headteachers now have the power to set their own holiday schedules for their schools, which could result in more schools having different term dates to each other; a problem for parents with children in different establishments!
This might result in an increase of children flying alone to join their family on holiday, or going out to stay with relatives or friends.
Of course, there are many other reasons for children needing to fly alone, so we’ve compiled the information you need to know before waving goodbye at the airport! Many airlines offer these services, from British Airways, to Lufthansa, to Qantas and ANA. KLM even have a dedicated lounge at Amsterdam Airport!
Before you book
First of all, it is important to note that children flying alone are usually called “Unaccompanied Minors” and that each airline sets its own rules and regulations regarding these. Ages, prices, and routes allowed are all variable.
We suggest that you thoroughly research the airline and destination that you are planning to use for your child as many airlines will not accept unaccompanied minors on routes that require a connecting flight or stop over such as Alaska Airlines (5-7 year olds), JetBlue and Norwegian. Virgin Atlantic allow this, however only if the connection is to or from another Virgin flight.
Some even have restrictions regarding the time of the flight – for instance, unaccompanied minors are may not be permitted on the last flight of the day to certain locations.
If you are flying from America, ensure your airline allows children on international flights, for example South West Airlines only allow domestic trips.
In some cases the budget airlines, such as EasyJet, WizzAir and Ryanair, do not allow children under 14 (under 16 for Ryanair) to fly alone at all. The age that a child is classed as an adult by the airline varies as well, so it is really important to double check this if you have two children flying together.
You can find a list of airlines and their policies that we have compiled here.
Using the services
Throughout most airlines, the service generally works in a similar way. You will have to book it separately in most cases, sometimes online and sometimes through their offices. You will probably need to fill out some paperwork, which will include all the information the airline need to know about the child, as well as information about the parents and of whomever is collecting the child at the destination.
Children between 5 and 12 years old
Please be aware that most airlines will not allow a child under 5 to fly without someone over the age of at least 16.
At the airport, you can accompany your child whilst they check in, at which point they will be assigned a member of staff who will oversee the whole process.
In some cases, you can be granted a pass to allow you to accompany your child to certain points within the airport; this can vary from just up to security, to right through to the departure gate.
If this isn’t available, or an option for you, your child can also be assigned an escort who will guide them through the airport, up until they board the plane. They will then be handed over to a member of the airline crew, usually the lead air steward, and will be overseen throughout the flight. They will then be escorted off the plane and handed over to the adult collecting them, after identification checks to ensure this is the correct person!
12-18 year olds
They may still be able to use the Unaccompanied Minor Service, but may not have the option to be escorted through the airport or monitored on the flight. This does differ with each airline, so just double check what their packages include!
It can also mean that they will be responsible for their travel in the same way in which an adult would – checking in, dealing with flight delays and getting through security – so make you they are well prepared and know what to expect!
The price of a ticket can vary vastly; from a discounted rate to a full adult fare. Don’t forget, you may also be subject to an additional fee, too – in some cases, this can be upwards of £130 (if this is the case, be sure to check whether this is each way!).
Always check with the airline before you book, and be sure to do some comparisons across different airlines for the best deals.