Can my child fly alone? Explaining Unaccompanied Minors

  • 22 Sep, 2015
  • Alice Fowler
  • 34 Comments

Unaccompanied Minors

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!

Unaccompanied Minors

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.

Unaccompanied Minor

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!

Cost

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.

About Alice Fowler

Having travelled a fair amount, including a year in Japan, I love blogging about exciting travel opportunities and ideas. I also love food, dogs and books!

34 thoughts on “Can my child fly alone? Explaining Unaccompanied Minors”

  1. So I am 13 years old and I wanna go to Spain, Mallorca alone but I don’t know any airlines that let 13 year olds be responsible for their own flight and i don’t want to be monitored or escorted.

    1. Hi Sandra,

      Sites such as Skyscanner class minors over the age of 12 as an adult, so you may be able to purchase a ticket and not book a chaperone. You’ll probably still need to pay the full adult fare though, ultimately, it’s down to the airline. May be best to phone an airline you have in mind, or have used before with your family, for further details as their policies all differ.

      Hope that helps.

      Franki

  2. i’m from Mallorca, Spain, 15 years old and want to travel by myself to Bristol to visit my sister, but I’m not sure what to do when i get to passport control…

    1. Hi Mary, once you’re through passport control at Bristol, you’ll follow signs through to baggage reclaim, and then from there, you’ll go through to arrivals where you can arrange for your sister to meet you as you come through. I hope your solo flying experiences goes well!

    1. Hi Lesley,

      I’m unable to give you a full answer to your question I’m afraid as you haven’t stated where you are flying from (this will determine the airlines that fly to the Philippines for me to give you a list). Have a look this list to see if any of the airlines from where you are fly to the Philippines

      Good Luck!

  3. My 16yr old grandaughter wants to fly from Newcastle uk to Crete…We will be meeting her at heraklion airport….She has been to Crete 6/7 times but with family…Will this be ok on Easyjet/Jet2/Thompson?

  4. Hi, I am a Writer. in my next novel a lead character (12 yr old girl) want to fly India (New Delhi) to Ireland. but without inform her parents.
    in case is that possible? if yes then please describe me.

    1. Hi Usman

      You would need to find out which airlines fly from New Delhi to Ireland and then have a look at their website information regarding the age of unaccompanied minors.

      I hope that helps – good luck with the novel!
      Franki

  5. I’m 14 years old and lives in the UK and I need to go to South Korea probably a permanent stay, do I need to be accompanied by a guardian or I’m allowed to travel alone?? And how do I get a one way ticket than a two way ticket.

    1. Hello Isobel,

      You would need to look into what airlines fly from your local airport to South Korea and then check on their official websites as to whether you can fly alone at 14 🙂
      (As you haven’t stated what airport you’d be flying from it’s hard for me to give you a specific answer!)

  6. Hi I am 13 and I want to travel from London to Valencia return and a direct flight for quite cheap except the cheap airlines don’t allow under 14s so do you know any other airlines ?

  7. Hi,
    My Son is 14 and will need to fly out from Gatwick to Madrid on Iberia unaccompanied . I know he can do this with Iberia. Here are my concerns : Will he need any form of authorisation at Gatwick security for travelling alone and then again at Madrid passport control for entering the country unaccompanied? (we will be there to meet him) Also, when Leaving Spain, are there any government restrictions you are aware of for unaccompanied minors? And then what about when he returns to the UK. Are there any rules for passing border control on his own? Sorry for all the questions. I have searched so much online and came across your webpage which seams much clearer than all the others I visited!
    Thanks in advance,
    Wilma

    1. Hi Wilma,

      For any unaccompanied minors, you will need to fill out this form and submit it to Gatwick – probably best to call them on +44 (0)344 892 0322 and select option 4, as it isn’t clear from their website as to where to send it. With regards to assistance for his return, you could contact OCS, the group that work within Gatwick to provide support and assistance to passengers, to ask them about any requirements for his return to the UK – if this question isn’t answered in your phone call!

      There doesn’t seem to be any restrictions on a UM leaving Madrid – here is what Iberia have to say about 12-17 years olds.

      Hope that’s helpful!

  8. Hello,
    I’m 12 years old and I want to travel to London from Dublin without my mum or dad.
    I don’t know any airlines that do that though. Please reply,
    Charlie

    1. Hi Charlie,

      There are a couple of airlines that may let you fly, but you would need your parent’s permission beforehand as there are forms they will need to fill out and the airline you choose will need details of the adult(s) collecting you in London. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just booking a flight and leaving the country at your age!

      Have a chat with your mum and dad and see if they are happy for you to do so first; they can then help you make the proper arrangements 🙂

  9. Hello Franky,

    2 kids of 12 and 13 years old will be traveling this summer from Manchester (UK) to Casablanca (Morocco) with Royal Air Maroc.
    I’ve called the Royal air Maroc company and they told me that they allow kids from 12 years of age to flight alone and Unaccompanied.
    They informed me that I have just to check the rules of the Airport of Manchester.

    Can you tell me what to expect?

    Thank you

    1. Hello Zine,

      In this instance, if you are not opting to send your children on their travels under the UM Scheme operated by Royal Air Maroc (RAM), my advice would be to call Manchester Airport on 0800 042 0213 and discuss your requirements / questions with them.

      Some airports will require documentation that includes the name of the responsible adult collecting your children upon their arrival in Casablanca (this is included in the Unaccompanied Minors scheme that RAM operate, but as your children are older than 12, this may be different).

      Apologies I couldn’t be anymore specific – I hope the team at Manchester Airport can help you further!

  10. Hello

    The Scenario is flights have been booked for one child a month under 16 with a couple of friends to Spain. this has been booked with Ryanair, the travel agents
    said she can travel but are not sure what documents are required

    Can you advise me where I can start, please, for e.g required documents
    would really appreciate,

    Thanks

    1. Hi Diane,

      As per Ryanair’s website:

      “Ryanair does not carry unaccompanied minors under 16 years. Children under the age of 16 years must always be accompanied by a passenger over 16 years.
      Escort and special facilities are not available.”

      So given that her friends are over 16, that should be ok. If not, I’d call Ryanair and discuss your options further. Use this form to find the appropriate number to call – this will vary depending on where you’re calling from.

      Good Luck!

  11. My relatives daughters (16 and 17years old) would like to travel from Croatia to UK by Easyjet using ID card . Could you please advise if they can travel on their own .

  12. My daughter has a eu passport she will be 17 in dec . Now in july she wants to go to porto for holidays ,she will be staying with my best friend,so we have only been in the uk for over a year ,what is the process to take . Also im worried if they don’t allow her back here in uk ?

    1. Hello Maria,

      I’m not sure I fully understand what you mean, but if she has an EU Passport and is returning before the UK leaves the EU, she should be fine to travel on her passport and at 17, she is classed as an adult and can travel alone

  13. Hi, im 14 years old and live in the uk, i want to travel to france on a coach, alone, (using a ferry from dover to calais), is this possible and if yes, then which company allows it.

  14. Hi,
    My 8yrs old son has a British passport and will be travelling on Alitalia from London to Milan using their unaccompanied minors service. Apart from their questionnaire to fill and passport does he require any extra documents? Alitalia told me to chevk with the consulate but I cant seem to find any info. Thx

    1. Hi Alex,

      I’m not sure as you haven’t specified the airport in London your son will fly from; the airport may just require information on the parent / guardian who will be drooping your son at the airport etc if that isn’t already detailed on the Alitalia paperwork.

      I’d suggest contacting the airport directly

      Franki

  15. Hi my son 10 and my nephew 14 plan to travel to Portugal with my sister in law I have to do any authorization? ( We are portugueses)
    Thanks

    1. Hi Alice,

      Please use the link in the article to find the requirements of each airline when it comes to authorisation of unaccompanied minor travel; as you haven’t specified an airport or airline, I am unable to advise

      Franki

  16. Hello, Thank you for the article.
    My daughter is 15 and needs to fly from Manchester to Alicante spain. I’m looking at her flying with Jet2. My undrstanding is that as she is 15 this will be fine. Have I missed anything?

    1. Hi Julian,

      Yep, she should be fine. As per Jet2’s website:

      “Jet2.com allows persons aged 14 or over to travel alone. Any person under the age of 14 can only travel if accompanied by a person aged 16 years or over who will take full responsibility for them. Special conditions apply to some countries of origin and destination.”

      Franki

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *