Children Flying Alone

Flying Solo? - The Unaccompanied Minor

There comes a time in every child’s life when he must let go of the apron strings and head out into the world alone. Bet you didn’t realize that first time would be a cross-country trip on an airplane, did you? Not to worry, everything you need to know about getting your child safely through the skies is provided here.

Before You Fly

Children between the ages of 5-11 (ages may vary slightly by airline) traveling without a parent or guardian present are considered unaccompanied minors. Most airlines will allow a child to travel alone, provided you follow the policies of their unaccompanied minor programs (almost all major carriers have unaccompanied minor programs, but be sure to check with your airline before purchasing tickets). Make your child’s reservation well in advance and be sure to notify the airline that he will be traveling as an unaccompanied minor.

Many airlines will not allow an unaccompanied minor to be booked on the last flight of the day, and it is a good idea never to book an unaccompanied minor on the last flight of the day in case of delays or a missed connection.

There will usually be a fee for the airline’s unaccompanied minor services, and if a child is traveling on more than one airline, you will likely have to pay more than one fee. Rules for unaccompanied minors vary by airline, and connections are the most important difference among airlines. Some airlines will allow an unaccompanied minor to take connecting flights, while others insist that the child take direct flights only. You may also find that children who are eight years or older can take connecting flights.

While young children are not required to carry their own identification on domestic flights (everyone, even infants, must have a passport to fly internationally), it may be a good idea to get an identification card for your child if he or she will be flying alone. You can shop from websites such as, where your child’s identification, photo and guardian information can be placed on an ID card. You might also want to place a card or sheet of paper with several emergency contact numbers and any allergies or medical conditions in your child’s carry-on bag and let an airline representative know where it can be found.

At the Airport

On the day of the flight, make sure you check in at least two hours in advance for domestic flights and three hours in advance for international flights. This is especially important if you are dropping off an unaccompanied minor.

When you check in, you will be asked to provide information about your child. Airlines will typically ask for the child’s identification information, a parent or guardian’s authorization, the flight itinerary and the contact details of the person meeting the child at his or her destination. You must know who will be meeting your child at the time of check-in, and airlines will not release the child to anyone except for the designated person.

Once checked in, your child may be asked to wear something such as a hat or a button that will alert airlines employees of his status as an unaccompanied minor. An airline representative will then escort your child through security and bring him to his gate. You will be required to remain at the airport until the plane has departed. Your child will most likely board prior to the rest of the passengers, and remain on the plane until all other passengers have disembarked. During the flight, your child will be supervised by the in-flight crew.


Your child will be escorted off of the plane and into the arrivals area. The person meeting your child will need to provide photo identification before the child is released from the airline’s care. So pack a few games or books, let go of those apron strings and send your child out in the world.