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Did you know it is possible for children 5-14 years old to travel alone as unaccompanied minors on some flights? In my book, Flying With Kids, I devoted a chapter to children flying alone.

Delta, American, United, and Southwest all have unaccompanied minor programs.

The different airlines have different policies regarding age, where and when they may travel as an unaccompanied minor, and the unaccompanied minor fee.

Regardless of what airline your unaccompanied minor is flying there are several things you need to remember.

Dropping off your child at the airport

You will need to see a ticket agent to check your child in for his/her flight.

Be sure to arrive to the airport early! You have to fill out paperwork with the information of the person picking your child up at his/her destination. Ensure you know who will be coming through security to meet your child’s flight. You will also need their phone number and address.

You will be escorting your child through security, so make sure you have a valid photo ID with you.

When you get to your gate notify the gate agent that you have an unaccompanied minor. Unaccompanied minors are the first passengers to board so that the gate agent can carry them down to the airplane and introduce them to the flight attendant.

Even after your child is on the plane you have to wait until the plane has pulled away from the gate to leave. Sometimes things happen and everyone has to get off the plane. You need to be there if this happens.
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Tracking your child in flight

When your child flies Delta they will be wearing a wristband that will be scanned throughout their journey. They are attempting to make it possible for you to track where your child is in their system throughout their trip. I am betting all the airlines will soon have this technology in place.

You know your child’s flight numbers, so you should be able to track their flight through the airlines website or app with this information.

Picking up your child at the airport 

The person meeting the unaccompanied minor on arrival will need a gate pass to get through airport security, this can be attained with the airline’s ticket agent. You will need a valid photo ID to pick up your gate pass and to get through security. Be sure you allow plenty of time to get through security and get to the gate early. Let the gate agent know you are there to get your child. He/she will either be the first one off the plane or the last one off. You will have to present photo ID again, in order to pick up your child.

 

Things to remember if your child is flying as an unaccompanied minor/UM

Pack a small carry-on for your child. Keep it light and easy to manage so that your child iTips for your child's first flight alone: Unaccompanied Minorsn’t overwhelmed with large suitcases. Be sure they have snacks and something to keep them busy as not all flights have meal service or entertainment.

If its possible to get them a cell phone for use during their travels this will help you. Program all the relevant phone numbers so that they can contact someone if needed. Cell phones are not required, but since you can get a cheap prepaid phone and prepaid minutes for a reasonable price I would make it a priority. It may ease stresses for both you and your  child to be able to connect with one another when needed.

If they aren’t flying with a cell phone I recommend writing down phone numbers for family that is dropping them off and picking them up. They may be sitting next to some kind traveller that will let them use their phone when they arrive. The paperwork that will be accompanying your child will have all relevant phone numbers on it, but it never hurts for your child to have their own copy of phone numbers.

Make sure your child has money for meals. Even if they aren’t supposed to be travelling during meal time you want to be sure he/she has money for a burger if they are delayed.

Be sure to talk with your child about not getting off the airplane until the flight attendants instruct them to. Often they will be the last one off the plane so that the flight attendant can introduce them to the next employee that will escort them on their trip.

A child’s first flight alone can be a daunting experience for both of you. But preparation with these tips and talking about the trip can help to ease any anxiety.

Have any of your children ever flown as an unaccompanied minor/UM? I would love to hear if you have any tips to add to help other parents.

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