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With all the recent press about the problems associated with Airlines being responsible for Unaccompanied Minors we offer some tips for parents when considering to have your child fly as an Unaccompanied Minors (UM).  UM's can also travel on the train and some of these tips may also be appropriate for train travel.

The reasons for children flying on their own may be to visit friends, relatives or even a parent that is in another city or state.

Most Airlines have established policies for handling these special passengers and it is a good idea before you consider sending your child as a UM on any airline that you review their policies.  Also see  -Kid Friendly Airlines - Policies and Services for Children on Major Airlines for specific airline policies.

The airline industry has established some guidelines for flying as an unaccompanied minor which most airlines have adopted.  The minimum age for a UM is 5 years old, with most Airlines considering a child between 5-12 as a UM and the service must be requested for their flight. The service can also be requested for children 12-17. 

Typically most airlines will accept children under 8 as UMs if their flight is non-stop only.  Children 8-11 can fly as an UM on connecting flights, however some airlines have restrictions on specific flight times and destinations.

There is usually a fee for the UM Service, varying from $30.00 to $100.00 per flight.

Scroll the page or click on the links to view travel tips:

Planning the Trip

Special Instructions for Children

At the Airport

Connecting Flights

Upon Arrival

As a parent, you should know your child best and take their needs into consideration first and for most.  Make sure your child can handle the experience of flying on their own before you consider sending them as an UM.  Airports and Airplanes can be overwhelming for adults and children alike.

When planning the UM=s Flight, seriously consider getting a non-stop flight as this reduces the possibility of the child missing the connecting flight or being placed on the wrong connecting flight. This is where most problems arise with unaccompanied minors missing their connecting flight and the airline staff are unable or do not notify the pick up party of a delay or change in flights, resulting in miscommunication and confusion at the destination point of the trip.  Some airlines do not allow connecting flights, some will accept UM's from other airlines and allow them to connect to other airlines.  Check policies and discuss this with the booking agent when planning the flight.

Avoid night flights or connecting flights that are late in the day.  Early flights are recommended, when everyone is fresh and wide awake, chances for delays are reduced as a result of equipment problems or other delays.  

Ensure that the booking agent is well aware that the child is travelling as an UM, book a children's meal and ask if there are any special promotions for children flying on the airline.  

Booking the seat ahead of time if the option is available is a good idea.  Window seats are nice for children as they can watch take-off and landing and the wall gives them a place to lean against if they fall asleep.  Ask for seats that are near the seating for flight attendants or near the galley, where staff can keep an eye on the UM more often.

Make sure your child has some favourite toys, games and snacks for the flight.  Airline staff are not responsible for entertaining your children.

Using an E-Ticket means there is no chance of losing the plane ticket.  The child should carry identification, pick up instructions, airline information and contact information for both the pick up party and the party bringing the child to the airport.  Pictures of the party picking up the child should also be included in the information.  Make one copy for the child to carry and one for airline staff.  A waist pouch makes a handy storage bag for containing this information.  

Discuss the Airline's policies with the person picking up the child at the destination and with the airline staff so that everyone is clear on instructions

If child has a severe allergy  see Travel Tips - Children with Severe Allergies for more information.

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Before your child embarks on their trip, it is a good idea to go over safety concerns with them.  Here are some special reminders:

  • Talk to your child and explain as best as possible what will occur at both drop off and arrival so that they are aware of the airline=s policies. 

  • Children should be instructed to stay with the Airline staff at all times in airports.

  • Children should never go anywhere with anyone other than the airline staff assigned to supervise them, especially washrooms.  Airline staff should accompany them in any public washrooms.

  • Instruct your child not to discuss their travel arrangements, their name or personal information with any strangers.

  • Your child should know that if they are uncomfortable with the passenger seated next to them that they can request that they be moved.  

  • Don't put your child's name on the outside of any clothing where a stranger can identify them.

  • Give your child a pre-paid calling card and instruct them on how to use it.  Make sure they have emergency contact numbers with them.

  • Children should know who to go to for assistance and if they have any concerns during their flight.  Teach them to be calm, confident and insistent if they are unsure of a situation.  

  • Advise your child to remain seated in the airplane and buckle the seat belt at all times unless going to the washroom.   Tell them to use the attendant call button only when necessary. See Air Travel Tips.

  • Teach your children good manners and remind them to use them on the flight - go to Tips for Eating Out and Dining with Children for information on teaching children about manners.

  • For more safety information go to TRAVEL SAFETY TIPS.

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The big day has arrived and it is time to go to the airport.  To help make things go as smoothly as possible, these suggestions are offered:

  • Keep as calm and relaxed as possible to help your child remain calm.

  • Check flight schedule before leaving home to ensure the flight is still on time.  If there are any changes in flight times, make sure the pick up party is aware of them.

  • Arrive at least an hour, or two is better, before the flight's scheduled departure.   Make sure you have all the information required to complete the unaccompanied minor form at the airport.

  • Be aware of how the airline identifies UMs and ensure that your child receives the identification package (whether it is a special hat, pin, bag or shirt) and tell your child to keep it one until they are picked up at the destination.

  • If the airline allows it (most do not), ask if you can pre-board with your child to settle them into the plane.  If you cannot pre-board with the child, have airline staff pre-board your child to settle them before general boarding.  See Air Travel Tips.

  • Introduce your child to the Attendants as a way of making them feel more comfortable.

  • Remind staff about any children's meals ordered and any special medical concerns for your child.

  • Stay at the airport until the plane takes off.  If the flight is delayed, inform the pick up party about the delay.   If there are connecting flights, you can also check the schedules to see if it is on time also.

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While it is better to avoid connecting flights for a child travelling solo, some airlines do allow children 8 years of age and up to transfer to connecting flights.  Check with the airline as policies can change at any time.  Some airlines allow connections to or from other airlines, while some do not.

If your child is transferring to a connecting flight, make sure that airline staff and your child are well aware of the situation.  

Avoid making arrangements for connecting flights with the last connecting flight from an airport for the travel date (in fact some airlines will not allow the connecting flight to be a late or last flight).  Review the airline's policy about missed connecting flights, insist that they contact you and advise your child to contact you if a connecting flight is missed, delayed or cancelled.

In the unlikely event that your child's flight is cancelled and must be accommodated overnight in a hotel, insist that the airline notify you immediately and that the child be provided with their own room (Unaccompanied Minors should not be left unsupervised in a hotel room), supervised by airline staff.

If the connecting flight airport is in a city where you have family or friends, provide the contact names in the emergency and pick up information for the UM and instructions that they may be contacted in the event of a delayed or missed connection.

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When a child who is been travelling alone arrives at their destination, they are ready to see a familiar face.  If you are picking up the child, keep these tips in mind:

  • Call the party that brought the child to the airport for the flight to confirm departure and scheduled arrival time and as an added consideration, call them and let them know when you are at the airport to pick up the child.

  • Arrival at least a half an hour before the scheduled flight arrival.  Check arrival schedules.

  • Let Airline personnel know you are there to pick up an UM.

  • Have proper Identification, including photo id ready to present to airline staff.  

  • Keep a watchful eye for the child in the arrival area.

  • The pick up party should call the party that brought the child to the airport for the flight to let them know that the child has been picked up safely.

  • Thank the airline staff and have child thank them too.

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We hope that these tips may help parents, children and the airlines in providing this valuable service a fun and safe experience for children. 

All Tips are offered as suggestions only

While we have tried to provide you with a list of suggestions to help parents when travelling with children to keep them safe, unfortunately, we can’t think of everything and it is the responsibility of parents to ensure their children’s safety.

 

AAA Chicago Offers Travel Tips for Kids Flying Alone - Unaccompanied Minors

For Travel Tips - Children with Severe Allergies Click on

Click here for tips on travelling with children with severe allergies

See Travel News:

Port of Seattle issues Press Release - Do Your Part- Pack Smart - remove "innocent but inappropriate items from Carry-on Luggage

As our Family Prepares to Fly, We Will Adjust to Changes in the Sky

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