Minors Flying Alone: What You Need to Know
A child 5 to 11 years old flying without an adult is considered an unaccompanied minor. These passengers require special care from legal guardians and airport staff to ensure their safe travels. Each airline sets special requirements for unaccompanied minors to create a safe and comfortable experience for the child.
Though unaccompanied minor services do not include constant adult supervision or in-flight entertainment for the child, these precautions help children arrive safely.
Here’s a snapshot of what you need to know about minors flying alone:
- No official guidelines exist for unaccompanied children.
- Requirements for children vary by age, type of flight, and destination.
- Additional fees may apply for kids flying alone.
- Airlines regulate their own policies for unaccompanied minors, so make sure to review their guidelines before booking.
General Requirements for Unaccompanied Minors
The government sets no official rules for children flying alone. Neither Air Transport Association nor International Air Transport Association provides standard regulations for unsupervised children. However, airlines regulate their own requirements for unaccompanied minors. Without addressing each policy directly, here are some general takeaways:
Policies for minors flying alone vary with the age of the child:
- Ages 5 and under: cannot fly by themselves
- Ages 5 to 7: can fly alone on nonstop, domestic flights
- Ages 8 to 11: can fly solo on any plane, though restrictions may apply with certain connecting flights
- Ages 12 to 14: considered “young adult” travelers and procedures for unaccompanied minors may not be mandated
- Ages 15 to 17: require a signed letter of consent from a parent or legal guardian to travel; airlines may not require unaccompanied minor services, but adults can request it
If two or more children are flying together without adult supervision, the policy for the youngest traveling unaccompanied minor will typically apply. For example, if a 7 and 12-year old are traveling together, the rules applied to both children will be those required of the 7-year-old.
Sending a child on a plane without an adult may incur additional costs. Airlines typically charge anywhere from $35 to $150 each way a kid travels as an unaccompanied minor. The price varies for each airline and derives from the child’s age, flight type (nonstop or connecting), and flight destination.
Flight type: nonstop vs. connecting
Airlines determine the flight type unaccompanied minors can take based on their age. Most airlines will not allow children under the age of 8 to use connecting flights on their own. For most policies, only children 8 and over can board a plane with a layover.
Flight destination: domestic vs. international
Airlines set different guidelines for minors flying alone on domestic and international flights. Fewer regulations generally apply to children traveling on domestic flights. For international flights, airlines often take stricter precautions and require kids up to age 17 to adhere to unaccompanied minor policies.
Each airline may have slightly different policies, services, and requirements for unaccompanied minors. If planning to send a child alone on a plane, you should check the airline’s current policies before booking.
- Air Canada
- Alaska Airlines
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Delta Air Lines
- Frontier Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Norwegian Air
- Porter Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- United Airlines
- Virgin America (merged with Alaska Airlines)
- Wow Air
Travel Tips for Kids Flying Solo
Ultimately, the parent or legal guardian must decide if a child is ready to fly alone. If you deem your child ready, here are some travel tips to use:
- Book your child a nonstop or direct flight. The simpler the itinerary, the fewer the possible problems.
- Present a copy of your child’s birth certificate at security to verify the child’s age.
- Pack some TSA-friendly snacks for your child’s flight.
- Request a gate pass or an escort pass from the airline so you can accompany your child through security to his or her intended gate.
- Bring your own photo-ID to verify your identity when picking up your child from the airport. If you cannot verify your identity, airline staff will not let you leave with the child.
- Know what airport number to call if something were to go wrong during your child’s flight.
For more information about minors flying alone, please visit Gale Encyclopedia of Everyday Law.