Can A Child Fly Alone? - Unaccompanied Minor
Can a Child Fly Alone? Many parents wonder if a child is allowed to fly alone, and if so, how is this carried out safely.
The challenge is often in the terminology the airline uses - a child flying alone is referred to as an 'Unaccompanied Minor'.
Check with the airline you are flying with. Google search ‘American Airlines Unaccompanied Minor’, for example, and you will see what obligations you have, and what the airline can do for you, at various age points.
Remember, the airline does want to help customers who may be considered vulnerable - asking for help is perfectly fine.
Here are the links for the main US airlines:
Unaccompanied Minor (UMNR) Service - Delta Airlines Information About Children Traveling Alone - United Airlines Unaccompanied Minor - Southwest Unaccompanied minor − Special assistance − American Airlines
Below is the guidance from American Airlines. Remember that each airline follows similar guidance, but you do need to check with your airline for specific advice.
Can A Child Fly Alone? - Unaccompanied Minor - American Airlines Guidance
Unaccompanied minor service
Our unaccompanied minor service is to ensure your child is boarded onto the aircraft, introduced to the flight attendant, chaperoned during connections and released to the appropriate person at their destination. Please note our flight attendants cannot continuously monitor an unaccompanied minor during their flight.
- The unaccompanied minor service fee is $150 (plus tax) each way
- 2 or more unaccompanied minors from the same family, traveling on the same flights, will only be charged $150 (plus tax) each way
We won’t accept unaccompanied minors when their itineraries include:
- A connection to/from another airline, including codeshare and oneworld® partners
- Ground/co-terminal connections (unaccompanied minors under 15 years, can’t use ground transportation alone)
- The last flight of the day from the final connection city, unless it’s the only scheduled flight offered
- Overnight connecting flights, unless it’s the only scheduled flight offered
Guidelines for children traveling alone:
Children under 5 years of age may not travel alone under any circumstances.
Can only travel on nonstop or direct flights.
Can travel on any nonstop or direct flight, or any connecting flight through Charlotte, NC (CLT), Washington Reagan, D.C. (DCA), Dallas Forth Worth, TX (DFW), New York, NY (JFK and LGA), Los Angeles, CA (LAX), Miami, FL (MIA), Chicago, IL (ORD), Philadelphia, PA (PHL) and Phoenix, AZ (PHX).
Children in this age range don’t have to use the unaccompanied minor service, but it’s still available to them. When traveling alone, children 16 years of age and older can book online, to book children 15 years of age, you’ll need to call Reservations.
Note: Children 2-14 years old can travel as an 'accompanied minor' with someone 16 years or older.
At the airport
Check-in & required documents
You'll need to fill out the unaccompanied minor form and any necessary Customs and Immigration documents at the airport ticket counter on the day of departure. The form must remain with the child during the flight. Also:
- Bring proof of age for the child traveling alone (birth certificate, passport, etc.).
- Get a security pass from the airport ticket counter to escort the minor through security to the gate.
- A parent or designated accompanying adult must take the unaccompanied minor to the departure gate and remain until the flight is airborne.
- Get a security pass at the ticket counter to meet the child at the gate (U.S. cities only).
- You must show a government-issued photo ID when you pick up an unaccompanied minor.
If a flight changes or is cancelled, or if schedule irregularities occur at any city and it’s likely that the minor won’t make a connecting flight, we'll call the contacts on the unaccompanied minor form and arrange an alternate flight if necessary.
As always, the airlines seem to do a very good job in looking after vulnerable travelers. Parents and grandparents should hopefully feel comfortable that their children and grandchildren are in safe hands.