With our whole world changing, some kids are as much of world travelers as many business men. Especially children who have parents split up, and they have to fly from one state to another, or one city to another to fulfill visitation. The following are some safety guidelines and procedures for making sure that your child has the best flying experience possible, and is safe when traveling alone.
The specific guidelines for airlines vary. But as a rule of thumb consider the following:
First and foremost if you have a child between the ages of five and fourteen years old that is traveling alone or without an adult at least eighteen, you can use an unaccompanied service. This is a service that ensures they get on the plane and stay there, and that someone picks them up at the gate. That way you do not have to worry about them wandering off the plane, missing their flight, or sitting alone for hours at the gate.
Children ages five to seven years should only fly on nonstop or direct flights with no change of planes. The more changes of plane, the more times you stop, the more potential problems there could be. So, a younger child has a higher risk of wandering off, or getting lost in a crowded airport, make sure your younger child has a non-stop flight, and try to make it early in the day.
If you have a teenage child, and are not sure if they are going to do ok flying alone, request the unaccompanied service. It will usually cost you forty dollars per leg of the flight, but that is well worth the peace of mind it can provide.
Book your children on early flights. That way if they get bumped, or the flight gets cancelled, they can be put on another flight. This is especially important if they have a connecting flight. Why? Because if they miss their connection, and it was the last one of the day, your minor child could be stuck in an airport over night.
Talk to the airline you are booking with to make sure they are aware your child is flying unaccompanied, and can watch for problems with connections, etc.
Ensure that your child has all the required documents when traveling internationally. Whether they are traveling internationally or not, make sure they have some identification on them, even if it is just a hand written identifier. Make sure you know what is required by the country or area they are flying to. Some countries require special documentation, such as a notarized letter, stating that your child has permission to fly alone. This is a precaution airlines take so that they do not help runaways leave the country.
If your child needs medication, make sure there is a plan for administration. Airlines can not administer medication, so either make sure your child can do it alone, or make sure their flight is short enough that they do not need meds during it.
After purchasing the ticket contact the company and make sure they know your child is traveling alone. Make sure you provide the flight number, date of travel, and name of the traveling child. Then be sure to provide the name, address, and telephone number of the person bringing your child to the airport as well as the person who will meet your child at the final destination. This way if there is a problem, they will know who to contact. Some airlines will require the person picking the child up to show ID and sign an Acceptance of Responsibility form. You can ask the airline to require this if you are at all worried.
There are many things you can do to ensure your child traveling alone is safe, just make sure you talk to them about possible dangers, and what to do if they get lost, stranded, etc. Give them money and if possible, give them a cell phone.