Here are some of the tips and things you should know when your child flies alone:
•Give notice to the airline: The best thing you can do to help ensure your child’s safety is to inform the airline they are flying alone. Do that when you make the reservation, and do it again a few days before departure to confirm that the airline has your child listed as an UM.
•Book smart: There are smart ways to book when your child is traveling alone, and not so smart ways. For example, if possible book your child on a non-stop flight. The more connections they have the higher chance of getting lost or stranded somewhere. Also, book them on the earliest flight of the day. That way if there is a delay, a cancellation, etc. your child has the chance to get on another flight instead of being stuck overnight. Most airlines won’t let you book your child on the last flight of the day.
•Prepare for problems: Take a few minutes to Google the airline you are using, and read up on the airline’s policies regarding delays and other unforeseen problems. For example, did you know that an airline can refuse to board your child if the weather is particularly perilous? This is done as a precaution of course, but is good to know, especially if your child is flying around Christmas or sometime when the weather is bad in arrival or departure cities. You can also keep track of your kid even when the flight is in air, by calling the airline to check on progress, and make sure it is still en route to its original destination and on time. Or check progress by going to FlightArrivals.com(flightarrivals.com).
•Be early: Get to the airport early. Usually if there are children flying alone they are pre-boarded, and they have a chance to familiarize themselves with the plane and procedure, so make sure they are through security and what not in time to do this. Also, you can get a gate pass that gets you through security as well so you can make sure they board the right plane.
•Have all their info: Don’t leave home without the proper paperwork and documentation for your child. You will want them to have a copy of their flight information so that if for some reason they end up in the wrong place someone can easily see where they should be and help them get there. Usually small children do not need ID, but just to be safe, bring a birth certificate and check to ensure other forms of identification are not required (check with your airline).
•Have the right person pick them up: You will have to fill out a form that designates who is to pick up your child at the arrival airport. The name you give the airline is the only person who pick up your child, so their dad can’t send his girlfriend, or his second wife if you put his name down, so make sure they know that. Also make sure they have identification with them, or the child will not be released.
•Don’t leave: Stay until the plane is in the air. Just because it’s on the runway doesn’t mean it’s going to take off right then and there, sometimes delays occur, weather conditions worsen, etc. and the plane returns to the terminal. Parents often leave the minute the plane is on the runway, only to later learn that it returned to the gate due to mechanical problems. So stay until they are safely off the ground.
•Talk to your child: Talk to your “older” minors about respecting the UM rules. UMs are usually the last to get off of the plane so that flight attendants can keep track of them, but sometimes older kids like to walk off. This can create panic and confusion for both the guardians and the airlines. You also need to talk to them about things like staying on the plane once they have boarded, using the plane bathroom so they don’t get lost, and only talking to flight attendants, not other adults if they have a problem.
•Provide creature comforts for your child: The risks are decreased significantly if your child is comfortable and happy. If they have food with them they won’t leave the gate area or plane to eat. If they have something to do while on the plane, they won’t fill their time sharing personal information with complete strangers. So, pack a carry-on with activities, snacks, some emergency money, a phone card or cell phone, and a sweat shirt just in case the weather gets chilly. Make your child feel as comfortable as possible about flying alone. Write out all of your contact information, as well that of the person picking him up, on a sheet of paper and make sure they have it on them.