Perhaps you’ll be sending your child to Hawaii for the summer to visit an aunty or uncle. It’s by no means unheard of for a child to fly solo – more than 60,000 do so every year. But it definitely raises some questions, like how old should your child be?
Scarily, I’ve heard about kids getting “lost” while flying as an unaccompanied minor. In one incident, a 10-year-old girl went missing in the Chicago Airport because the airline escort never showed up to help with her plane transfer. Another time, a boy got off of the plane before departing, left the airport unnoticeably and began the 30-something-miles walk back home.
As frightening as that sounds, similar scenarios happen more often than not. Sometimes it’s the child’s fault when other times, it’s simply the carelessness of airline staff. Parents should be the ones with the final say; they have the best judgement on whether or not their child is ready for the responsibility of flying alone.
Most airline carriers make that decision a bit easier by not allowing children under a certain age to make connections. US Airways won’t let a kid under 15 take a flight with a connection, while Southwest says unaccompanied minors must be at least 11 to change planes.
If that doesn’t help you make your decision, maybe the extra cost will. Some airlines charge up to $100 each way for unaccompanied minor services. The exact fee depends on the airlines, the age of the child and whether the flight involves a connection. Services include anything from reserving a seat near the flight crew to answering any questions he/she may have while flying. It doesn’t mean, however, that your child will get special/extra attention, but service will be available when needed.
After weighing the pros and cons of your keiki flying solo, the final decision will ultimately be the right one for both you and your child. And as a parent, you’ll feel reassured knowing you’ve done as much as you could to prepare your child for the flight.