This last summer, our family was not able to travel very much due to work and finances. However, my relative invited my daughter to visit them in Georgia. If you’ve ever wondered about children flying alone as unaccompanied minors, you’ll definitely want to bookmark this!
My baby flying clear across the country alone?! Sure I used to travel to L.A. every summer to stay with family when I was young, but that was only 45-60 minute flight and a trip I took many times before. We only traveled to Georgia once as a family and Munchkin was only five years old at the time. She had never traveled by herself and this flight would be over five hours! On top of that, the girl has no sense of direction. I was sure my 13-year-old wouldn’t even find her way to the gate, let alone settle herself on a plane and figure her way out through baggage.
Fortunately, Delta has an Unaccompanied Minors Program that requires an flight attendant accompany children ages 5 to 14 for the duration of the flight. There is an extra fee for this service but, in my opinion, it is completely worth it.
Unaccompanied Minors Program for Children Flying Alone
Here is a rundown of how the program works and our experience with it.
- The parent or guardian is given a special pass to go through security with the child.
The extra fee was already paid when the ticket was purchased. Frans and I just had to check in at the airline desk to finish the process. The woman helping us was very familiar with how the Unaccompanied Minors Program worked and arranged passes so both of us could see our daughter off at the gate.
- An attendant will walk your child into the plane and seat them in the back, near the attendant area.
We did a direct hand-off with the attendant and waved to our little girl as she disappeared down the walkway. The parent or guardian isn’t supposed to leave until the plane takes off so Frans and I just hung out for a while and took photos. I tried to call Munchkin while waiting but she didn’t have her phone on. Ugh, we should have known something like that would happen. Parents – don’t forget to make sure your child’s phone is on and charged! If you have T-Mobile, you can get free Wi-Fi calling and texting on flights with Gogo. That would have been so nice.
- An attendant will walk your child out of the plane to the person pre-designated for pickup.
Our relative was supposed to be at the gate an hour early. The airline already had her name so she only had to show her ID to pick up Munchkin. We forgot to tell our daughter to text us when she arrived so we were frantically calling when we saw online that the plane had landed. Ugh, sometimes teens can be so clueless…
All in all, everything went smoothly for us and Munchkin got to Georgia and came home without incident. She had a great time but ten days away from us was a bit too long for her. Plus, due to a hectic schedule and not enough sleep, she ended up getting a cold for the last few days. Poor thing! It will be a while before she travels by herself again but at least this was a good experience and we know what to expect for next time.
Unaccompanied Minors on Domestic and International Flights
An Unaccompanied Minors Program is available on most major airlines. Required ages and extra fees vary. I listed some a few of the common domestic airlines for easy reference but you will want to be sure to check the official web sites or call for the most current information.
- Alaska (5-12 years, optional for ages 13-17, $25 or $50/pp each way depending on if it’s a connecting flight)
- American (5-14 years, optional for ages 15-17, $150 each way but is per family and not per child)
- Delta (5-14 years, optional for ages 15-17, $100 each way but is per family and not per child)
- JetBlue (5-13 years, $100/pp each way)
- Hawaiian (5-11 years, optional for ages 12-17, $35 or $100/pp each way depending on if it’s within Hawaii or between North America)
- Southwest (5-11 years, $50/pp each way)
- United (5-11 years, optional for ages 12-17, call for fee)
- US Airways (5-14 years, $150/pp each way)
- Virgin America (5-14 years, optional for ages 15-17, $75-125/pp each way depending on destination)
Have your kids flown alone before? If not, would you consider it?