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Children Flying Alone

How to prepare your kids to fly as an unaccompanied minor



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Preflight prep for unaccompanied minors

“The flight itself is, in some ways, the least of the issues,” says Kell. “Navigating the airport can be the biggest challenge.” She suggests going to the airport and role-playing prior to the flight: “Let him navigate through the airport, and provide some independence by allowing him to go to a bathroom or get something to eat within your view.”

“The most important thing to tell your child is not to leave the airport unaccompanied or with a stranger,” says Harvey. However, warns Kell, don’t convey anxiety: “If the child believes the parent is worried, this will increase his anxiety.”

Unaccompanied minor flight plan for success

Families of unaccompanied minors can visit Airconsumer.dot.gov/publications/kidsalone.pdf to ensure that they follow protocol and avoid potential pitfalls. Some important rules of thumb:

  • Choose the simplest itinerary possible.

  • Flights earlier in the day tend to have better on-time records than later ones.

  • Avoid the last flight of the day.

  • Arrange meal service (if offered) in advance.

  • Fill out all the airline’s required forms.

  • Use electronic ticketing so your child cannot lose a paper ticket.

  • Be sure all dates, times, cities and your child’s name are accurate.

  • Inquire about a gate pass that will allow you to accompany your child past security and watch him board the plane.

  • Wait until the plane actually takes off before leaving the airport.

  • Have your flyer bring a book, game or video to pass the time, plus a prepaid credit card for unforeseen purchases and snacks if there’s no meal service.

  • Do not change plans at the last minute.

Solomon’s family learned that final lesson the hard way. His aunt had been designated to pick him up in Philadelphia, but at the last minute a different aunt and his grandmother came instead. “Security gave us a hard time,” says Zalut. “It was quite confusing. They kept him in another room with other kids for about an hour until it was all worked out.”

And while Zalut was concerned that Solomon “might get scared or wouldn’t know what to do,” the tween kept his cool, having been prepped well. Concludes Kell, “The child absolutely needs to be part of the plan to fly solo.”  

Terri Akman is an MK contributing writer.

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