What Documents Your Child May Need To Fly Alone

child on plane

While it may not be your ideal decision, sometimes your children may need to fly alone or in the company of someone other than you. If you wind up in this situation, the best thing you can do is be prepared.

Before booking their ticket, there are a few things to note about children and flying:

  • On most airlines, children under age 5 will not be permitted to fly alone under any circumstances. In these cases, a responsible adult or older child (typically 12 – 16 years of age or older, depending on the airline) must accompany the child.
  • Most airlines allow children age 16 or older to fly alone without any “unaccompanied minor” restrictions. This means that an older teen who has legal access to a credit card or other form of payment may be able to purchase a ticket and fly on his or her own.

If your child is in the right age group to qualify as an unaccompanied minor, keep in mind the following information and documents your child may need on hand if they will be flying alone.

  • A Reservation, Ticket or E-Ticket – In most cases, unaccompanied minors are not permitted to fly on standby, so make sure their ticket is purchased and reserved ahead of time.
  • Gate Pass – If you would like to accompany your child to the gate and assure that he or she makes it safely on the flight, it may be possible to obtain a “gate pass” allowing you to stay with your child until boarding time.
  • Contact Information – The airline will need contact information for the person or persons who will pick your child up from his or her destination.
  • Proof of Age – In many cases, you may need to prove your child’s age to assure that he or she qualifies for flying as an unaccompanied minor. A government issued copy of their birth certificate is often the best choice.
  • Passport – If flying internationally, your child will need to be responsible for his or her passport.
  • Emergency Cash – All airlines recommend your child has some cash on hand in case of emergencies (unexpected layover, etc.)

While these documents may be the only ones necessary, there could be others not listed above or the rules may change. Make sure you call the airline ahead of time and verify that you have everything lined up. After all, the last thing you want is for the day of the big trip to arrive and your child to be denied boarding. This could become a potentially difficult situation and lead to last minute rushing around that would cause you and your family unneeded stress.

After you have everything together, take a deep breath and relax. Soon, your child will be safely at his or her destination and you will have no further worries. By learning how to travel at a young age, children can become seasoned independent travelers, which will serve them well throughout their lives!


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