Children Flying Alone: What Every Parent Should Know About Unaccompanied Minors

It’s not uncommon to be amazed at Japanese kids going out alone. But for children flying alone, we feel scared above all else. It is undoubtedly a worrying experience for our kids and also for us. Especially for us.

But then there is the time when a family trip is just impossible. The only way to help our kids and ourselves is to equip them with as much knowledge and information as possible. We will help you with just that in this article.

To our little readers: Hello there! If you are reading this with your parents, there is no need to worry. Flying is a great experience, the best even. There are snacks, movies, games, etc., everything you’ve always wanted to do before your homework. Now is the time! Listen to your parents and adults on the fly. You will be in a new and beautiful city in no time.

The hardest part is letting them go. But with the proper preparation, we can let them explore new horizons by themselves. Photo by LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS -

Disclaimer: This article was written in March 2023. The policies might be different by the time you read this. Make sure to double-check with the airlines to avoid any unwanted scenarios. 

Important policies

For the unfamiliar, the unaccompanied minor service is offered to ensure the flying experience for kids that are not accompanied by adults.

Generally, the adults need only to carry the kids to the airport. Next, approved airline personnel will arrive to pick up the children and accompany them throughout the flight, from check-in through boarding and upon arrival at the destination airport. 

With this, the parents can have peace of mind letting their children travel far distances. However, the policies and documents might be different from the usual requirements and are a little bit complicated. Hence our guide today!

1. Age requirements

It depends on the airline of your choice, but there are age requirements most of the time. Normally, the kids have to be over 5 to be able to travel alone. If the kids are younger than that, most airlines won’t offer unaccompanied minor services (UMS). 

Here is a list of age requirements for some airlines in the UK:

British Airways

  • Must travel as UMs: 5 to 11 years old 
  • Optional: 12 to 17 years old.
  • Does not provide the unaccompanied minor service 
  • Children aged 16 or over are allowed to travel alone.
  • Does not provide unaccompanied minor service. 
  • Children aged 16 or over are allowed to travel alone.
Virgin Atlantic
  • Must travel as UMs: 5 to 15 years old.
  • Must travel as UMs: 5 to 11 years old 
  • Optional: 12 to 16 years old.
  • Does not provide the unaccompanied minor service 
  • Children aged 14 or over are allowed to travel alone.

If you are flying from/to the U.S., here is the list for you: 

American Airlines
  • Must travel as UMs: 5 to 14 years old 
  • Optional: 15 to 17 years old.
Delta Air Lines
  • Must travel as UMs: 5 to 14 years old 
  • Children aged 15 or over are allowed to travel alone
United Airlines
  • Must travel as UMs: 5 to 14 years old 
  • Optional: 15 to 17 years old 
Southwest Airlines
  • Only available for children ages 5 through 11 years old 
  • Children aged 12 or over are allowed to travel alone.
Alaska Airlines
  • Must travel as UMs: 5 to 12 years old 
  • Optional: 13 to 17 years old.
  • Must travel as UMs: 5 to under 14 years old 
  • Children who have reached their 14th birthday are considered adults.
Spirit Airlines
  • Must travel as UMs: 5 to 14 years old 
  • Children aged 15 or over are allowed to travel alone.

Children over 15 may not be required to sign up for the service. But they may be asked to present an ID or birth certificate to verify their age. We will discuss this further in the following sections.

2. Flight restrictions

Type of flights

Some airlines only offer unaccompanied minor services on nonstop flights. Because doing so lowers the risks of kids getting lost during stops, missing connecting flights, or any unforeseen issues.

However, some airlines might have partnerships with other airlines. In such cases, the unaccompanied minor service will be offered even on connecting flights.

Some airlines go further and do not offer unaccompanied minor services on red-eye flights. This is to ensure that unaccompanied minors stay awake and attentive during the flight and guarantee adequate supervision from the flight attendants. 

Can your little angels make their first unaccompanied trip? Photo by Eddie K Sung.

Number of unaccompanied minors

Airlines always sell more ticket adults than the number of seats available. However, the number of accompanied minors per flight is limited. Similar to the previous policy, this one also is to make sure the quality of supervision remains high quality. 

Seat assignment

Choosing the best seats on a plane is crucial. Unfortunately, kids who prefer window seats won’t be happy since those seats will not be available.

Unaccompanied minors must be seated near the cabin crew or in easy-to-observe places. It allows flight attendants to check the children constantly and can quickly come to help when needed.

3. Fees

The fees will vary among airlines, just like the usual ticket. Usually, it will cost you from €40 to €140 each way. Yes, each way (in addition to the airfare per child).

Usually, the fees will be multiplied by the number of your kids, and no discount is available. For example, if the additional fee for one kid is €40, it would be €80 for 2 kids, and so on.

One thing to remember is to check the accepted payment method beforehand. Some airlines only accept purchasing this service only and pay by credit card.

Preparation process

1. Emotionally and mentally 

It is essential to ensure your kid(s) feel comfortable for the experience ahead. Communicate with them what will happen before, during, and after the flight, including checking in, takeoff and landing, inflight services, or any related security procedures.

It is not a good thing to idealise the experience. However, consider helping them set correct expectations to avoid feeling disappointed or overwhelmed. 

It is helpful to ask them whether they have any worries or fears. By knowing that, you can either solve it with your kids or ensure the flight attendants know that. 

Also, you can create and practise different scenarios with them. Experience, even in practice scenarios, can help boost your kids’ confidence.

Last but not least, tell them that you trust in them and that they can handle the journey perfectly well. That can go a long way.

Overall, your kids can travel alone if the following boxes are ticked:

  • Can they navigate the airport?
  • Can they check in and follow the cabin crew’s instructions?
  • Are they comfortable flying alone?
  • Can they deal with any unplanned interruptions during the flight?
  • How easy is it for them to feel nervous and anxious? If so, can they handle it with the help of an adult (a cabin crew)?

If the answers are “no” to most of the questions, you may want to travel with them until they are ready to fly alone.

Find something like this and read it with your kids. Photo by Calle Macarone on Unsplash

2. Packing

Young flyers might need fewer items than adults, but each item might feel very important to them. Make sure to include everything they need during the flight. Some essentials might be snacks, medications, or entertainment like books or games.

Tips: Toss in carry-on one or several tracking devices such as Apple AirTag or Samsung Smartthings Tracker. There is nothing more precious that you want to track than them. It is also convenient during pick-ups.

If your kids are fans of Ipad or any other electronic device, their biggest fear might be the running-out-of-battery notification. Even for adults, flying can be a very dull experience.

Remember to check the battery and charge the devices if necessary. Your kids can be entertained and stay in touch with you throughout the experience.

As the flight will exhaust your kids, keep their carry-on baggage as light as possible. A small backpack is enough. Grab and go without forgetting anything behind.

You can also consider putting some cash into their carry-ons. They may not need it, but a little money can come in handy when the situation calls for it. 

Trust your kids with this, and remember to exchange to foreign currency if they are flying overseas. Photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash

Important: Write down emergency contacts and put them inside their carry-ons. Consider attaching an emergency contact card to their backpacks as well. Even though your kids might have cellphones and receive documentation from the airline, over-preparation is recommended.

After packing, sit down with your kids and check together. Make sure they have everything they need and know how to use all of them. 

3. Important documents 

Besides the personal items above, there will be some documents your kids are required to have. These typically include a passport or birth certificate (to verify your kids’ ages), a certified ID of an adult, and the name and/or address of the adult(s) who will pick up the kids at the destinations, boarding passes, etc.

Additionally, it is common for some airlines to require you to sign one or several consent forms as authorisations for your kids to travel. Check the terms and conditions for their service.

Make sure to check the specific policies of your chosen airlines to be well prepared. You don’t want to have any troubles in the airport that can cause stress for your kids.

Procedures before and after the flight 

1. Checking in 

Unlike adults, kids travelling alone are not allowed to check in online or at the kiosk. They need to do it at the airline counters. The check-in agents will check all the documents mentioned above. 

Afterwards, the kids will receive some special identification tags: a barcode sticker to stick on the kids’ clothes, a colourful wristband, etc.

You should contact the agents if they, for some reason, forget to give your kids this. Our recommendation is to ask for a barcode sticker or a luggage tag. They don’t cause any discomfort for the kids and are equally, if not more, recognisable.

Then, take a picture of the tags and send it to the person or people who will pick up the kids at the destination.

You can accompany your kids to the check-in gates. Photo by _Kővári Márk

2. Boarding 

Not all, but a lot of airlines, allow you to accompany your kids to the gate. If you are not sure, ask the staff member for a gate pass, which will allow you to escort your kids through security. 

Once you are in, you can help your kids to settle, store all the baggage, and prepare them with food, entertainment, or any necessary items.

Don’t come too late. Unaccompanied minors usually are allowed to board earlier than other passengers. This helps the flight attendants to properly identify the kids they are responsible for during the flight. 

Note: Remind the little ones to follow the staff/crew’s instructions and ask them for help when something’s wrong.

If your kids have any medical conditions or need special treatments, inform the flight attendants beforehand. Give them instructions on how to use any specific medical tools. Consider writing or typing down some notes for them to use as references.

3. Picking up 

After arriving at the destination airport, your kids will be escorted off the plane following specific procedures. Since this might vary among the airlines, check carefully beforehand to minimise the waiting time for both your kids and the flight attendants. 

Most often, airlines will allocate designated meeting areas. Whether you or other adults will come and pick up the kids, prepare the required identification documents to present to the airline staff. 

If you cannot pick up your kids at the destination airport, you might need to submit documents authorising other adults to do so on your behalf. Stay in touch 

More tips 

1. Time management 

Make sure to come early. Allow your kids plenty of time for check-in and boarding. Pay attention to them to see whether they show any signs of anxiety or fear.

It is not a bad idea to make a sightseeing tour around the airport with your kids to help familiarise them with the place. Teach them to be aware of the flight’s status, including any delays or changes.

Pay attention to this board. Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

As mentioned above, there are airlines that do not offer unaccompanied minor services. In cases when your teenage kids are allowed to travel alone, but you want to be extra careful, there are two things you can do.

First, try to book a seat that is near the flight attendant. It would feel more comfortable for your kids and easier for the flight attendant to support them if needed.

The second thing is to contact the airline to see whether they can have any assistance for your kids during the flight. Even though they do not offer unaccompanied service, some extra attention might be possible.

2. Communication 

Before boarding, have an agreed-upon method of communication with your kids. It might be via texts, phone calls, or even emails.

Your kids might be masters in playing games on the phone, but it is a different story for communication. Be careful, and spend some time practising with them.

3. Easing anxiety

Try to recreate some sense of familiarity for the kids. This might include favourite toys, comforting blankets, etc.

If your kids don’t have one, or the toys are not suitable for carrying on the plane, check for some children travelling kits. There are numerous options on the market right now. We believe there is something for your kids out there.

If the budget allows, consider purchasing some in-flight services such as Wifi, extra meals, or extra amenities to enhance the experience for the kids. Moreover, prioritise booking a direct flight instead of a connecting one.

Tips: Be sure to pack a bottle of water. Staying hydrated can help so much, especially with motion sickness.

The little ones may need a handy bag to store all their essentials.

If you are looking for a perfect bag for the young, we highly recommend the CabinZero Classic Flight 12L, which is explicitly designed for flying. There are a lot of features, but your kids will love its Ipad sleeve.

If that one is too big for your children, consider picking up the CabinZero Bum Bag 2L. It is small and convenient enough for your kids to carry on their bodies the whole time.No taking off means no forgetting. There are more than 20 colour variations for you to pick with your children.

Extra Resources 

Besides this helpful article, there are other sources you can check to learn more about unaccompanied minor services.

Airline website

Some airlines have dedicated sections that provide in-depth information about this service. This can be extremely useful for you to check and compare the services between airlines.

Online travel agencies 

It is always comforting having somebody to inquire about. Book a consulting section. Agencies’ websites usually include information about the services of numerous airlines.

It would be very convenient to make some comparisons if you haven’t decided on what airline to choose. Here are some names for you: 

  • In the U.S: Expedia,, Orbitz, etc.
  • In the UK: Expedia UK, Opodo, Skyscanner, etc.

Parenting forums or blogs

Experience helps a lot. Find some parents who have gone through the service. They might have some valuable lessons as well as emotional encouragement to share.

Some forums you can check out: Motherly, The Family Travel Association, TravelingMom, etc.

Children Flying Alone: You Can Let Them Go

Believe in your kids and the airline. Everything will be great! Photo by Shashivarman Nair on Unsplash

We know you are worried about the experience. Of course, you are. However, choosing the airlines offering a service for children flying alone will ease your mind significantly.

Talk with airlines about any concerns you might have. They indeed have experience and can help you address them. You can leave your little ones in the safe hands of the carrier and its cabin crew.

If this article helps, please let us know after picking up your kids at the destination airport. We would love to hear the story!

Again, this article is written in March 2023. The policies might be different by the time you read this. Make sure to double-check with the airlines to avoid any unwanted scenarios.

Bui Hoang Hai

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