For separated and divorced parents who live some distance apart, co-parenting their child may require flying rather than driving during school breaks and summers. If your child is old and mature enough, you may begin to think about letting them make these trips on their own.
Children who fly without an adult are known as “unaccompanied minors” (or UM) by airlines. Seeing that term for the first time on an airline website may make you feel more than a little nervous and perhaps a bit guilty. However, teens and even younger kids can do this without problems – and enjoy the adventure — with the right planning and support.
Services for unaccompanied minors vary by airline. So do age requirements and costs. Typically, airlines will provide UM services for children between 5 and 15. However, you still need to determine whether your child is mature enough, regardless of their age, to fly on their own.
What should you look for in an airline and a flight?
It’s crucial to look at specifically what kind of attention airline employees will provide your child – particularly if they’re young and/or haven’t had much experience flying. It’s best not to make their first airplane flight a solo one.
Airline employees can’t be expected to watch your child every second of the flight. If you think they’ll need constant attention, they shouldn’t be flying on their own yet.
It’s best to book a non-stop flight, so there’s less chance of anything going awry. Some airlines only allow UM passengers on non-stop flights. It’s also best to book your child a seat as close to the front of the plane as possible – in business class or first class if that’s feasible. This will make it easier for the flight crew to look out for them.
If you and your co-parent determine that airline travel (whether alone or with a parent or other adult) will be necessary, you’ll probably want to factor the cost into your child support agreement and include a provision for it in your parenting plan. Having legal guidance can help you do this.