Sending your child to fly alone can be frightening, but having a safety plan in place and ensuring that your little one knows what to do in case of an emergency can help make things go smoothly.
1. Book a Non-Stop Flight if Possible
If possible, book a non-stop flight to your child's destination. Having one or more stops in between the final destination greatly increases the chance of your child getting lost.
If you must book a multi-stop flight, make arrangements to have your little one escorted from gate to gate. The escort may come at an additional charge, but you'll have peace of mind in knowing that your child is being looked after.
Keep in mind that if your child is between ages 5 and 8, an escort is required. Experts also recommend escorts for older children. It's better to be safe than sorry, so book an escort if your child's flight has multiple stops.
2. Arrange Door-to-Door Transportation
If you cannot secure transportation to and from the airport with someone you trust, arrange to have a professional driver take your child to the airport.
An airport limo service will drop your child off right outside the gate, where he or she will meet the escort and be taken to the boarding area.
Door-to-door transportation will also give you peace of mind in knowing that your child will arrive at the airport safely. And kids will love riding in a luxury car or limo.
3. Request Appropriate Seating
Most airlines allow you to reserve seats on a flight. This may come at an additional charge, but it will allow you to choose a seat that you feel is most appropriate.
Experts recommend booking a seat that's away from the aisle, and to have at least one empty seat between the child and the next passenger.
4. Know the Airline's Policies
Every airline has its policy regarding unaccompanied minors. Make sure that you know and understand these policies before you book the flight. Most airlines list their "unaccompanied minors" policies online, but if you can't find this information, call the airline directly to inquire about it.
Alaska Airlines, for example, has an UM (Unaccompanied Minors) service. It costs $25 each way for non-stop flights, and $50 for connecting flights. Children aged 5-7 must have a direct flight, while children aged 8-12 can have connections. Their service is optional for children aged 13 and older.
If you have any questions – any questions at all – about the company's UM policy, call the airline.
5. Make a Plan – and Go Over It
Make your child knows exactly what's going to happen. Have a plan, and go over that plan. It doesn’t' matter whether this is your child's first time flying or 10th, make sure he or she understands how the process will work.
Your child should know who is picking him up, and he should have all of the contact information for that person.
Before your child goes to the airport, make sure that he has all of the documents he needs to board the plane. A copy of his birth certificate or a school ID with his photo should be all that's needed.