Can Children Fly Alone?
How Unaccompanied minor programs vary by airline and what you need to do before booking your child’s flight.
If your child needs to fly alone, first check with the airline they'll be on to see what the rules and regulations are. Some airlines will only allow minors to travel alone if they participate in an Unaccompanied Minor Program. This program allows younger kids to travel by themselves for an additional fee. This covers the cost of an airline representative providing supervision and assistance to your child throughout the trip.
Popular airlines in the United States that currently offer an Unaccompanied Minor Program for young travelers include:
If your child is flying alone, you and your co-parent should discuss travel plans ahead of time. It is important for both of you to be on the same page regarding the flight and how your child will be received. You can share ticketing and itinerary information with your co-parent through our Info Library and Shared Calendar features. Through these tools, TalkingParents allows you and your co-parent to create customizable information cards and keep track of your child’s schedule.
Different Airlines, Different Rules
The rules and restrictions surrounding Unaccompanied Minor Programs vary by airline. It’s imperative to reach out to a representative from the airline you want your child to fly with before booking any reservations.
At American, Delta, and United, for example, the Unaccompanied Minor Service is required for any passengers ages 5 to 14 who are flying by themselves. There are restrictions on what type of flights the child may fly on. For instance, children might only be allowed to fly on non-stop or direct flights, or flights where the connection takes place at a specific airport.
If you have two or more children flying, the rules differ further. At Delta, for example, anyone younger than 5 must be accompanied by someone 18 years or older. However, American Airlines will allow children as young as 2 to fly if they are accompanied by someone at least 16 years old or older. In this case, the younger child must still be enrolled in the Unaccompanied Minor Program and pay the additional fees.
JetBlue allows children ages 2 to 13 to fly without being enrolled in their Unaccompanied Minor Program if they are accompanied by someone at least 14 years old. Southwest Airlines will allow children between the ages of 5 to 11 to fly with a sibling without an additional fee if one of the children is at least 12 years old.
Allegiant and Frontier, two other popular U.S. airlines, do not offer unaccompanied minor programs. At these airlines, children 14 years and under must fly with a passenger who is at least 15 years old, or they cannot fly.
Figuring Out Specifics
Remember, each airline is unique. All airlines have different restrictions on how many children can fly together at one time unaccompanied by an adult. Each airline also has specific rules for the type of identification required for booking reservations for children, as well as the drop-off and pick-up requirements. Additionally, most airlines will not accept unaccompanied minors if they are connecting to or from other airlines.
It is beneficial for you and your co-parent to discuss, agree upon, and document all specifics regarding your child’s flight and travel plans. If your child is flying alone to visit or make a custody transition with a parent that lives out of the country or out of state, read our article on Long-Distance Co-Parenting for more resources.