When Kids Fly Solo by Sheena Berg.
On a recent inter-state flight, Emily Bouchard, founder of Blended-Families.com, had the pleasure of sitting next to a charming 12-year-old girl who was traveling alone to spend a long weekend with her dad. After she excitedly told Emily all the enjoyable things she was going to do with her dad, she said that she had been making this plane trip every month since her parents divorced.It turns out this pint-sized solo traveler is like millions of other kids whom the airlines label, Unaccompanied Minors (UMs). These are kids who fly without an adult, both within the United states and overseas, usually to stay with non-custodial parents or to spend vacation time with grandparents or other family members.
With the Holiday season quickly approaching, many kids of blended families will be traveling alone to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas/Winter vacation with parents or family. Here are some tips for parents and their kids flying alone.
1. There are no Department of Transportation rules regarding kids flying alone, and each carrier has its own rules, guidelines and fees charged to supervise UMs. Each carrier has different procedures so its best to check when you book the flight.
2. No child under five years of age can fly alone. Between five and twelve years, most airlines will take UMs only if parents or guardians accept the UM procedures, complete the necessary paperwork and pay the fee, which varies among carriers but is usually between $40 and $100 each way. Some carriers allow only non-stop flights, or through flights where the plane has a stopover but no change of plane is required.
Kids 12 years and older do not require UM procedures but carriers will implement procedures at the request of parents and payment of the fee. However, if the parent refuses UM services, the airline expects that the child will be responsible for making his own alternative plans if the plane is delayed, diverted, or canceled.
International flights have specific guidelines and programs for UMs. Even though kids between 12 and 17 are considered young adults, many carriers insist on UM coverage for travel outside the U.S. Also, UMs leaving another country are often required to have a letter of consent, sometimes notarized, by the parent or guardian.
3. The rule of thumb is the simpler the itinerary the less likelihood for problems. So, reserve non-stop, early morning flights, and be prepared for delays due to weather, technical problems or cancellations. Avoid connecting flights with different airlines even though they may offer the most inexpensive fare. also, make sure your child and the pick up person have complete information: all flight numbers, dates, times, and airports of origin and arrival, proof of age of your child, and an airline emergency number to call in case of delays or changes. Always find out if you need a gate pass and photo ID to escort your child to the gate and for the pick up person at the destination.
4. On the day of travel, allow plenty of time to get to the airport to avoid the pressure of rushing and cutting things tight. Stay at the gate area until the flight is airborne, sometimes flights are delayed, canceled or need to return to the gate.
* Make sure your child has books, puzzles and games to pass the time enroute because attendants, although helpful, can not function as babysitters.
* Check with your carrier about electronic gadgets and music players.
* Pack a light snack and be aware of liquid limits.
* Explain how important it is to listen to instructions and obey the flight attendant's requests.
* Give your child enough cash to purchase a meal in case of a delay.
* Label clothes and the back pack.
* Check on medications because airline personnel are not allowed to administer meds.
* Instruct your child never to leave the airport by himself or with a stranger.
* Discuss the journey and what to expect, and if your child is anxious or has never flown before, visit the airport beforehand and do a walk-through.
* Look forward to about all the fun your child had on his flying adventure to see family or friends.
For more information and a useful checklist of things to remember when your child flies alone, go to airconsumer.ost.dot.gov to download the pamphlet, When Kids Fly Alone.
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