Wedding Woes

unaccompanied minor?

have any of you had your kids fly as unaccompanied minors to visit family out of state? how was the experience?

i was thinking kids had to be older, but see Southwest starts at  5yo. 

i thought this would be a good option for Wolverine to visit her grandparents over her summer break without DK and I needing to take a lot of vacation time, but that it probably wasn't possible until she was 8 or so. 

She's a good flyer, and I know that a kindle would entertain her for the 2.5 or so hours to get to PA, but I don't know if she's mature enough at this point (6.5) to handle it. 


Re: unaccompanied minor?

  • I started flying alone when I was six to spend the summers with my grandparents. It was really easy and aside from the fact that I would get easily motion sick (but knew that so I always had a puke bag with me), I never felt scared or anything. It didn't scar me for life and I think helped with learning independence (while being carefully watched by the flight attendant of course haha). But as a kid I felt pretty cool flying "alone". 
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  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana
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    My sons flied to their grandparents when they were young but not as young as 5. My oldest probably would've been fine but the youngest wouldn't have been able to handle it that young. The only problem they had was when a plane was delayed quite a bit. My Dad couldn't go behind security with them so they were alone at the gate until the flight took off. They were given vouchers for food - which they weren't aware of the no change back from vouchers. There was an older couple at the gate that let them borrow their cell phone to call us. It was before they had cell phones.
  • GBCKGBCK
    Knottie Warrior 5000 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper
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    we're in some of this same debate.

    (Although, for those who it might work for, we're probably going to NYC for a few days this summer...woohoo)
  • When I flew solo as a minor the airline would have someone with the whole time, even during a layover. It was way scarier the first time I took Amtrak by myself because I fell asleep and thought I missed my stop, lol.
  • If it's only a 2.5 hour flight why would this require either parent to take vacation? Two people fly out Saturday, one returns Sunday. Following week one flys out Saturday, two return Sunday. You could even do the flights as a day trip. 

    I think 6.5 is too young to fly alone. 
    InLoveInQueens
  • DrillSergeantCatDrillSergeantCat Oklahoma City, OK
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary First Answer
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    I think I was 8 the only time I flew alone. My aunt took me to the airport and waited until my plane took off (of course, this was back in the days when anyone could walk to the gate) and my parents met me at the airport on the other end. I think a flight attendant checked on me once, but other than that, I read a book.
  • I flew across the country with only my sister when I was 7. She was 10. We flew Northwest (now Delta) and, from what I remember, it was pretty easy/organized. We even had a layover in Minneapolis. The airline reps took us from gate to gate. I'm sure now it's even more organized. That was in the age of basically no security so our parents took us to the gate and our aunt/uncle met us as we deplaned, so it was less complicated back then. 

    There are 6.5 year olds who might be able to handle this and 6.5 year olds who for SURE could not. Being able to read is probably a good prerequisit as well. You know your kid best.
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    missJeanLouiseshort+sassy
  • Although I don't have personal experience, I witnessed a incident with unaccompanied minors when our flight was diverted to a different airport for landing.

    I was flying from NOLA to Orange County, CA with a layover in Dallas.  There were three unaccompanied minors on my flight.  All brothers, but young.  I'm guessing between the ages of 5-9.  They had an attendant accompany them to the next gate in Dallas, though I don't remember if she stayed with them.

    An attendant helped them get on the flight and find their seats for the leg to OC.  That is a LONG flight.  They were checked on periodically by one of the attendants.  For what its worth, the behavior of all three boys was impeccable.

    We get to the OC airport, but it is fogged in.  The pilot hovered around for awhile, hoping for an opening, but we were eventually diverted to LAX and given instructions that a shuttle bus would take us to OC.

    An attendant stayed with the boys until the shuttle bus was ready and made sure they got on.  I don't remember if she got on the bus with them or not.  I'm assuming if she didn't, another attendant at OC met the bus.  I saw them meet up with their family in OC, so alls well that ends well.

    To sum it up.  I was really impressed with how vigilant the attendants were.  Especially under unusual circumstances.  Though, I'm also guessing the boys themselves were mature for their ages, based on their good behavior.


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  • ernursejernursej
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    My friend was employed in the unaccompanied minor program at our airport. I asked her and she said it is a know your kid thing. She had 8 year olds that were fine and 12 year olds that were gong bonkers. 
    short+sassy

  • *Barbie* said:

    reading through Southwest's policy, the parent or guardian stops at the ticket counter and gets a pass to accompany the child to/from the gate, and they stay at the gate until the plane departs (so if departure isn't on time or there's an issue, they're already present). the child pre-boards with a flight attendant, who ensures that the child has a seat, periodic check-ins, and escorts the child off the plane to hand them over to the waiting parent/guardian at the arrivals gate. they only allow this on non-stop flights *or* flight plan where no plane/flight # change occurs between stops. 

    not sure on other airlines, but SW operates a non-stop between us and my parents' city, 1x/day. this probably wouldn't be an option for ILs, unless she flew a different airline. 

    @STARMOON44 - two things:
    1) i clearly said that I don't know that she's mature enough at this point, just looking at options, and wanting to know about others' experiences.
    2) to do what you're saying would likely cost at least $600-800 more in flights alone. that's not including parking, transportation, lodging (if we didn't stay with the family), and time for all involved. If the airline charges $100 round trip for the unaccompanied minor fee, I'd be saving $500-700+ the better part of 2 weekends. We could afford it, but there's a lot of other things I'd rather spend that time and money on. 


    And I was clearly just giving you my opinion on your question. Idk why you're being so defensive. 
  • Joney Joney
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    I think this largely depends on the child. I know my cousins' kids mostly associate plane rides with uninterrupted tablet time. Does the airline give you detailed information on what kind of supervision will be provided on flight?  What do they do if the kid has some kind of meltdown?  What's their experience dealing with 5 year old lone travelers?  What if your parents are delayed getting to the airport on the other end?  

    The the other side of this, even if your 6.5 year old is nervous about it, it can be a bit of a confidence boost once she gets through it. You obviously don't want to traumatized an already anxious kid who's going to have sleepless nights for months before hand, worrying about everything that might go wrong, but I think there's a big spectrum here.  Even if it's not a 100% positive experience for her, or she wasn't 100% mature enough, it doesn't mean it was a bad experience to have, if that makes sense.

    The only time I flew alone, I was 13, and it was to London.  By this time I'd flown at least 10 times, and was a pretty calm flyer.  I don't remember much about that experience other than the travel agent my mom booked through assured her that her kid travelled all the time alone, that the airlines were really good at making the kids feel secure.
    short+sassy
  • My kids have flown alone, 4 hours across the country. They were older, but I just went to check-in and asked for a security pass (I contacted the airline prior to make sure this would be ok). I went through security with them and waited at the gate. I asked the ladies there if the kids could board first, after explaining they were flying alone. They were happy to oblige. The flight attendants were very kind to them, and the whole experience was a positive one.

    If the child is used to flying it will be fine I think. My kids don't fly super often now, but at one point we flew once or twice a year with them, so they know the drill. I just packed them snacks and entertainment and they were fine. 
    short+sassy
  • *Barbie**Barbie*
    Knottie Warrior 5000 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper
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    With my daughter, I'd be more concerned about her annoying the other people on the flight, or trying to get extra attention from the FA. She's just really outgoing and doesn't have much of a filter, so I could see her trying to become BFF with whoever was sitting next to her. Shes a very experienced traveller so I'm not worried about her being scared of flying, or getting airsick or anything like that. We usually fly at least 3 or 4 times/year, so that part is NBD - it is more a question of sitting quietly and playing on her kindle rather than asking for 500 drinks, going to the bathroom every 10 minutes because she's bored, losing her stuff, and talking the ear off the person next to her. 
  • Joney Joney
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    *Barbie* said:

    With my daughter, I'd be more concerned about her annoying the other people on the flight, or trying to get extra attention from the FA. She's just really outgoing and doesn't have much of a filter, so I could see her trying to become BFF with whoever was sitting next to her. Shes a very experienced traveller so I'm not worried about her being scared of flying, or getting airsick or anything like that. We usually fly at least 3 or 4 times/year, so that part is NBD - it is more a question of sitting quietly and playing on her kindle rather than asking for 500 drinks, going to the bathroom every 10 minutes because she's bored, losing her stuff, and talking the ear off the person next to her. 


    Awwww to the bolded :)

    Honestly, I would imagine that some of the fee for the accompanied minor would be to cover the extra responsibility/supervision they come with. This isn't really atypical behaviour for an outgoing 6 year old.  Adults beside her can adult and either indulge a kid they're never going to see again, or kindly tell her they're not going back to their book, tablet, fidget spinner, etc.
    short+sassy
  • WinstonsGirlWinstonsGirl The Cold North
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    Not flying, but my parents used to ship me up north to see my Baba and Gido on the Greyhound.  It took anywhere between 2.5-4 hours, depending on the route.  I was probably about 8 when I started going and had no problems.  It was exciting for me.  

    I agree with everyone.  It's a you know your kid thing.  I'm sure previous flying experience would help too.  And I'd like to think that the airlines would be extra vigilant with unaccompanied minors  
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  • I sat next to an unaccompanied minor on a flight to Vancouver. I was asked by the flight attendant before they seated her if it was okay, but I was the only single passenger on the flight. I would do it again if the kids were like this little girl. She was about 9 and had books, an iPod and was well entertained by herself. She only asked if I could accompany her to the bathroom so she wouldn't get lost, and we chatted about books and music. She was sweet and well behaved. 
    short+sassyernursej
  • Our daughter did this at 12. She was still very nervous even at that age. It caused a bit of stress for her and us but the adult that was supposed to accompany her couldn't go at the last minute. She has done it multiple times since. My husband walks her to the gate; grandparents meet her at the gate. We make sure direct flight.
    One time the grandparents were late - she was 15 - and she walked to the baggage claim and got her bag while she was on the phone with us. 
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