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would you let your children fly alone on an airplane? - Page 2

Poll Results: At what age would you let your child fly alone on an airplane

  • 0% (0)
    age 1-3
  • 2% (3)
    age 4-5
  • 15% (19)
    6-7 (1st grader)
  • 9% (12)
  • 25% (31)
    10-11 (5th/6th grader)
  • 16% (20)
  • 16% (20)
  • 14% (18)
    16 or older
123 Total Votes  
post #21 of 54
I voted 6-7. I'd have no problem with my 7 yr. old flying as an unaccompanied minor. He's very capable and well-behaved. We haven't needed to yet, but we probably won't always live near his dad and he'll have to fly for visits. I think he'll be more like 9-10 when it actually happens though.
post #22 of 54
I did it once a month starting when I was seven-my parents got divorced. It was FUN!! The FA's were (usually) awesome. Lots of times I got to go see meet the pilots and see cool stuff happen in the cockpit.

I always got a pop (a big deal since I was not allowed to drink pop) and cards and plastic wings. We were always seated right in the front of the airplane so the FA's could see us and were always escorted off.
post #23 of 54
I can't vote, but I think I'd skew a bit older in my decision reading this Consumerist.com post, which talks about how Delta sent this woman's kid off with a stranger because they thought the man was his uncle!

post #24 of 54
Letting them fly as unattended minors is NOT the same as letting them fly alone. The UM programs are great, and on most airlines kids can fly direct (no change of planes) flights at 5 and can change planes at 8. Both are very reasonable. For both types, the parents/grandparents/whatever take them to the plane on one end and they are met by parents/grandparents/whatever on the other end as well. They do check IDs.

For changing planes, an attendant walks them from one flight to another.

My cousin used to come visit us this way when she was young (5 or 6?) and she had never even flown before. It's truly no big deal. All they have to do is sit.

Plus, they won't let you use the last flight of the day, and if something is delayed so they can't get there that day, they send them back to the point of origin (which is why the adults who drop them off are required to stick around for part of that day, in case they have to come back). It's very well thought out.

For truly flying alone (not UM program), it would depend on the kid, their maturity, and maybe how familiar they are with flying and navigating airports. Teenage, I suppose.

ETA: I think in either case, for UM or traveling alone, I'd make sure the child has a mobile phone to call if they have a delay, need reassurance, etc.
post #25 of 54
I first flew by myself at age 7. I flew direct from cleveland to LA and I remember it being at night. I remember the flight attendants being very friendly and helpful. One of them found me a row to have by myself so I could lay across the seats and sleep.

I was a pretty shy and timid kid and I do not remember having any anxiety over the trip and I don't think I had flown before.

Right now, I have boys, 3 and 4, and I would be super nervous to send them on a plane alone, but if I had to, I would wait until they were 6-7 and I would feel tons better if they were together.

As an older child, maybe age 12, I remember doing the same trip, but I was still considered and unaccompanied minor. I remember having to change planes in denver and dallas, both huge airports, one time I had to take a bus to get to my next plane! But there was an adult who was with me the entire time, and again, I was fine.
post #26 of 54
Originally Posted by MCatLvrMom2A&X View Post
16 or older and I would need a very good reason to allow it then up to 18.

i could never live with myself if my child fell out of the sky to a firey death without at least one if his parents by his side.
post #27 of 54
Originally Posted by blessedwithboys View Post

i could never live with myself if my child fell out of the sky to a firey death without at least one if his parents by his side.
I'm going to disagree. Your child is WAY more likely to die an awful traumatic death from a car accident then in a plane. So are you going to not let them get their driver's liscence until they are 18 so if they get in a wreck they have a parent with them?
post #28 of 54
Originally Posted by blessedwithboys View Post

i could never live with myself if my child fell out of the sky to a firey death without at least one if his parents by his side.
Do you apply this same logic to cars - not letting your child ride in a vehicle unless a parent is by his side? Because your child is FAR more likely to die a firey death in a car than a plane.
post #29 of 54
I said 16ish. For *this* child I would not allow him on a plane without dp or myself for as far as I can see. While I understand that flight attendants take unaccompanied minors seriously, they are NOT trained to deal with an autistic meltdown (which can, unfortunately, become violent). Nope, no way would I send ds alone on a plane. Heck, dp and I are talking about taking ds on an airplane for the first time and we're even hesitant. LOL!
post #30 of 54
I would say, it matters to me more how experenced the child is with flying/the whole process. If they have flown a few times before and are fine entertaining themself on the plane, using the restroom alone, ordering their own drink... AND you are dropping them off at the gate and have someone for sure picking them up at the other end, then I think it would be totally fine at whatever age.

I first flew alone at about 10, an international flight (13 hours) to my grandma's house, and was fine, BUT I also have flown on over 200 flights in my life, so I travel a ton.
post #31 of 54
DS started flying UM at age 6 and did just fine (direct flights). Keep in mind the airlines really jack up the 'babysitting fees' for this but hey, what are you going to do? DS does this 1-3x a years round trip and now is 9 1/2.

I really think you need to educate yourself about airline policy and how strict they are about safety etc. FYI its posted on every airlines website.
post #32 of 54
I'd say older than 13. I was 11 when I flew to NY by myself to see family. It was terrible. My planes had looooong walks across busy airports and I almost missed a flight. Then I had an ear infection suddenly on my way back but since I wasn't 18, I couldn't buy tylenol or anything to get over the excruciating pain that I had both flights back. Overall it was just a terrible, scary (and I was a very responsible independent kid!) experience. I just would never do that to my children.
post #33 of 54
I put 6-7 but I would let my DD go at 5 with her brother who would be 7 at the time. I won't let a 5 year old fly without a sibling though. I figure DS will likely be flying with his sister when he turns 7 and she turns 5 without me to go visit their Grandparents. I have no issues with the idea. My sister and brother did it at 5 as well. As long as it is direct flight it isn't a big deal to me.

That being said, my kids currently fly at least 3 to 5 times a year, so they are already quite used to airplanes even at 1 and 3.

Flying without a flight attendant accompanying them I would say that by 14 I would trust them on a direct flight. I would probably prefer to wait till the older one is 16 before putting them on a flight where they have to change planes without a flight attendant, but who knows how I will really feel, since that is 13 years in the future.

At the moment though I would go with 6 solo with a flight attendant on a direct flight, 5 with a sibling and a flight attendant watching them on a direct flight, 14 without a flight attendant and a direct flight, and 16 for a non-direct flight. They are unlikely to take many non-direct flights without me, so it is less of a concern. My parents live at a major hub, so we can almost always find direct flights there, and they are unlikely to be flying solo anywhere else without me.
post #34 of 54
My daughter flew as an unaccompanied minor this winter at the age of six. We really wanted her to spend some time after Christmas with my mom (her grandma) and we just couldn't afford to fly the whole family this year. We thought a special grandma/grandaughter trip would be just the ticket, a nice treat for both of them. Do my daughter flew down to visit my mom. It was absolutely fine, and a great experience.

She flew Southwest Airlines, and they were really terrific. It felt very safe; we needed special release forms, all the staff checked ID at every step, and they only let the child go with the person on their release form (or the back-up person on the release form), or else back on the plane home they go.

My kiddo had a GREAT time: she enchanted the flight attendants, got to see the cockpit and meet the pilot, and passed out snacks to the entire plane. It was hilarious: my mom said that at least 25 people said good bye to her by name as they got off the plane, and her seat-mate, a big, gruff Marine in uniform, asked my mom to have his picture taken with her when they got off the plane. The pilot gave her a little stuffed dog, the flight attendant gave her gum, and she couldn't wait to get on the plane and do it all again.
post #35 of 54
It would depend on the flight, the child, and which combination of siblings. Here in New Zealand domestic flights are a couple of hours max; I'd say they'd have to be 13 or 14 before I'd consider a longer, and therefore international, flight.

I wouldn't send my almost eight year old DD alone, even as an unaccompanied minor. But I would send DD2, who is six, simply because she's a more confident and independent child. She'd love it! DD1 would hate it. I'd probably be willing to send them together in a year or two, but not with younger siblings. I'd send DD2 with one of her younger siblings in a few years (ie when the sibling was old enough) but not DD1 because that would make the entire experience more stressful for her.

Clear as mud?
post #36 of 54
Well, my daughter was 12, but there was really nothing magic about that age - it was just the first time it came up. We had moved halfway across the country and she was going back to visit her best friend where we used to live. She had to change planes and there were no special accomodations with the airline - I just waved good-bye at the metal detectors. She did have her cell phone, though, which made a huge difference to me because she could call if something went wrong.

Three years later she was flying all around the country while I was in a different continent, and she successfully dealt with a cancelled flight. The following year (last year) she had to call the airlines and change a flight because the camp she was at sucked mightily and she needed to go home earlier, and from a different airport (and I was in Egypt with limited phone access, so not much help).

Now, at 17, she can pretty much travel all over the world on her own.... trains, planes, buses. She'll be flying alone from Mosow to Paris in June, and then traveling to Germany and back by train, and possibly doing more solo travel later in the summer.
My brother and I flew together from Kansas to Texas... at most we were 6 and 8. We were fine except that I remember my ears really hurting.

Anyway, the kid I have would have been okay flying on a direct, short flight as an unaccompanied minor by 6, I think. If I had a 6 year old flying this way today I would also be sure she had a cell phone and knew how to call me.
post #37 of 54
Just to clarify a few things;

-No U.S. company will allow a child under age 5 on board without an adult so flying alone under that age is a non-issue.

-Yes, the vast majority of the time, 5 year olds are with older siblings.

-Flight Attendants don't "babysit" UM's. We did watch over them but they had to be able to handle themselves with the toilet, etc. alone. For hygiene reasons, we could not assist with that. Logically, any child who can't handle these tasks should not be sent as a UM, including if the child has any behavior issues.

-Once on the ground, the UM children are handed over to a ground agent. The Flight Attendants don't work on the ground and don't stay with them. That article where the woman asks "Where were the attendants?" was just plain wrong. We were careful present the child to the ground agent with the paperwork before disembarking. Then the ground agent hands them over to the waiting adult, named on the paperwork. They're supposed to check ID's, even if the child is calling out "grandma!"

At least with my airlines, if this wasn't followed, whomever was responsible was in big, big trouble! (Sort of happened once. The kid was trying to escape a court-ordered visit but since it was international, he didn't get far. We all got big letters in our mailboxes warning us of the importance...)

-Not all airports give "gate-passes" and honestly, this should not be a deal-breaker. If you're in some tiny airport, you're more likely to get one. But if not, you will not be parted from your child until the airline employee is there and ready to take him or her. That person, by the way, has no other duties until the child(ren) are on board. The UM's are also always introduced to the Chief Purser (or "First Flight Attendant" on some airlines).

-Be careful to use the right terms. "Direct" means the plane has the same flight number. It CAN change aircraft. A "non-stop" doesn't stop at all. There are "direct" flights which stop but some passengers get off and other stay on. Be sure of what you're booking your child on. Usually 5 year olds are only on non-stop. They wont be allowed on direct flights with an aircraft change.

-Teenagers are fine traveling without any oversight but be aware that they often aren't allowed to book hotels on their own. If your offspring has a delay or cancellation, he or she might find themselves in the airport overnight. Obviously, this is not a problem on a non-stop where there are friends and/or relatives on both ends but keep this in mind if they're connecting...
post #38 of 54
I flew alone on direct flights from Portland, OR to Detroit, MI starting when I was 5. By the time I was 11 - 12, I was decidedly disgruntled that I was still required to have a flight attendent assigned to me.

I voted for 4-5, but really my range would probably be 5-6, for a direct flight, assuming my DS turns out anything like I was.
post #39 of 54
Originally Posted by liberal_chick View Post
I'm pretty sure the bolded is still the case. I know I've been allowed to accompany my military dh back to the gate and to meet him there.
this-- my husband has been allowed to put his non english speaking mom on the plane as well.

I'm sure they'd allow that for kids. I've flown internationally with my two siblings at 13.
post #40 of 54
Originally Posted by Momily View Post
This worried me more, as she would have been alone if the plane had been rerouted.
This happened to me and my sister! We were a bit older than 13-- but the plane landed in Dulles, instead of new york.

Good times! for anyone considering, I would go over what you should do if the plane is rerouted with your kid. We had no idea, (this was pre cell phones). we bought a calling card, but the payphones were all booked.

So we spent our change on junk food and YM magazine, and played cards while our parents and aunts and uncles panicked for half a day.
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