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

View Poll Results: At what age would you let your child fly alone on an airplane
age 1-3 0 0%
age 4-5 3 2.44%
6-7 (1st grader) 19 15.45%
8-9 12 9.76%
10-11 (5th/6th grader) 31 25.20%
12-13 20 16.26%
14-15 20 16.26%
16 or older 18 14.63%
Voters: 123. You may not vote on this poll

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#31 of 54 Old 04-22-2010, 08:35 PM
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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.

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#32 of 54 Old 04-22-2010, 08:51 PM
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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.

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#33 of 54 Old 04-22-2010, 11:53 PM
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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.

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#34 of 54 Old 04-23-2010, 03:11 AM
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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.
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#35 of 54 Old 04-23-2010, 05:51 AM
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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?

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#36 of 54 Old 04-23-2010, 06:24 AM
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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.

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#37 of 54 Old 04-23-2010, 08:12 AM
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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...
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#38 of 54 Old 04-23-2010, 10:21 AM
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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.
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#39 of 54 Old 04-23-2010, 12:59 PM
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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.

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#40 of 54 Old 04-23-2010, 01:05 PM
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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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#41 of 54 Old 04-23-2010, 01:15 PM
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We started letting my oldest ds fly to my Dh's family when he was 8. It was a nonstop flight that was just under an hour. We always made sure the receiving party was at the airport waiting for him before we even put him on the plane. He loved it!

I started flying across country unaccompanied at 7 so I guess I didn't see it as that big of a deal. I would not allow my kids to fly across country until they were teenagers though. There were many instances where I got stuck at airports during layovers or flights got canceled or whatever. The responsible adults always tried really hard to make it into an adventure for me but they weren't always successful.
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#42 of 54 Old 04-23-2010, 01:21 PM
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we've done this alot with my 2dsd. always went well. worst issue was as they got older and didn't feel they needed the supervision. even if the child feels capable, there's a min age to fly alone and not be in the UM program. with delta they both has to be 15. any younger and it isn't a choice.

my oldest dd want to fly by herself. we would have considered it at age 7-8 but we haven't had a situation where it was needed. we fly often and i'm trying to prepare her to find her way through the airport alone. i have her find our connecting gate, check flight times and find the baggage area.

we do fly out of lots of small airports and never have problems with taking "non-flyers" to the gate to help the "flyer"

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#43 of 54 Old 04-25-2010, 01:50 PM
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My son will be flying as soon as he turns seven which is the minimum age in most places. Flights will be domestic and only a couple of hours. My kids are currently 6 and 3.5 and we have so far done 60+ flights with them, lots of them international transatlantic flights. They both love flying, my son is really looking forward to February 2011 when he turns 7:-)

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#44 of 54 Old 04-26-2010, 08:33 AM
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as he turns seven which is the minimum age in most places.

Just to clarify, with most airlines, the minimum age is 5, not 7, to fly as an unaccompanied minor.

Of course, some airlines only limit it to non-stop domestic hops.
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#45 of 54 Old 04-26-2010, 10:44 AM
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I suppose around 10-11 I would be fine with them flying by themselves. DS1 has flown multiple times since he was born and is pretty comfortable already flying on airplanes, and I am sure DS2 will be the same way.

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#46 of 54 Old 04-26-2010, 11:48 AM
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My dd had just turned 6 a few days before her first UM flight. She flies across the country, roundtrips, 3 or more times per year. Sometimes it's a connecting flight, sometimes non-stop. She's always been well-supervised.

Now that she's 12, most airlines will let her fly by herself, without the FA supervising, but we can, and still do, choose to sign her in as an UM until she's 15. So we are preparing her for that day, because at that point, we'll have to leave her at security. She has a cell phone, and she's starting to learn her way around our airports, as well as major hubs. For now, we still do the UM program, but hand her her own ticket, and say, "ok, kiddo, here's your ticket. It tells you what gate we're going to, and we'll follow you. If you get so far off track that you might be late, we'll redirect, but otherwise you're in charge."

She's a pretty seasoned traveler, and even once told the FA transferring her from one gate to another (at O'Hare?) that she was going the wrong way. DD was right.

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#47 of 54 Old 04-26-2010, 01:40 PM
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I would think around 8 with a mature kid I would think about doing UM. We live in Alaska and there is always a least one stop and it is a long day of flying to the East Coast so I am thinking it will be longer. I like the idea of them going to see their Grandparents for a week but I don't know when that will be a good option.

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#48 of 54 Old 04-26-2010, 03:18 PM
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Originally Posted by gaudynight View Post
It would depend on the flight, the child, and which combination of siblings.

As a young adolescent, I flew overseas as an UM with my younger sister a number of times. I particularly remember being put in a tiny, crowded half-walled little pen with wooden benches, a few dingy toys, one attendant, and a lot of crying children in the middle of Heathrow for a four hour layover. We told the woman minding the crowd of children that we had to use the loo, took off, and came back three and a half hours later, just in time to pick up our passports and tickets and make our flight onwards.

I am, of course, appalled in retrospect at our lack of thought for anyone else. Though I am not sure they noticed. No one said a thing to us and they didn't seem surprised or relieved to see us.

I would want to make very sure that any child of mine wouldn't be able to pull that same sort of thing nearly so easily, but I put 11-12. I would be much more comfortable with a nonstop flight. I don't care if it's domestic or not, just no plane changes, please.

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#49 of 54 Old 04-27-2010, 07:15 PM
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I think it really depends on maturity level for me. I flew for the first time UM when I was 12.

Grandma seems to think that she's getting the baby by herself when he's 3... she lives on the opposite coast. I'm glad to see that no airline would allow that - since I'm not inclined to stick my 3 yo on a plane to go off without me for a week anyway.

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#50 of 54 Old 04-27-2010, 07:43 PM
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DS flew from Canada to China when he was 14....but it was with a school group (8 kids, 2 chaperones).

However, he wasn't with us...so we kind of considered it 'alone'.

Ugh, it's a creepy old feeling when you're laying awake at 3 am. knowing that your child is flying somewhere over a cold dark ocean.

I trusted the chaperones though, and it was extremely well planned.

My younger kids have flown in small private planes alone before. (around ages 2 - 4) That didn't really bother me though as we knew the pilots and they were fairly short jaunts.
A commercial airline though? No, definately not at that age, or even now at 6 and 7. There's just to many what if's for me to be comfortable with it. (like what if the person who's assigned to him is some sort of perv, or what if they can't get their seatbelt buckled, what if they get lost.in an airport. far away.....etc...)
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#51 of 54 Old 04-27-2010, 07:49 PM
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I actually voted 5-6 but I had a specific case in mind. I fly Southwest a lot so I was thinking of going to visit grandparents. The flight is 1 hr 20 minutes gate to gate. I have seen flight attendants and gate agents with unaccompanied minors. I would go to the gate and see him of on the plane and they rrquire you stay until the plane leaves. My mom would be at the gate before the plane takes off. In case the plane had to land somewhere else we know people along the way and could drive.
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#52 of 54 Old 04-28-2010, 02:05 PM
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my dd is 7. i would have put her on teh flight alone. she is perfectly capable of it. but i dont think she really is ready for it. she has anxiety so i would say 8 would be much better.

however she could travel with someone without any parent at 5.

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#53 of 54 Old 04-28-2010, 04:12 PM
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Maturity is part of the answer but how much they've flown, specifically that route plays a role.

Most of my UM's were flying per visitation orders (international). They had done it many, many times previously. The parent has to take the child if they're too young so by the time they hit the minimum age, they were used to it. Most do it at least twice a year.

I would say that the 8-9 age is more reasonable if the child is not used to flying, and even older if have never flown at all. I wouldn't recommend a child flying for the first time... as a UM unless pushing middle school!
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#54 of 54 Old 04-29-2010, 04:03 PM
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I started flying as a UM when I was 5 and never had any trouble. My parents were divorced, so I flew from Las Vegas to Phoenix (only about a 45 min flight) once a month to see my dad. It was a lot of fun. My dad was/is an airline pilot, so I was very familiar with airports and planes etc.

I would be comfortable letting my ds fly alone to see his grandparents when he's around 5 or 6. I would make sure it's a direct flight though.

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