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Is your child ready to fly as an unaccompanied minor this summer?

On Behalf of | May 4, 2024 | Child Custody

If your child will be spending time this summer with your long-distance co-parent or maybe your former in-laws who live some distance away, you may be considering letting them fly on their own. If so, you’ll want to look into various “unaccompanied minors” programs that airlines offer.

Typically, they’re for kids between 5 and 15. That’s a big age range when it comes to child development, so you’ll need to determine whether your child is mature enough. 

None of these UM programs is meant to be a babysitting service, although some promise more attention than others. Typically, the parent hands off their child directly to an airline employee who escorts them to their seat and gets them settled (and belted) in. They’ll escort them off the plane to the other waiting parent when they arrive. 

Flight attendants typically try to keep an eye on UMs during the flight, but they can’t watch them the entire time. That’s why it’s best to get them a seat near the front of the cabin they’re in (and, if possible, a business or first-class seat). It’s important to make sure they have an iPad loaded with books, games, music and other things to keep them occupied. The airline will give them a special ID, but make sure they have ID with your phone number on them and in their backpack and other luggage. It never hurts to put an AirTag on them as well as in their bags.

If possible, book your child on non-stop flights. It’s also smart to book flights early in the day so there’s less chance of cancelation or delay. Typically, parents can accompany their UMs to the gate and pick them up as they walk off the plane. Get all the details before taking your child to the airport (including what documentation is needed).

If you haven’t finalized your support and custody agreements, or even if you have, you should include details about air travel if it will be part of your child’s life. This can include things like how the cost will be shared, what each parent’s responsibilities are and whether your child can travel alone or if a parent or other adult relative needs to fly with them. When co-parents can work together to help their children travel by air, it can be an adventure rather than something they dread.