Many children travel by plane unaccompanied, perhaps to visit grandparents, or in the case of divorce, a mom or dad in another city. But ending them off to fly alone can be nerve-wracking.
Many airlines allow children as young as five to travel without a parent or guardian, but that doesn’t mean those children are left to fend for themselves. While it varies from one airline to another, most consider children twelve and under to be unaccompanied minors and give them special safety consideration.
Airline Safety Specialist, Christine Holiday says “children have to be checked in by the parent, and there has to be written authorization as to who is going to pick up the child. She adds that in the case of most airlines, “the person who is going to pick up the child has to have at least two pieces of identification. If at the last minute the person who is to pick up the child is changed, the child will not be released to them. It has to be the person that the designated parent says will pick them up.”
Although airlines have very strict rules on child safety in place, it’s still up to the parents to go over the rules with their child before boarding a plane. Ms. Holiday suggests parents “explain to them what will happen and what to expect so that they aren’t nervous about traveling. Explain the process. Tell them that they’ll be looked after by the flight attendant, that they can’t get up during the whole flight, or can’t kick seats in front of them. Basically if they know to listen to the flight attendant, then they’ll do very well.”
Travel Columnist and author of Around Toronto with Kids, Kate Pocock, adds “it’s also important, when a child is flying alone, to have them prepared so that they know the people who are meeting them on the other end, and that they have the names and addresses of where they are going. Also give them a good backpack filled with items to keep them amused while on board so that they are not worried.”
So, if your child is flying solo, take a few extra moments to pack your child’s favorite books, toys, game and a few tasty snacks. Then, as hard as it may be, try not to worry too much. Instead, encourage your youngster to enjoy this first, big travel adventure on his own.