Children traveling alone by plane: recommendations

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The following interview includes some recommendations to keep in mind when children travel alone on an airplane, for example, what safety measures to adopt or what to do so that they do not get bored during the trip.

The American Airlines company has extended the age limit in the “unaccompanied minors” programs, from 12 years to 14. Other airlines such as United Airlines or US Airways also charge $ 150 per trip, although the rates will vary depending on of the company.

But leaving aside the prices of this service, we ask ourselves: What is the recommended age for a child to travel alone? What if something goes wrong?

The following is a transcript of an interview with Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare. A 13-year-old boy who has flown alone on more than one occasion also participated. The opinions collected below are those of Rick himself and are not part of ABC News.

Transcript of the interview published on ABC News:

What is the recommended age for a child to travel alone with the “unaccompanied minors” program?

Boy: I should go to at least first.
Rick: I partially agree. Most of these programs allow a 5-year-old to travel alone. I think a 5-year-old is too young. Though now that I think about it, when I was 5 years old my parents put me on a bus to Greyhound to see my grandfather. The trip lasted 3 hours and I had a great time. It all really depends on the child, if they have flown more times, if they are familiar with airports and if they can express themselves. Parents are the ones who know their children best and know what they are capable of doing.

You said partially agree, right?
Rick: Yes. We should not confuse “unaccompanied minor” programs with child care services. In unaccompanied minors programs, children are only accompanied to and from the boarding gate (and from one gate to another on flights with a stopover that allow minors to travel alone) but during the flight, the child is alone .

And what is the appropriate age for a child to be able to fly unaccompanied during the flight?

Boy: Maybe at 10.
Rick: I practically agree. At that age, the child has been in school for several years and most likely has flown more than once with his family and already knows how to send a message or make a call if he needs help. But I insist, it depends on the child and, of course, on the rules of the airline.

Are escort services 100% effective?

Rick: Hopefully. Although it is very unlikely to happen, some say that some companions have made a mistake and have taken the children to another plane. A couple of years ago, in Charlotte, North Carolina, a father was waiting for hours for his daughter because the company, by mistake, had sent the 8-year-old to Fayetteville, Arkansas. I repeat, it is very rare that it happens, but this makes you wonder if your child would be able to handle such a situation.

Taking the child to the wrong plane… seems impossible.

Rick: Well, it has even happened to some adults. In a review of Southwest Airlines, its CEO Gary Kelly recounted how he once got on a plane thinking it was bound for Dallas and within an hour realized that the flight was bound for New York. He acknowledged that it was his fault (and no, it was not his airline flight).

How can we make sure the child gets on the correct plane?

Rick: There are two ways to do it and the first is very simple:

  1. Ask where the plane is going. Although most of the time a member of the crew remembers it, this is not always the case. We have to tell the children to ask this question as soon as they get on the plane. This is where younger children or those who are shy can have trouble. Although we can always remind them to show the question written on paper. We can also put a pin on the child's jacket or a note that says “I'm going to Hartford, is this my plane?
  2. Boy: [rolls his eyes and says: really? A note on the coat?]

  3. Another way to do it, and it is the best, is to accompany the child to the boarding gate yourself. Get to the airport early, go to the company counter and ask for a pass to the boarding gate. It is recommended to do so even if the company has accompanied the child. Once at the door, we must look at the departures and arrivals panel to make sure that our child gets on the correct plane. When the flight arrives at its destination, the person who will pick it up should be waiting for you at the door.

Note: The airlines want to know in advance who is going to pick up the minor. The person who does it must carry their identity card.

What should a child do when he sees that there is a problem?

Rick: We must teach them to go to any company employee or person wearing a uniform, tell them they are traveling alone and explain the problem to them. We must also explain that they do not leave the restricted security areas of the airport. Well, they can always call us because they must always carry a mobile phone.

What should a minor traveling alone carry on the plane?

Boy: A phone, charger, and important contact numbers.
Rick: We agree. I will add in this regard that they should also carry them written on a sheet of paper in case of emergency, in case they lose the phone or or they run out of battery.

And for entertainment?

Boy: A phone or tablet, or both.
Rick: Now children are fully immersed in virtual worlds so electronic devices are essential. They stop eating so we can give them something they like, although it is good that we let them ask for something to drink on the plane or we can buy it at the airport (after passing the security check so that there is no problem with liquids) . We can also add candy bars, sweets or chips. If you think that a child who does not have a very good appetite when he travels is only going to eat that nutritious salad that you have put on him, you have it clear.



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