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What you should know before you put your child on a plane alone

If you’re a divorced parent who lives a long distance from your co-parent, you may be considering the option of letting your child fly alone to spend part of the summer with them. If that goes well, you may let them do this for spring breaks and part of their winter vacation as well.

The prospect of letting your child travel alone can be frightening. Even the term that the airlines use — “unaccompanied minor” — might make you feel guilty. However, kids fly alone often enough that airlines have procedures and rules for unaccompanied minors.

Airlines’ policies vary somewhat — including how old kids have to be to travel alone. Many airlines have a minimum age of 5. Whether your child is mature enough to fly alone, however, is for you to decide.

If you have a choice of airlines to get your child to their intended destination and back, it’s a good idea to compare their unaccompanied minors policies and fees as well as their flight schedules. It’s generally best for kids to travel on non-stop or direct flights. Some airlines will only allow unaccompanied minors on direct or non-stop flights. Many don’t allow minors to make international flights alone at all.

Morning flights are preferable. This way, if the flight is canceled, you’ve got more time to get your child on another flight. It’s best to get your child a seat near the front of the plane where flight attendants can keep a close eye on them.

Find out how far you can accompany your child once you get to the airport to drop them off. Talk to the appropriate airline personnel to make sure they know your child is traveling alone.

If you and your co-parent don’t see eye-to-eye on whether your child is ready to fly alone, that can be challenging. You may need to make other arrangements, such as having the noncustodial parent visit them instead — at least until they get older.

It may be best to add some provisions regarding travel to visit a long-distance parent to your custody and visitation agreement. Don’t forget to address how the travel will be paid for in your child support agreement. Ask your attorney for guidance.


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