Kids Flying Alone, Kids Flying with Family – What You Need to Know

The story of the 9-year-old who snuck aboard a flight to Vegas raised a lot of questions including how he pulled it off without a ticket. Interestingly, few questioned a child so young flying on his own. How young is too young? You might be surprised as we dig into the topic of children flying by themselves, and children flying with families.

Travel expert Rick Seaney and editor Anne McDermott know all about flying with kids – boy, do they ever:

The adventures of some very young stowaways

Kids Flying Alone

  • Most airlines require children to be at least 5 years old before they can fly alone
  • Children considered unaccompanied minors will be charged a fee in addition to the airfare
  • Fees generally range from $50 to $150 each-way (but fees can and do change without notice)
  • Cut-off age for unaccompanied minors varies from 12 to 14 years
  • Some airlines don’t allow unaccompanied minorsat all including Allegiant
  • Some airlines require you to make these arrangements for solo children by phone

Reminder: The flight attendants are not baby sitters. If your child can’t be on a flight without supervision, your child should not be flying alone.

Adults-only seating? On some airlines, yes.

Tips for Kids Flying Solo

  • Make sure the child has your contact information plus contact information for whoever is picking him/her up (the airlines will also need this, plus require adults to have proper ID)
  • Be sure the child has a phone with contact numbers in it (an inexpensive throw-away device with speed dial is fine)
  • Get to the airport early, whether delivering the child or picking him/her up; flights can and do take off a few minutes early
  • Avoid the complication of checking a bag. Most children are fine with a backpack or small carry-on. If you do check a bag, put a business card inside in case the outside label gets lost/falls off
  • Teach your child to ask if they’re on the right flight to the right city, the moment they get onboard. It’s rare but not unheard of for kids to be delivered to the wrong plane

Kids Flying with Family

  • Only children under the age of two are allowed to sit on an adult’s lap (and not pay for a ticket)
  • One child per lap
  • Have a birth certificate or some proof of a lap child’s age (you may or may not be asked to produce it)
  • If a lap child turns two during the trip, the child will be charged for the return flight
  • On U.S. flights, there is no discounting for a child’s ticket – all children with their own seats pay the same as adults

Kids and International Flights

  • According to the U.S. State Department, even very young babies require passports
  • There may be some discounting on international flights for children’s tickets and this varies from airline to airline but do not expect deep savings, and many airlines offer no discounts at all.

More from Rick Seaney:

4 Tips for Kids Flying Solo


Published: October 14, 2013