If you and your co-parent will be living in different parts of the country after your divorce, the most convenient way for your child to spend vacations, part of the summer and other time with your co-parent may be to fly between your locations. While the idea of putting your child on a plane alone is understandably stressful, major airlines have unaccompanied minors (UM) programs for circumstances like yours.
Every airline’s UM program has its own rules, services and fees. Therefore, it’s best to look at the programs for the various airlines you’re considering.
What to look for in a UM program
Typically, these programs are for kids between 5 and 15 years old. If your child is on the younger end of that spectrum, only you can determine whether they’re mature and responsible enough to fly on their own. You’ll need to provide proof of their age at the airport.
Find out if the airline you plan to use requires that UMs fly on a non-stop route. Even if they don’t, it’s best to book your child on non-stop flights.
Make sure that you choose a program that will provide your child with an airline escort from the moment they have to leave you until they’re in their seat and who will accompany them as they leave the plane and are picked up by their other parent.
Preparing your child
How you prepare your child will depend on their age. Make sure they have plenty of ID on them as well as your and your co-parent’s contact information. Be sure they know how and whom to ask for help if they need it.
Younger kids need plenty to keep them occupied during the flight and some TSA-approved snacks. Older kids will likely be content playing games on their iPad and listening to music. If your child is younger, be sure to load plenty of games and books on their tablet or provide them with other sources of entertainment. Airline employees can’t be expected to babysit or entertain them throughout the flight.
If you’re still working out your child support and parenting agreements, be sure to address solo airline travel for your child if there’s a possibility it may be necessary. With experienced legal guidance, you can address potential issues before they become a source of conflict.