The New York Times recently reported that over the past year several airlines in Europe and Asia have stopped seating unaccompanied children next to adults following a number of incidents of alleged sexual abuse. However, some have countered that the incidents of alleged abuse are uncommon and seating these children apart from an adult leaves them susceptible to injury in the event of an onboard emergency. Although no domestic airline appears to have changed its seating policies the issues surrounding unaccompanied children travelers is important given estimates that around 20 million children fly unaccompanied every year. This is especially crucial to parents who live far from each other and share physical placement of their children.
The scenario is quite common. For example, dad resides in Wisconsin and mom in New York. Their two children are placed with dad during the school year and with mom during part of winter break and for part of the summer. Round trip air fare for two children and a parent may be cost prohibitive so the parents agree that the children will travel alone. For many parents, placing a child alone on a flight is a worrisome experience. But with proper planning and follow through parents can make it work.
AirSafe.com has published general airline rules for parents planning to place their children on a flight unaccompanied. Policies for unaccompanied children vary by airline so it is essential that a parent confirm an airline’s policy before purchasing a ticket. The parent must ascertain the specific airline’s requirements as well as what it will and will not allow. For example, some airlines may allow unaccompanied children on non-stop flights only; require earlier check-in; require a higher minimum age if the child needs to change planes; or may charge an increased fare for an unaccompanied child. Most airlines require that a child be at least five years old and no more than twelve to qualify for unaccompanied child service. Teenagers typically fly on their own. The bottom line is that the parent must verify an airline’s policy before booking the flight.
AirSafe has also published the following Top 10 safety tips for parents planning to allow their children to fly unaccompanied. :
1.Consider the maturity of the child.
2.Coordinate with whoever is picking up your child.
3.Tell your child what to expect during the flight.
4.Discuss appropriate behavior with your child. (This includes the behavior of other passengers).
5. Request appropriate seating for your child.
6.Review the airline’s policies.
7. Take extra precautions for connecting flights.
8. Plan to spend extra time at the airport.
9. Identify the lead flight attendant.
10. Escort the child to the seat.