children traveling alone

The Essentials of Children Traveling Alone

Children traveling alone as airline passengers are NOT THAT UNCOMMON nowadays. Especially during the holiday periods or when the school year is about to begin. Many children see the end of the summer vacation as an unaccompanied journey by plane. The mere fact that more and more children travel alone by plane, has determined carriers to established special programs help the little one face the air traveling adventure more easily and less stressful.

From a terminological point of view airlines refer to children who travel alone as unaccompanied minors (or UM). As you’ll notice in the table compiled below, there are certain rules that are applied by different airlines to kids traveling alone.

 Children  travelling with

 under 5

 5 – 7

 8 – 11/14

 15 – 17

 American Airlines

 – may not travel alone under any circumstances.- they have to be accompanied by another passenger at least 16 years of age. 

– the teenager accompanying the minor may be requested a document that stands as a proof of age.





 – must travel with another passenger at least 16 years of age or will be considered UM.

 – may only travel on nonstop or direct flights.

– may not travel on connecting flights.


8 – 11 UM


 – must travel with another passenger at least 16 years of age or will be considered UM.

 – UM may travel on nonstop, direct and connecting flights on American Airlines, American Eagle and American Connection.

 – are not accepted for co-terminal connecting itineraries because kids under 12 are not permitted to use ground transportation unaccompanied.

12-17 UM 

– use of the Unaccompanied Minor service is not required, but is available upon request for children in this age group.


Delta Airlines

– may not travel alone (must be accompanied by a passenger at least 18 years of age)

– may travel on nonstop flights only.

May travel on nonstop and connecting flights only

 US Airways

– kids under 5 may not travel without parent or legal guardian.

Children 5-14 may travel unaccompanied on non-stop flights only for an additional fee each way. US Airways assistance is required.

– only on non-stop flights.

Children between the ages of 5 and under 14 years who will be traveling alone are considered unaccompanied minors.Unaccompanied minors may only travel on nonstop flights. They will NOT be permitted on connecting flights or direct flights (flight that makes a stop but does not change aircraft). Unaccompanied minors will be safely seated in Row 25ABC (A320 aircraft) and 25 AB (E190 aircraft) so that the inflight crew can assist them when needed.

 Southwest Airlines

Children ages five through 11 traveling without an accompanying Passenger age 12 or older must travel as an Unaccompanied Minor (UM) on Southwest Airlines.

 UMs may only travel on nonstop or direct flights.

– Southwest will not transport UMs on flights that may be diverted or cancelled due to inclement weather or other operational abnormalities.


United Airlines

 UMs under 5 years of age are not accepted

 – may only travel on nonstop flights.

8 -11 UM


 – may travel on any flight (nonstop or connecting) operated by United or United Express.

12 – 17 UM


– children ages 12 to 17 have the option to pay the fee and use the UM service or they may travel as adults with no unaccompanied minor service provided.


Thus, an UNACCOMPANIED MINOR is a a child who travels unaccompanied by either of his parents, or guardian or any other relative. As a general rule the children must have reach their FIFTHS BIRTHDAY to be considered unaccompanied minors. Most of the airlines will no longer consider a kid an UM if the kid has reached his or her fifteenth birthday. In all cases, it is wise to inform the airlines that a kid will travel as UM when you book the plane ticket.

Furthermore, as pointed out above, some of the carriers allow a kid who is over 12 (or 16 if traveling with American Airlines) to travel together with a younger child (over 5 years of age). You may regard this as a solution in case of a short journey. But, if you need your child to travel a SIGNIFICANT DISTANCE, you’d better reconsider the whole plan. Generally speaking, kids are accepted by airlines as UM as long as the fares are paid and the documents are completed properly.

Nevertheless, besides the age of your child, you also need to consider that airline staff is not not qualified to provide certain types of MEDICAL ASSISTANCE, and, as a general rule, are not permitted to administer or dispense medication. If your kid has a condition that requires medication, you’ll have to see your doctor before booking your ticket.

You may be either be recommended to postpone the journey or change the dosage for the day when your child will be traveling alone. So, keep this in mind when you plan your kid’s trip. Moreover, there are also airlines that do not allow UMs on the last connecting flight of the day or on flights which require an overnight stay in order to make a connection.

Finally, all the airlines have a fee for this service and in case your kid travels by more than one carrier, you’ll certainly have to pay more that one fee. And, as pointed out in the table above, rules are mainly different from the point of view of allowing or forbidding an UM on a connecting flight.