When Kids Fly Solo – Mom in Music City
in Tips & Reviews

When Kids Fly Solo

  • June 15, 2016
  • By Sabine

kids flying solo

My son Danny still remembers the first time he flew alone, at age 8. His dad and I divorced a year prior and I sent him from Nashville to Los Angeles to visit his dad. Although Danny had flown before with us, he was nervous at the prospect of flying solo. He couldn’t stop thinking about  the possibility of the plane crashing. What didn’t help the situation was a plane crash near San Francisco, two days prior to his departure.

Millions of kids fly solo each year. Most of them fly during summer and Christmas. For divorced moms or dads, sending their little ones off alone on a plane to meet the other parent for the annual vacation or scheduled visit is a reality they must face.

Two days ago, Danny (he is now 12) returned from his latest visit in Los Angeles. These days he is much more comfortable flying alone. He keeps busy with reading, playing games on his phone, and eating yummy snacks.

Here are some tips about what to expect when your kids fly alone.

At departure:

  • Arrive at the airport 1.5 to 2 hours before the flight. The children flying alone will pre-board and usually sit where a flight attendant can assist. However, be aware, it is not the flight attendants responsibility to take care of your child. Flight attendants are responsible for their job duties, which is safety, and customer service. Babysitting is pretty far down on that list.
  • Check-in at the airline ticket counter. Each airline has a process for identifying unaccompanied-minors, typically with a badge or lanyard to hold all boarding passes and information cards. Birth certificates will need to be present in order to check-in the children traveling.
  • A parent will be given a courtesy pass to allow them access through security and to the gate. You will need to show your driver’s license at check-in and security check.
  • Once pre-boarding is called, walk your kids over and give lots of hugs and kisses.
  • You are required to wait at the gate until the plane leaves the gate and is cleared for take-off.kids flying solo


At arrival:

  • The person booking the flight must provide the names, addresses, and phone numbers of  individuals that will be picking up the kids.
  • Those who will pick up the kids should arrive at least one hour prior to the flights  arrival time.The procedure for obtaining a courtesy pass is the same for those picking up the children as it was for those dropping them off. A photo ID must be shown. Once through security, head to the specified gate pick for pick-up.
  • Once the flight arrives, a flight attendant will escort the children out. Photo IDs will be checked again and verified with the information in the airline’s system. Airlines have different rules and procedures. Southwest Airlines, for examples, only escorts children ages 5-11.


What to pack:

  • Equip the child with entertainment materials for the flight. A book , iPad, tablet, lap top, or phone, etc. Remember to charge the devices. Southwest Airlines offers Wi-Fi for $8 but it must be purchased on board the air craft with a credit card. Headphones are also required if listening to music or a movie.
  • A healthy snack that is easy to open.
  • Water – Typically, airlines serve drinks, however, it might be a while before in-flight service, so consider purchasing a drink, post security screen, to pack in their bags.
  • A luggage tag on each bag in case it accidentally gets lost or left behind. Putting both arrival and departure parties on the contact form is also important.
  • Give your child a cell phone with your phone number preprogrammed. If they don’t have a cell phone of their own, get them a prepaid phone. They’re inexpensive. Tell your child to call if there’s a problem and anytime they want, except while in the plane, of course.
  • Copy of your child’s birth certificate, health insurance card, and itinerary should be in your child’s carry on bag.


Other things to consider:

* Identify and discuss any specific fears the child may have about flying.

* Describe to the child in as much detail as possible what should happen on the flight. Knowing the details really helped my son the first time he flew alone.

* Personally, I would never put a  child on a flight that has connections. There is too much that can go wrong, weather, diversions, and you have no clue who is taking care of your child.

*Do whatever it takes to pick up your child from the airport on time.  I’ve heard the most common problem is the failure of a parent to pick up a child promptly after arrival. It’s disheartening when a child is all excited to get there and there’s no one to meet.

* Be aware, things happen…you have no control. So, really think is your child mature enough to take care of him/herself?


Would you or have you let your kids fly solo? What additional advice do you have?


By Sabine, June 15, 2016
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Mom in Music City is a lifestyle blog, written by Sabine Schmidt, celebrating a simple and practical approach to home improvement, decor, beauty, food, parenting, and much more.

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