Flight Policies for Unaccompanied Minors

If your little one needs to travel without an adult companion, it’s important to know what your airline’s policy is regarding unaccompanied minors. Here’s information about those policies from the major US airlines that will help you plan your child’s travel to optimize their safety and comfort as they take to the skies!

United Airlines’ unaccompanied minors policy
United just changed the age for an unaccompanied minor (UM) to 5-14 years old. The policy was previously for children ages 5-15 years old. Unaccompanied minors are charged an additional service charge of $150 each way, in addition to their cost of the airfare ticket, which covers several items detailed below. So, on United, this means 15-year-olds can travel alone to go on a trip to see family, a field trip, etc. and also save the $150 fee. This change became effective on Dec. 14, 2017.

For children who are 15-years old and have already paid the fee for a UM reservation, United is offering refunds. If you aren’t familiar with the unaccompanied minor service, here are a few of the items included in United’s:

Check-in
You and your child will check-in at the United counter. Contact information will be verified in your child’s reservation for the adults designated to drop them off and pick them up at the airport. The child gets an envelope to keep all their boarding papers inside and a wristband so gate agents can identify them. Adults will also get a special customer service number if there are any questions after the child begins their travel.

Escorts for UMs within the U.S.
If flying within the U.S., an escort may walk their child to their departure gate. Escorts can obtain a gate pass at the United check-in counter that allows the escort to go through security with your child and take them to their gate. Escorts can then introduce their child to the gate agents and ensure they board safely.

Escorts for UMs for international travel
If flying outside of the U.S., a United representative will meet your child at the check-in counter. This person will escort your child through security and customs to their departure gate.

Boarding
UMs get to board ahead of any pre-boarding travelers. During this time, the child can be greeted by the flight attendants, get introduced to the pilots (if time permits), get help stowing their carry-on items, hear more about safety and where the restrooms are located.

Extra notes
UMs are only accepted on nonstop flights operated by United or United Express (no connections). No child under 5 years old is eligible for this service.

If you want to read up on United’s UM policy further, check it out here. Generally speaking, the charge for unaccompanied minors is the same at Delta and American ($150 each way) but Southwest ($50 each way) and JetBlue ($100 each way) have a slightly cheaper cost. Here are more details on these airlines’ policies.

Delta Air Lines’ unaccompanied minors policy
Delta’s age range for unaccompanied minors is 5-14 years old. This has been the standing requirement for Delta. While the fee is still the same ($150) for the service, plus their airfare ticket, Delta does offer certain aged children the opportunity fly on flights operated by DL, DL Connection, AF or KL and also thru flights. Delta’s site has a bit more detail around the escort, where they are permitted, when your child must meet with a Delta representative, etc. Check out all those details here.

Another helpful perk for unaccompanied minors flying on Delta is Unaccompanied Minor Tracking. Delta offers barcoded wristbands for the child to wear, which will be scanned at important points along the child’s journey. It’s part of a larger effort that will allow parents to have more visibility as to their unaccompanied minor’s location while traveling with Delta.

American Airlines’ unaccompanied minors policy
American Airlines also has the same age limits as United and Delta for their unaccompanied minor program – children ages 5-14 years old. And children ages 8-14 can travel on any nonstop or direct flight, or any connecting flight through the following airports:

  • Charlotte, NC (CLT)
  • Washington Reagan, D.C. (DCA)
  • Dallas Forth Worth, TX (DFW)
  • New York, NY (JFK and LGA)
  • Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
  • Miami, FL (MIA)
  • Chicago, IL (ORD)
  • Philadelphia, PA (PHL)
  • Phoenix, AZ (PHX)

For all the fine details, check out their policy here.

Alaska Airlines’ unaccompanied minors policy
Alaska Airlines offers unaccompanied minor service is available for those aged 5 through 17 years old, on both our domestic and international flights. They charge $25 each way. Read more about their policy here.

JetBlue’s unaccompanied minors policy
JetBlue’s service charge is $100 each way per unaccompanied minor plus airfare. Read more about their policy here.

Southwest’s unaccompanied minors policy
Southwest charges $50 each way ($100 roundtrip) in addition to the airfare per child for unaccompanied minors to travel. Read more about Southwest’s policy here.

 

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Caitlin Martin

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About the Author

Caitlin Martin
Taking the path less traveled has been Caitlin's mantra and now it describes her travels as a contributor for Johnny Jet. From representing her dream clients in travel and hospitality at a top global marketing and PR agency and spending 10 years on the agency side, she's uncovering inspiration on the other side of the table. She's an east coaster at heart but enjoys living the beach life in Los Angeles, laughing loudly and singing in her Mini convertible. Follow Caitlin as she chronicles inspirational places and faces she meets along the way. She can be found on Twitter at @caitlinlmartin or email caitwrites@gmail.com.

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