How to Book Unaccompanied Minors
There are many reasons a parent might choose to book their children as unaccompanied minors. Whether they are visiting family, attending a summer camp, or traveling for school, all parents want to know their son or daughter is in the best hands. When a parent chooses to book their child through a travel agent, it is because they are trusting the travel agent’s professional expertise to help create the smoothest and safest trip possible for their child.
Are you confident when it comes to booking unaccompanied minors? While this might not be your particular travel specialty, it is likely you will get requests like this from time to time. We’ll walk you through some steps you need to follow when booking an airline ticket for a minor, what you should go over with parents, and provide you with the unaccompanied minor policies for some of the top airlines that parents request when booking their children solo.
1. Check airline policies.
While many airline policies are similar, you will want to review the individual airline’s policy before booking. Most airlines require an unaccompanied minor to be at least 5 years old and some have an even higher age requirement. Minors within the age specifications can fly solo by paying to use an airline’s unaccompanied minor program. Before booking any unaccompanied minor, make sure your reservation works within the parameters set for the child’s age (see airline policies below).
2. Choose the first flight with no connections.
Encourage parents to opt for the first flight of the day. This will reduce the chance of a change or cancellation. If a flight is changed, this will allow more time through the day to find a suitable rebooking option. Choose a nonstop or a direct flight (a stop without a change of planes) if possible. If this is not possible, and the child is old enough for a multi-stop trip, keep all segments of the trip on the same carrier. Note — most airlines will not permit unaccompanied minors under 8 years old to take connecting flights.
3. Review with the airline before purchase.
After you have reserved the space on centrav.com and confirmed that the itinerary fits within parameters for the airline’s unaccompanied minor program, apply payment to the reservation. Once it has been ticketed, you can then call the airline to set up unaccompanied minor procedures. Costs for unaccompanied minor programs usually range from $50 – $150 per flight.
4. Double and triple check itinerary.
Check all airports, dates, and times carefully. Make sure you emphasize the departure and arrival airports with the parents or guardians and not just the cities. Some cities have more than one airport. You would not want your clients to show up at Dallas Love Field while their 7-year-old is waiting for them at Dallas-Fort Worth.
5. Ask about dietary needs.
A child might not necessarily think through their dietary needs while flying solo. But airlines serving meals on longer flights can and will accommodate a wide variety of dietary needs. Ask whether or not the child has any allergies or dietary restrictions, then contact the airline to make the appropriate request.
Suggestions for parents
Although it’s really not your responsibility as a travel agent to help parents with anything besides purchasing a ticket, it never hurts to have some good advice up your sleeve! Consider drafting an email with some tips for preparing minors to fly solo. We promise they’ll love you for it! Here are some important things for parents to consider.
1. Bring all necessary documentation.
When checking your child in at the airport, you should bring a government-issued photo ID, your phone number, and the name address and phone number of the person picking up your child. If your child appears to be less than the minimum age requirement (usually 5), the airline representative checking you in may ask to see his or her birth certificate. Your airline may require additional information — be sure to check their website for full details. You will need to escort your child through security all the way to his/her gate where they will meet a designated airline staff member.
2. Who can your child ask for help?
Parents should make sure children know who to go to for help if they needed anything while traveling. While they should have a specific airline employee assigned to them, they should be prepared for every scenario. If they need help, they should go to a uniformed airport police officer or a uniformed airline employee. Make sure your child can recognize both.
3. Dress and pack for comfort
- Dress your child in layers as temperatures on aircraft can be unpredictable.
- Make sure clothing such as sweatshirts or pullovers are labeled with his/her first initial and last name.
- Pack a small carry on with snacks, books, games, etc. to help pass the time. The airline staff assigned to your child will be there to help as needed but is not able to entertain or “babysit” throughout the flight.
- Print a copy of your child’s complete itinerary and your contact information and let your child know this will be inside their bag.
4. Prepare for pick-up
The adult picking up your child at his/her destination will need a photo ID with a home address matching the one you provided at check-in. They may receive an escort pass to pick your child up at the gate, or the airline staff may bring the child to the arrival area. This varies by airline.
Airline Unaccompanied Minor Policies
*Please note: Always check specific airline policies and requirements directly with the airlines to receive complete and current information.