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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
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    Edmond, OK
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    Default Kids flying alone

    I'm sure some of you may have dealt with your kids flying somewhere on their own. Any tips or lessons learned?

    Our oldest has a chance to work on a ranch this summer where my in-laws live. It also works out for him to fly to where my family is first and the in-laws will get him from there, then fly back from their place.

    My parents would like for our youngest to come visit them and we're looking to fly him out for that visit, as well.

    The oldest is 15 and we feel he is capable of handling a connecting flight situation, so we are planning to go that route with him.

    The youngest is 13 and it looks like we can go the direct flight option with him.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    N.W. Suburbs Chicago, IL
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    2,179

    Default Kids flying alone

    Depends on the airline as each has their own age limit for what we refer to as a "UAM" or unaccompanied minor. It usually involves a small. At the departure airport, you can sometimes go to the main ticket counter and request a gate pass that allows you to get through security and escort your kid to or from the gate.
    '86 Comp TS6M - Reborn 2016
    Riding Connelly Skis

  3. #3

    Default

    I've done this many times over the years. The airlines are set up to handle this situation, and my experience with SWA has been very good. I would recommend a direct flight if at all possible. In the end, you end up stressed and worried the entire time. Nothing but prayers to help out there. Good luck!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Pickwick Lake
    Posts
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    Default

    I personally would not allow my child to do this too many things can happen. I am a airline pilot and with the load factors today and reduced turn times for connecting flights too many things can happen leaving a minor stranded. Even if the flight is direct you can have to divert for weather or maintenance. I do not think a minor can rent a hotel room and in some locations the 3rd party gate service personnel escort the child from gate to gate. Many people do it and think a FA is dedicated to their child and that simply is not the case.
    2007 24SSV
    66 18' Chris Craft Super Sport

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Vancouver WA
    Posts
    1,112

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by HIFLYR View Post
    I personally would not allow my child to do this too many things can happen. I am a airline pilot and with the load factors today and reduced turn times for connecting flights too many things can happen leaving a minor stranded. Even if the flight is direct you can have to divert for weather or maintenance. I do not think a minor can rent a hotel room and in some locations the 3rd party gate service personnel escort the child from gate to gate. Many people do it and think a FA is dedicated to their child and that simply is not the case.
    Rolling eyes. Reduced turn times? maybe on your airline, but I've watched over the last few years as they've padded the flight times for my son's normal GEG to PDX flight so they can still claim to be on-time despite delays. for a 45 minute flight, I've seen them quoting times that are approaching an hour and a half. It's pretty obvious they're padding their flight times to incorporate delays.

    My son fly's 4 flight legs per month as an unaccompanied minor. he started doing this when he was 5 and is now going on his 4th year as an Alaska Airlines MVP. So yeah, we've been around the block on this. First of all there's all sorts of rules and procedures in place to address all the situations you worry about. Kids can't fly solo until a certain age. they need to be escorted through security. escorts have to stay there until the bird is in the air. UM's can't fly connections until they reach a certain age (I think it's 8 or maybe 9 at the latest as my son can fly connections). They don't let kids fly after a certain time of night when it's the last flight. They do get escorted to and from the plane, and are with the gate agents when they arrive (if the parents are late picking the kid up). But yeah, while flying they are just like any other passenger chillin' in their seat. Although they typically seat all the UM's near the flight crew and usually group all the UM's together so it's easier for the crews to keep tabs on the UM's.

    My son flys his regular flight from PDX to GEG. We've done ONE connecting flight through seattle when his normal flight was cancelled for weather and we had to rebook the following morning. Sadly his PDX to SEA flight was delayed and he missed his SEA to GEG flight. They took him into a special room for the UM's waiting for connections and he got all excited telling me about all the snacks and treats he got while waiting on comfy couches.

    After I think Age 13 you don't have to do the UM and honestly, I'd just get them a cell phone and some kind of debit/credit card rather than dealing with UM procedures and fees once they're old enough to not be required to fly UM.

    So here's the deal. You book your flight like normal, but in the reservation screen it'll ask how many children and adults. when you mark one child, and zero adults, it'll prompt and ask if the child is flying alone and ask their age. then it will give ONLY the flights that your age child is allowed to fly on as choices.

    When you fly UM, you need to go to the counter when you get to the airport (leave extra time for this! because if you're not an MVP you're likely to wait 30+ minutes to get through this line). At the counter, you'll give them a form that you've filled out (or get a form at the counter) that gives your info as their escort and the info of the escort meeting them on the other end. You will get a "standby" dummy boarding pass that gets you through security and the kid will get their boarding pass with the "guardian accompaniment form". they ususally get a sticker or lanyard to identify them as a UM.

    You both go through TSA and you take them to their gate. you check them in with the gate agent. The gate agents typically have the UM's board before everyone else and they are escorted by a gate agent onto the plane. they are first to board and last to get off. You're supposed to wait until the plane is in the air before you can leave the gate area.

    On the other end, the escort will go to the counter and get their escort "boarding pass". the escort will to through TSA and be waiting at the gate for the UM that's escorted off the plane. the receiving escort will have to show ID that matches with the people that are able to pick him up on the guardian accompaniment form.

    It's a very thorough process.

    The various airlines charge different fees for UM's. Alaska is the cheapest at $25 each way, payable when you check in at the counter. SWA is $50 each way, payable in full for the roundtrip when you book. Other airlines are often much more. For example, Continental rapes you at $100 each way for their UM fees. United is freaking ridiculous at $150 each way!!!! Also, for Alaska airlines, once the child reaches MVP status (30 flight legs in a year), then they waive all the UM fees and we also get free checked bags, and get to go through the various MVP express lines in the airport.

    LMK if you have any questions. I am at the airport probably 40 times a year doing this. In fact, I'm heading to PDX tonight to pick up my son this evening.
    Last edited by trayson; 03-27-2015 at 02:39 PM.
    2008 Moomba Mobius XLV. Monster Cargo Bimini, and more mods to come...

    1992 Supra Sunsport. **SOLD** 2k pounds ballast, Surf System, Blue LED's everywhere, decent audio system.


    Tow Rig: 2013 F150 Ecoboost FX4 (wife's rig) Other money pits include:1998 BMW M3 Cabriolet, 2002 Audi S6 Avant, 2005 Kawasaki ZX-6R 636.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Edmond, OK
    Posts
    2,508

    Default

    We have the flights booked and we are ready to go. The oldest is flying with a connecting flight both directions and the youngest will be a direct flight, both directions. They are both flying out on SWA and their ages puts them in the Young Traveler category where they basically aren't escorted like the UM. The oldest will fly home on United and their process is basically the same as SWA. The youngest is on SWA both ways, so it's pretty straightforward. The both have cell phones and the oldest already has a debit card. We may get the youngest a debit card as well...good thought.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Vancouver WA
    Posts
    1,112

    Default

    It's really a decent way to go. My Ex and I live about a 7 hour drive apart. before my son turned 5, I would have to leave work at 1:30pm, drive 220 miles (3.5 hours) and meet my ex. Then my son would come with me, and get a quick bite to eat and drive the 3.5 hours home. he'd be asleep in the car before we got home well after dark. I installed a video system in my car and he'd watch 2 1/2 full length animated movies during the ride.

    Now, he hops a flight that's under an hour. He will fly in tonight at 8:30pm and fly back at 5:30pm. I almost get a full 48 hours with him and actually have the opportunity to do stuff with him on Sundays. We've done 1/2 days skiing or taken the boat out on Sundays with him flying. it's been a game changer. And the airfare is typically less than the combined gas spent previously by my Ex and I. and it's SOOOO much easier on him to fly an hour vs. being in a car for 7 hours.

    Good job! I'm sure it'll be fine as they're older and it should be even easier.
    2008 Moomba Mobius XLV. Monster Cargo Bimini, and more mods to come...

    1992 Supra Sunsport. **SOLD** 2k pounds ballast, Surf System, Blue LED's everywhere, decent audio system.


    Tow Rig: 2013 F150 Ecoboost FX4 (wife's rig) Other money pits include:1998 BMW M3 Cabriolet, 2002 Audi S6 Avant, 2005 Kawasaki ZX-6R 636.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Pickwick Lake
    Posts
    49

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by trayson View Post
    Rolling eyes. Reduced turn times? maybe on your airline, but I've watched over the last few years as they've padded the flight times for my son's normal GEG to PDX flight so they can still claim to be on-time despite delays. for a 45 minute flight, I've seen them quoting times that are approaching an hour and a half. It's pretty obvious they're padding their flight times to incorporate delays.

    My son fly's 4 flight legs per month as an unaccompanied minor. he started doing this when he was 5 and is now going on his 4th year as an Alaska Airlines MVP. So yeah, we've been around the block on this. First of all there's all sorts of rules and procedures in place to address all the situations you worry about. Kids can't fly solo until a certain age. they need to be escorted through security. escorts have to stay there until the bird is in the air. UM's can't fly connections until they reach a certain age (I think it's 8 or maybe 9 at the latest as my son can fly connections). They don't let kids fly after a certain time of night when it's the last flight. They do get escorted to and from the plane, and are with the gate agents when they arrive (if the parents are late picking the kid up). But yeah, while flying they are just like any other passenger chillin' in their seat. Although they typically seat all the UM's near the flight crew and usually group all the UM's together so it's easier for the crews to keep tabs on the UM's.

    My son flys his regular flight from PDX to GEG. We've done ONE connecting flight through seattle when his normal flight was cancelled for weather and we had to rebook the following morning. Sadly his PDX to SEA flight was delayed and he missed his SEA to GEG flight. They took him into a special room for the UM's waiting for connections and he got all excited telling me about all the snacks and treats he got while waiting on comfy couches.

    After I think Age 13 you don't have to do the UM and honestly, I'd just get them a cell phone and some kind of debit/credit card rather than dealing with UM procedures and fees once they're old enough to not be required to fly UM.

    So here's the deal. You book your flight like normal, but in the reservation screen it'll ask how many children and adults. when you mark one child, and zero adults, it'll prompt and ask if the child is flying alone and ask their age. then it will give ONLY the flights that your age child is allowed to fly on as choices.

    When you fly UM, you need to go to the counter when you get to the airport (leave extra time for this! because if you're not an MVP you're likely to wait 30+ minutes to get through this line). At the counter, you'll give them a form that you've filled out (or get a form at the counter) that gives your info as their escort and the info of the escort meeting them on the other end. You will get a "standby" dummy boarding pass that gets you through security and the kid will get their boarding pass with the "guardian accompaniment form". they ususally get a sticker or lanyard to identify them as a UM.

    You both go through TSA and you take them to their gate. you check them in with the gate agent. The gate agents typically have the UM's board before everyone else and they are escorted by a gate agent onto the plane. they are first to board and last to get off. You're supposed to wait until the plane is in the air before you can leave the gate area.

    On the other end, the escort will go to the counter and get their escort "boarding pass". the escort will to through TSA and be waiting at the gate for the UM that's escorted off the plane. the receiving escort will have to show ID that matches with the people that are able to pick him up on the guardian accompaniment form.

    It's a very thorough process.

    The various airlines charge different fees for UM's. Alaska is the cheapest at $25 each way, payable when you check in at the counter. SWA is $50 each way, payable in full for the roundtrip when you book. Other airlines are often much more. For example, Continental rapes you at $100 each way for their UM fees. United is freaking ridiculous at $150 each way!!!! Also, for Alaska airlines, once the child reaches MVP status (30 flight legs in a year), then they waive all the UM fees and we also get free checked bags, and get to go through the various MVP express lines in the airport.

    LMK if you have any questions. I am at the airport probably 40 times a year doing this. In fact, I'm heading to PDX tonight to pick up my son this evening.
    Sorry made you roll eyes but I do this for a living domestic and internationally and when the wx brings a entire region to a stop things can fall thru the cracks. You can have to divert for MX or WX and then have a issue that does not allow you to depart and be stuck in a unplanned city. Glad you have had a good experience and hope that continues but things do happen. Just giving my opinion like asked.
    2007 24SSV
    66 18' Chris Craft Super Sport

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Edmond, OK
    Posts
    2,508

    Default

    Have you witnessed that happening with kids around my age, where they get stuck in a city they weren't planning and had to spend the night there? If so, did you happen to see how that got handled? My thought is if that happened for some reason, I would think we could arrange something s far as getting him into a hotel or something like that.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Pickwick Lake
    Posts
    49

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Okie Boarder View Post
    Have you witnessed that happening with kids around my age, where they get stuck in a city they weren't planning and had to spend the night there? If so, did you happen to see how that got handled? My thought is if that happened for some reason, I would think we could arrange something s far as getting him into a hotel or something like that.
    Okie,
    First I am not trying to scare you, 99 % of the time things are good. I have seen terminals full of people who simply had no place to go because there was simply no place to go for lodging for days. Go in to this with your eyes open if you think when something like that happens they have the personnel to put one person with somebody? Sometimes we have to divert to a city not served by our company for fuel or MX and some have been stuck there. I am not the kind of Captain that holds his people on the tarmac for 6 to 10 hours hoping to depart but they are out there. I would look at the city pairs, weather for that time of year and number of connections and make plans that way if any way possibly I would pay extra for a direct flight. Lastly I would try and get a refundable ticket, so if the day before the wx looks bad you have options. I do not mean a regular frontal line I am talking about wx systems like the one in the first of march this year. That one stuck me in SFO for three extra days as they simply cancled my flghts for three days. Worked out for me as I did not have to work and got paid double time to eat, drink and walk around SFO but like I said things can happen. I did not even operate as they flew me back on another airline. Also, ask them in writing the what ifs and if any 3 rd party people will be responsible for your child like vendors for services at the airport, many use service people like wakenhut for things like this. I would want only the specific employees of the airline I choose to have access to my child. Also, if you cannot avoid a connection if possible contact someone you trust in the city of the connection, who could help if needed. Good Luck
    2007 24SSV
    66 18' Chris Craft Super Sport

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