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      How Old Do You Have to Be To Fly Alone? Airline Unaccompanied Minor Policies and Fees in the US

      Holly Riddle
      How Old Do You Have to Be To Fly Alone?

      Children flying alone is nothing out of the ordinary. However, for that parent sending their child off on their first solo flight, the experience can be anything but comfortable. In addition to the anxiety over your child traveling alone, you might also feel a fair amount of anxiety over the entire process. After all, flying as an adult is complicated. And now you want your child to do it? On their own? No help whatsoever? 

      It’s enough to make any parent hesitate. Again, though, children fly solo all the time, so it is an experience that your child (and you) can get through, safely and happily. To help along the way, we’re answering all your most important questions. 

      How young is too young to send a child on a flight on their own? What should your child (and you) expect? Do certain airlines have differing rules for children flying solo? Will you need to pay extra for your child to get a little bit of extra care from the flight crew? 

      Keep reading to learn all this and more.

      The Vacationer Tip

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      What Age Do Children Have to Be to Fly Alone?

      There is no across-the-board legal age requirement for children to fly unaccompanied. However, major airlines have set the standard for what is and isn’t acceptable for children flying solo. 

      Most major airlines in the United States allow children to fly alone starting at age 5. However, these airlines typically require a child to enroll in an unaccompanied minor service. This gives them that special attention and care that ensures they’ll make it safely to their destination. Most airlines allow minors ages 15 to 17 to opt-out of this service if needed. However, the airline usually still charges some sort of extra fee.

      People on an Airplane

      Photo: via Pixabay

      What to Expect from Major Airlines

      Here’s what you can expect if you’re sending your child off on a flight with one of these major American airlines.

      Alaska Airlines

      Alaska Airlines’ unaccompanied minors program is called Junior Jetsetters. It offers some of the most affordable unaccompanied minors service fees (if you only have one child traveling). It also allows for children to opt-out of the program at a fairly young age, 13. 

      The program is required for children ages 5 to 12. The fee is $50 each way per child for non-stop or direct flights. It’s $75 each way per child for connecting flights. 

      Children ages 5 to 7 are only allowed on non-stop flights. No matter what your child’s age, though, they’re not allowed to fly unaccompanied on flights that take off between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Additionally, children ages 8 to 12 are not allowed to take a connecting flight that’s the last flight of the day or connections that require a two-hour or longer layover. The same rule applies to children 13 to 17 who’ve opted in to the program unless no other flights are available. Alaska Airlines also does not offer its Junior Jetsetters program on any flights to Sun Valley, Idaho, between Dec. 1 and April 1. 

      The Junior Jetsetters program fee is waived for children who have MVP, MVP Gold, Gold 75K, or Gold 100k Mileage Plan status. 

      The program is pretty basic, though. It only includes supervision by Alaska Airlines crew members before, during, and after the flight. There are no extra amenities or perks.

      Read Alaska Airlines’ official unaccompanied minor policy by Clicking Here.

      Allegiant Air

      Unaccompanied minors under 15 are not accepted on Allegiant air. However, any passenger 15 or older is considered an adult and allowed to fly.

      Read Allegiant Air’s official unaccompanied minor policy by Clicking Here.

      American Airlines

      As mentioned, there are a lot of factors that will influence how early you need to arrive at the airport, whether

      Similarly, American Airlines requires children ages 5 through 14 to use the unaccompanied minors service. Children ages 15 to 17 may opt-out of the service, but the airline still charges the fee. The fee is $150 each way and will cover siblings on the same flight.

      When using American Airlines’ unaccompanied minors service, an American Airlines representative will escort your child to their gate (as needed), as well as to their later gates for flight connections. They will further escort them to their pick-up adult at their destination. 

      Children enjoy access to kids-only lounges if they have a layover in a hub city. Children have priority boarding and can meet the flight attendants and settle in ahead of time. They’ll also receive complimentary amenity kits if they’re between the ages of 5 and 10 and traveling out of a hub city. 

      While American Airlines does allow for children to take connecting flights, unlike United, there are some caveats. Children may not take a connecting flight until they’re 8 years old or older. Even then, they can only take connecting flights that pass through select destinations (primarily American Airlines hubs). Additionally, unaccompanied minors may not take overnight connecting flights. They’re also not permitted to take flights that include a connection that’s the last flight of the day. Children additionally are not permitted on connecting flights that require a ground transfer between two regional airports.

      Read American Airlines’ official unaccompanied minor policy by Clicking Here.

      Delta

      Delta allows children ages 5 to 7 to fly on some non-stop flights, but not all. Children ages 8 to 14 may fly on some non-stop flights as well, in addition to flying on some connecting flights. 

      Delta only requires its unaccompanied minor program for children up to age 15. Children ages 15 to 17 can choose to opt into the program. But, it’s not necessary and, if they do fly unaccompanied, they won’t be charged an extra fee. They’ll be treated exactly like a regular passenger.

      A guardian must accompany their child to their gate and then remain there until the flight takes off. A Delta representative will accompany the child both to any connecting gate and to their pick-up person. If a connection passes through select Delta hubs, the child will have access to a child-only Sky Zone. 

      Delta’s unaccompanied minor program fee is $150 for up to four children traveling together. 

      Read Delta’s official unaccompanied minor policy by Clicking Here.

      Frontier Airlines

      Unaccompanied minors under 15 are not accepted on Frontier Airlines. However, any passenger 15 or older is considered an adult and allowed to fly.

      Read Frontier Airlines’ official unaccompanied minor policy by Clicking Here.

      Hawaiian Airlines

      Hawaiian Airlines considers children 5 to 11 to be unaccompanied minors. Passengers 12 and up may fly solo, as an adult, on domestic Hawaiian Airlines flights. They can still opt into the unaccompanied minors service if they want, though. Unaccompanied minors cannot fly on the airline’s international flights. The fee is $35 per flight segment when flying within the state of Hawaii. The fee is $100 per flight segment between North America and Hawaii. 

      Children can fly in first or business class on Hawaiian Airlines. However, unaccompanied minors must not fly on flights departing between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. There is an exception if the flight operates out of Honolulu and it’s the only flight of the day. Children are likewise not allowed to fly on the airline’s flights to American Samoa, flights that require an overnight connection, the last connecting flight of the day, or flights with layovers of two hours or more.

      Read Hawaiian Airlines’ official unaccompanied minor policy by Clicking Here.

      JetBlue

      JetBlue offers its unaccompanied minors service to children between the ages of 5 and 13. After 14, the child will be treated as an adult passenger. The program is mandatory for all children under 14 and the fee is $150 per child, per way. JetBlue does not offer the service on flights to and from London.

      Parents must accompany their children to their gate. They must remain there until the JetBlue flight is off the ground. On the plane, minors sit in the aircraft’s back row. There, the flight crew can more easily supervise them. Unaccompanied minors can only fly on JetBlue’s non-stop flights.

      Read JetBlue’s official unaccompanied minor policy by Clicking Here.

      Southwest Airlines

      Southwest Airlines offers unaccompanied minor service for children aged 5-11. The fee is $50 each way. And, the service is only available on domestic, nonstop flights. Southwest does not offer accompanied minor service for international flights. Children 12-17 flying Southwest alone can take advantage of their Young Travelers program for free.

      Read Southwest Airlines’ official unaccompanied minor policy by Clicking Here.

      Spirit Airlines

      Spirit Airlines offers unaccompanied minors service for children 5-14 years old. The current fee is $100 per child, each way. Unaccompanied minors are not permitted on connecting flights, international flights, or domestic flights that include a scheduled change of aircraft. Children 4 or younger may not fly alone. Unaccompanied minor service may be requested for guests 15 and older and the fee will be charged. However, it is not required for children 15 or older.

      Read Spirit Airlines’ official unaccompanied minor policy by Clicking Here.

      Sun Country Airlines

      Unaccompanied minors under 15 are not accepted on Sun Country Airlines. However, any passenger 15-17 years old may travel within the US and to Puerto Rico alone. Additionally, children 15-17 years of age may travel with one child 15-17 years old within the US or to Puerto. Any child of any age must be travel with an adult and a passport to Mexico, Central America, or the Caribbean.

      Read Sun Country Airlines’ official unaccompanied minor policy by Clicking Here.

      United Airlines

      United Airlines requires children ages 5 to 14 to use its unaccompanied minor service. This service allows your child priority boarding. During boarding, the crew will help your child feel at home, show them to their seat, and help with carry-on luggage. They’ll also walk your child through the safety procedures and show them where the restroom is. 

      During the flight, the crew will continue to check in with your child and help if needed. Children will receive a free food item. Once at their destination, a United representative will meet your child and take them to their pick-up person. 

      You’re still responsible, though, for your child up until the point of boarding the plane (at least in the United States). If you don’t think your child is old enough to go through security and make it to their gate on their own, you can get a gate pass at the check-in counter. That will allow you to accompany your child to their gate until they board. If your child is traveling on a United flight outside of the United States, a United representative will take them to their gate. Regardless of where you are, though, United asks parents to stay at the airport until the child’s flight has departed. 

      The unaccompanied minor service is only available on non-stop flights. The unaccompanied minor service fee is $150 each way for every two children.

      Read United Airlines’ official unaccompanied minor policy by Clicking Here.

      Are There Any Airlines That Do Not Offer an Unaccompanied Minor Service?

      While most major airlines do offer some form of an unaccompanied minor service, not all do.

      Allegiant Air does not offer an unaccompanied minor service. However, children ages 15 and up can fly as an adult on Allegiant Air flights. The same applies to Frontier flights and Sun Country flights. Please be sure to read their specific policies as some restrictions may apply.

      How to Make Your Child’s First Solo Flight a Success 

      Before you send your child off on their first flight, take a few precautions. You want to ensure their first solo trip is an enjoyable one.

      Firstly, consider if they’re ready to fly solo at all. 

      If your child has never flown before, asking them to do so completely on their own could be a bad idea. Similarly, it might be a bad choice if you know they have a difficult time with flying even when they’re with you. 

      Do you think your child will be able to sit quietly for the duration of their flight? Without disrupting their fellow passengers? Do they have a track record of following instructions from other adults without an issue? You don’t want to send your child on their solo flight if you know they’ll cause issues for their fellow passengers, as well as the flight crew.

      But if you think your child is mature enough to go it alone, and you know that they’re comfortable with air travel, don’t feel like you need to put it off any longer.

      As you prepare your child for their trip, make sure that they have everything they might need in their carry-on, where they can easily find it. This includes a drink, snacks, toys, digital devices, maybe a comfort toy or blanket. Include whatever you think will keep them occupied and happy. Consider doing a run-through of the bag before they depart, so they know where everything is.

      Still need to invest in some travel tech for your child? Consider the Amazon Fire HD 10 for kids, which comes with a year of Amazon Kids+. Your child will enjoy access to tens of thousands of books, games, videos, songs, and more. And to protect their travel companions from listening to the songs of Frozen for the entirety of the four-hour flight, invest in a pair of kid-friendly, noise-canceling headphones, too. Lastly, make sure your child has all the documentation that they need for their trip. Documentation will differ according to your child’s travel itinerary. You can check out our full guide to children’s travel documentation, here.

      But What About You?

      As you sit at the gate and watch your child’s plane pull away, you might feel a little bit of anxiety. Try not to dwell on it too much, though. You’ve outfitted your child with all the skills and travel gear they need. This is just the next step to them becoming a globe-trotting, wanderlusting traveler just like mom or dad.

      FAQ

      How old do you have to be to fly alone?

      It depends on the airline. Most airlines consider 15-year-old flyers as adults. Many airlines also offer unaccompanied minor service for children 5-14 years old. Check with your specific airline to be sure.

      Can a 15-year-old fly alone?

      Yes. Almost all airlines will allow 15-year-olds to fly alone. However, a few may charge a fee.

      Can a 16-year-old fly alone?

      Yes. Almost all airlines will allow 16-year-olds to fly alone. However, a few may charge a fee.

      Can a 17-year-old fly alone?

      Yes. Almost all airlines will allow 17 year olds to fly alone. However, a few may charge a fee.

      Can a teenager fly alone?

      While every airline differs, in most cases, airlines will allow teenagers to fly alone. In most instances, airlines require teenagers to use an unaccompanied minor service until they’re 15. However, some airlines allow teenagers as young as 13 to opt-out of unaccompanied minor services.

      Can a preteen fly alone?

      Most airlines will allow preteens to fly alone. However, the majority also require preteens to enroll in an unaccompanied minor program. These come with an additional fee but ensure your child gets safely from their home airport to their destination.

      What’s the youngest a child can fly alone?

      Airlines that allow minors to fly alone typically allow children to start flying solo as early as 5 years of age.

      Can children take connecting flights while flying alone?

      It depends on the airline. Some airlines allow children to fly on connecting flights (with a few exclusions). Others only allow children to fly solo on direct flights.

      Holly Riddle Headshot

      By Holly Riddle

      Holly Riddle is a freelance travel, food, and lifestyle journalist who also dabbles in ghostwriting and fiction. Her work appears in publications ranging from Global Traveler to Golf Magazine, Mashed to Forbes, and Bloomberg. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring the mountains near her home in the Adirondacks. Her favorite travel destinations include Chicago and New Orleans.