Many parents get nervous at the thought of their child flying alone -- and with good reason. But taking some safety precautions can help make your child's trip smoother and easier, and ease some of your fears. Here are some helpful hints for the child flying solo:
1. Book a nonstop flight whenever possible. Having a child change planes greatly increases the risk of his getting lost. If your child must change planes, make arrangements for him to be escorted between gates. This usually costs extra, but it's required by the Federal Aviation Administration for children ages 5 to 8 and is recommended for older children.
2. Request appropriate seating. When you make a reservation, ask that your child be given a seat away from the aisle and with at least one empty seat between her and the next passenger.
3. Review the airline's policies on children traveling alone. Every airline has a slightly different policy on how it accommodates and supervises unaccompanied children. Take special note of policies on escorting children at connection airports and on flights that are delayed or diverted. Make sure you're aware of the airline's contingency plan for a child whose flight gets canceled, or who is forced to spend the night in a strange city.
4. Communicate with the person picking up your child. Make sure that your child's caregiver knows all the relevant details of the trip, including flight number, departure city, estimated arrival time, and any connecting flight information. The person meeting her should go to the gate and have identification that exactly matches the information that you are required to provide the airline.
5. Prepare your child for the flight. Children feel more at ease when they know what to expect. Make sure your child knows exactly what will happen during the flight, where in the plane he will sit, how long the flight will be, and who will pick him up when he arrives.
6. Discuss behavior and safety issues with your child. Make sure your child knows to keep her seat belt on at all times and to remain in her seat and out of the aisles. Teach her to contact the flight attendant when she needs to use the bathroom. Also explain that other passengers may be trying to sleep, so she should keep the noise levels low.
7. Spend extra time at the airport. Plan on coming to the airport early and staying for a while after departure. If there are last-minute changes before the flight's scheduled departure, being present gives you a better opportunity to deal with the situation.
8. Identify the head flight attendant. Make sure the head flight attendant is aware that there is an unaccompanied child on the plane. Introduce your child to the flight attendant who will be directly responsible for taking care of him.
9. If possible, escort your child to her seat. Only some airports and airlines allow it, but escorting your child to her seat gives you an opportunity to check the area around the seat for hazards, such as heavy carry-on items in the overhead storage bins. If there is anything about the seating situations that does not meet your approval, contact the head flight attendant or a gate agent and demand a change.
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.