What you should know if your child is flying alone

If you or your co-parent has recently moved some distance away, you may be facing the prospect of putting your child on an airplane by themselves for the first time to visit their mom or dad over the holidays. That can be frightening.

However, if you do a little research in advance and prepare your child (and yourself), you'll have greater peace of mind and minimize the chances that something will go awry.

Airlines refer to kids traveling without an adult as "unaccompanied minors." They all have different policies, practices and fees. Therefore, it's best to review the websites of any airlines you're considering.

Age guidelines vary, but most airlines require a child to be at least 5 year of age to travel alone. (Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean that your 5-year-old child is mature enough to travel alone.) Each airline has different rules about allowing unaccompanied minors to fly routes where a connection is required. However, it's best if you can book non-stop flights for your children.

Typically, airline personnel will escort children on and off the aircraft. Legally, the airline has no more responsibility for them while they're in flight than any other passenger. Find out how far you can accompany your kids into the airport or gate area and where they can be picked up.

Following are some additional tips to help your child's flight go more smoothly:

  • If possible, book them on a morning flight so there's time to make changes if the flight is canceled or delayed.
  • Make sure they have emergency contact information with them, including a photo of the person meeting them. A travel wallet should be able to hold that, their itinerary, tickets and some cash.
  • Limit their luggage to a carry-on bag, if possible.
  • Pack a small bag with snacks and a tablet with games and books to keep them entertained.
  • Arrive at the airport early and take time to point out where and who to seek out for help if they need to.
  • If you're the one picking them up, make sure you have photo identification with you.

If your custody arrangement is going to involve air travel for you and/or your children, it's essential to determine how you and your co-parent will divide the expenses. If air travel isn't already included in your custody or support agreements, it's best to do so. Your Houston family law attorney can help you.

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