How the Airlines Handle Unaccompanied Minors

I’m the mother of a 9-year-old who has been traveling so long she has status on two airlines. She is now around the age where she can fly by herself, and is pushing to do it this summer. Naturally, this makes me very nervous as a parent. And anyone who has seen the movie “Unaccompanied Minors” would naturally be concerned about handing over their precious cargo to the airlines. Carriers have different policies (covering ages and types of flights) and charge different fees, ranging from $50 to $150 each way, for unaccompanied minors (UMs). Below we look at UM policies for the top seven U.S. carriers.

  • 01 of 07
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    ••• American Airlines Boeing 737-800. Photo courtesy of American Airlines

    The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier charges $150.00 for UMs. It does not accept UMs under age five.  Unaccompanied children aged five, six or seven are only accepted on nonstop or through flights only, and must be accompanied by a parent or responsible adult until they board the aircraft and the flight has left the gate. The child must be met at the destination by another parent or responsible adult. UMs age eight through 14 can fly on nonstop, through or connecting flights. Connecting flights must be made through the carrier’s 10 hub and major airports. Finally, UMs can’t be on flights where they must connection from another airline, including  codeshare and oneworld partners.

  • 02 of 07
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    ••• Delta Air Lines at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

    The Atlanta-based carrier charges $100 each way to handle UMs. it does not allow children age four and under to travel as UMs; children aged five to seven can only travel on non-stop flights, while kids aged eight to 14 can fly on connecting flights. The program is optional for children 15-17 years old. A parent or designated accompanying adult must take the unaccompanied minor to the departure gate and remain until the flight has left the ground. Parents or an accompanying adult should report to the destination airport one hour before scheduled arrival to obtain a gate pass, and a valid ID must be presented before the UM is released.

  • 03 of 07
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    ••• JetBlue tails at Boston Logan International Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

    The New York-based carrier offered by far the most details on how they handle UMs. Children between the ages of 5 and under 14 years are required to fly as UMs for a fee of $100 each way. Parents are required to fill out a UM form before travel, and bring three copies of the document. The airline requires photo ID from the person dropping off and picking up the UM.  And JetBlue offers detailed information on how UMs are handled on its international flights.

  • 04 of 07
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    ••• Southwest Shamu plane at BWI Airport. Photo courtesy of Benet J. Wilson

    The Dallas-based carrier requires children between the ages of five through 11 traveling without an accompanying passenger age 12 or older must travel as a UM. The carrier charges $50 each way for its UM service. UMs can only travel on nonstop or direct flights, and the service is not offered to and from international destinations.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07
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    ••• United Airlines Boeing 747. Photo courtesy of United Airlines

    The Chicago-based carrier only allows UMs to travel on nonstop flights operated by United or United Express. Children younger than five are not accepted as UMs. Those between five and 11 years old who are traveling alone must use United unaccompanied minor service and pay a fee of $150 each way. Children ages 12 to 17 can use United's UM service for travel on nonstop flights operated by United or United Express, or they can travel as adults on any flights without using United's service.

  • 06 of 07

    Alaska Airlines

    Plane Passing Mount Rainier
    ••• Paul A. Souders/Getty Images

     The Seattle-based carrier offers unaccompanied minor service for those aged five through 17 years old, on domestic and international flights. The cost is $25 each way or $50 each way on connecting flights.

  • 07 of 07
    ••• A Spirit Airlines Airbus A320 at Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport. Photo courtesy of Tpdwkouaa/Wikipedia

    The Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based airline accepts children aged between five and 14 years old as unaccompanied minors. They are only accepted on nonstop or direct flights that don't require a change of aircraft or flight number. Parents and guardians are advised to let the airline know when booking an unaccompanied minor. The cost is $100 per child, each way and includes a drink and snack.