The Best (and Cheapest) Airlines to Let Your Kid Fly Alone On
It’s never easy to let your kids go.
Especially on their first solo flight. After all, who will make sure they’re safe, fed and not kicking the seat in front of them?
With spring break right around the corner, you might be gearing up to send your kid off to visit Grandma alone for the first time, or to visit her preschool BFF who has since moved to a different state. That’s where airline unaccompanied minor programs come in. For a fee (usually around $100, and usually not covered by Frequent Flyer Miles or airline memberships), most airlines allow kids ages 5-14 to fly alone, with guaranteed supervision from the airplane staff.
Different airlines impose additional guidelines, like stating that flyers younger than eight must fly non-stop, or that red-eye flights are forbidden for the pint-sized.
Would You Let Your Kid Fly Alone?
Have you ever let your child fly by herself before? How old was she? Were you happy with the result?
We know you might have reservations when it comes to making this decision—and not just about the cost. We’ll help you figure out whether your kid is ready to fly alone, and when it’s worth it to give him his wings.
When Are They Ready?
Age is, of course, relative, so we can’t tell you that a child will be ready when she hits a certain birthday. Beth Blair, a flight attendant, mom and travel blogger, says that flying alone tends to be “harder on the parent than on the child. Once on the plane, children settle in with their books, electronics or other activities and enjoy the experience.”
Here are some signs that your children may be mature enough to fly:
- They’re comfortable being alone for a few hours at a time.
- They adapt well to unfamiliar situations.
- They’re self-sufficient, or willing to speak up if they need something.
And a few that suggest it might be best to hold off:
- They’ve never flown (even with you) before.
- They don’t fly well when you are there.
- They have trouble following directions and keeping track of their stuff.
How the Costs Break Down
Some airlines charge a single fee for two or more children from the same family to travel on the same itinerary. For example, Delta Airlines lets four kids ride on one extra fee … while Continental allows up to nine! Some airlines also include perks like snacks or waived fees on baggage for underage travelers, so ask in advance. If the airline does, make sure your little one knows to request it once he’s on board.
Although you might have a favorite airline for yourself, here’s how the prices stack up—so you can decide whether it makes sense for Junior to be a chip off the old American Airlines block:
|Airline||Fee If Direct Flight||Fee If There Are Stopovers||The Details|
|AirTran Airways||$49 each way||$69 each way||Two or more kids can fly on the same fee|
|Alaska Airlines||$25 each way per child||$50 each way per child||Fees waived for children with MVP®, MVP® Gold, or Gold 75K Mileage Plan™ status|
|American Airlines||$100 each way||$100 each way||Two or more kids can fly on same fee|
|Continental Airlines||$99 each way||$99 each way||Up to nine kids can fly on the same fee; there’s a Young Travelers Club with a supervised waiting area, snacks and entertainment|
|Delta Airlines||$100 each way||$100 each way||Up to four kids can fly on the same fee|
|Frontier Airlines||$50 each way||$100 each way||Fee waived if child is Summit or Ascent EarlyReturns member|
|Hawaiian Airlines||$35 each way per child for inter-island travel||$100 each way per child for all other flights||Infants 0-4 years old are not accepted on any flights unaccompanied; Minors 5-11 years old are not accepted unaccompanied on international flights|
|JetBlue Airways||$100 each way per child||N/A||Unaccompanied minors may travel on nonstop or direct flights and will not be permitted on connecting flights|
|Southwest Airlines||$50 each way per child||No flights with plane changes allowed||Program ends at age 12|
|Spirit Airlines||$100 each way per child||Nonstop only||Includes free snack|
|United Airlines||$99 each way||$99 each way||Free snack when available; two or more kids can fly for the same fee|
|US Airways||$100 each way per child||Nonstop only||Includes two free checked bags|