The Best (and Cheapest) Airlines to Let Your Kid Fly Alone On

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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.

The Best (And Cheapest) Airlines to Let Your Kid Fly Alone

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?
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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:

AirlineFee If Direct FlightFee If There Are StopoversThe Details
AirTran Airways$49 each way$69 each wayTwo or more kids can fly on the same fee
Alaska Airlines$25 each way per child$50 each way per childFees waived for children with MVP®, MVP® Gold, or Gold 75K Mileage Plan™ status
American Airlines$100 each way$100 each wayTwo or more kids can fly on same fee
Continental Airlines$99 each way$99 each wayUp 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 wayUp to four kids can fly on the same fee
Frontier Airlines$50 each way$100 each wayFee 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 flightsInfants 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 childN/AUnaccompanied minors may travel on nonstop or direct flights and will not be permitted on connecting flights
Southwest Airlines$50 each way per childNo flights with plane changes allowedProgram ends at age 12
Spirit Airlines$100 each way per childNonstop onlyIncludes free snack
United Airlines$99 each way$99 each wayFree snack when available; two or more kids can fly for the same fee
US Airways$100 each way per childNonstop onlyIncludes two free checked bags

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  • Misti

    United now charges $150 each way… domestic and international