During the summer of 2007, Faith Krumin of West Chicago prepared her grandson, Robert, 8, for a flight back home to California. It was his second solo flight, but she knew there were plenty of little details to discuss with him.
"On the way to the airport, we talked about not talking to strangers," she says. "We told him only to listen to the flight attendants and to stay on the plane until they took him off to his mom."
If your child is flying without you this holiday season, there’s plenty you can do to keep him safe during his journey. With the help of an Unaccompanied Minors program offered by the airline, your child can fly alone successfully and safely.
Before booking the flight, you should consider timing.
"It’s important to book an early flight," says Captain Kathi Hurst, a pilot for United Airlines. "Some kids have connecting flights and with the unpredictable winter weather, a morning flight offers more opportunities for contingency plans."
When you call for a reservation, ask about the Unaccompanied Minors program with your airline. While these programs are usually required for children under 12 and are option for children over 12, nothing does a better job at keeping your kids safe.
"In the off chance there is an issue with a rerouted flight or cancellation, being a part of the Unaccompanied Minors program ensures more officials are aware of the kids and can watch out for them," says Hurst, also a Chicago mom.
At the airport, you may find there is a bevy of paperwork involved for the parent or guardian taking the child to the airplane. You may be asked for identification to be allowed past security. Usually one guardian is asked to stay with the child through security and up to the gate, where the child is transferred to the flight attendants.
On the plane, Unaccompanied Minors are usually seated together and must report their movements to the flight attendants, even if they need to use the bathroom.
"Everyone at Southwest Airlines was very cautious," says Krumin. "It was a great and unbelievable experience for us and Robert."