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Get comprehensive travel insurance as an under 18, with policies starting from just *
Can you fly alone under 18 years of age?
According to the airline industry, a passenger is classed as an adult at 16 years of age.
Children younger than 16 can still legally travel unaccompanied, but there are usually specific rules and procedure that need to be followed. Not all airlines will accept unaccompanied children younger than 14 years on their flights.
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How old do you have to be to fly alone?
Different airline companies will have different policies regarding age limits and restrictions. Here's a comparison of the most popular airlines and their rules regarding travel for unaccompanied minors:
|Airline||Minimum age for flying alone|
|British Airways||12 years||Available (required for minors between 5 and 12 years)|
|Virgin Atlantic||5-12 years (must complete unaccompanied minors form)||Available (can only be booked via telephone)|
|Ryannair||16 years||Not available (children under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult)|
|Flybe||12 years||Available (for children between 5 and 12 years)|
|EasyJet||14 years||Not available (childern under 14 must be accompanied by an adult)|
|Wizz Air||14 years||Not available (children under 14 years must be accompanied by an adul)|
|Aer Lingus||12 years (must complete the Form of Indemnity)||Not available|
|KLM||15 years||Available (for children between 5 and 17 years)|
|Lufthansa||12 years||Available (for children between 5 and 11 years)|
|Air France||12 years||Available (for children from 4 to 17 years)|
|Alitalia||14 years||Available (for children from 5 to 13 years)|
|Singapore Airlines||12 years||Available (mandatory for children between 5 and 11 years)|
|Emirates||15 years||Available (for children between 5 and 14 years)|
|Quatar Airways||15 years||Available (for children between 5 and 14 years)|
|Cathay Pacific||12 years||Available (for children between 6 and 17 years)|
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Unaccompanied minor policy and procedure by airline:
General Airline rules and regulations for unaccompanied children
1. Age limits
Children travelling alone are treated differently; depending on their age. For most airlines, the minimum age for an unaccompanied child is five years while the maximum age is twelve years. If the child is younger than the minimum age, they should travel with an adult.
Before you go to the airport, ensure that you carry all the necessary documentation because you might be asked to provide proof of the child's age in case they appear to be beyond the age limit.
2. Older children
If the child is older than the maximum age limit for the airline but below eighteen, they will also be allowed to travel. However, they usually won't quality for the unique services offered to the unaccompanied minors including;
- Having an escort to the airport
- Being allowed to board the plane early thus allowing them more time to get settled before the aircraft takes off
- Seating near the front of the plane
- Carrying a complimentary food item during the flight
3. Additional costs
There are other fees that are associated with the unaccompanied minor program. It is because of the extra attention your child will receive. The fees are usually higher when the child is taking an international flight, two or more unaccompanied children are traveling or if there is a connecting flight.
4. Identification requirements
All children under the age of eighteen are not required to provide identification to purchase a ticket, to get a boarding pass or to get past the security.
However, the adults who are responsible for the child must have the required identification. Most airlines require the government-issued photo ID. The person is also needed to fill the unaccompanied form and all the immigration documents at the airport. The following information is, however, necessary when making any reservation;
- The child's full names
- The child's address
- The relationship with the child
- Child's date of birth
- Information about the parents or guardians dropping off or picking up the child
- Alternative contact for a person in the destination
5. Escort and pick-ups of the child
If possible, parents and guardians are advised to escort their kids past the security to their seats in the plane. However, this may depends on the airline. Some will require parents to accompany their minors to the gate, and if this is the case, you will need to obtain an escort pass from the airline to get into the gate area. If that is not possible, the parent or guardian should make sure that there is a representative to escort the minor.
The person who is supposed to pick the child should be waiting at the gate before the aircraft arrives. In case there is no adult to pick the minor at the arrival airport, the airline might contact the person who was supposed to pick the child. If the airline has tried all alternatives and there is still no one to take responsibility, the minor is turned over to the local authorities.
The unaccompanied children with no escort are usually under the supervision of the airline. There are additional restrictions and requirements for such minors. This is the list showing the limitations that are common to most airlines.
- The minors are only allowed on nonstop flights
- The child must attain the maximum age if he or she has to change planes
- The unaccompanied children are not allowed on the last flight of the day for their destination
- The children are not allowed on any plane trip that involves a second carrier
- They should check in the airport earlier, usually sixty to ninety minutes before the departure
- Either they will pay adult fares, or there will be other additional costs
The only way to avoid all these restrictions is to avoid using the airline's unaccompanied minor program. This should only happen if you believe that the child is mature enough to deal with all types of airport situations such as flight delays and cancellations, lost and stolen goods or even personal safety.
Useful links for travelling under 18
If you found the tips and insights useful, then check out our other helpful articles on travelling as an under 18.
- Staying Safe as an Under 18 Travelling Alone
- Top 5 destinations for Solo Under 18 Travellers
- Using Your Electrics Abroad
- How To Save For Your Trip as an Under 18 Solo Traveller
- Is Couch-surfing Recommended for Under-18 Travellers?
- Under 18 solo travelling: Convincing your parents to let you travel
- Travel insurance for under-18s
- Interrailing travel insurance
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