Flying can sometimes be a stressful experience even for fully grown adults, so surely it must be doubly so for kids flying without their parents or other grownups they’re familiar with. That’s why it’s especially important to make the proper arrangements when your kid is flying on their own. Here are a few tips for parents:
Contact the airline to reserve the unaccompanied minor service
Many airlines offer a service for unaccompanied minors, where the airline staff takes responsibility for the child’s safe and comfortable travel to the destination. The service usually costs extra, and you can reserve it through the airlines’ customer service or through a travel agent.
The exact terms of the service vary between destinations and airlines.
The exact terms of the service vary between destinations and airlines. For instance, all children under 15 flying alone to or from the US need to use the unaccompanied minor service. The Finnish airline Finnair requires it for under 11-year-olds on foreign flights (it’s also offered but not mandatory for 12 to 17-year-olds). For domestic flights, the rules are somewhat more lax.
Make sure to reserve the unaccompanied minor service when booking the flight, so the airline can inform you of the specific instructions for the flight in question.
As a rule, the Unaccompanied Minor service does not cover stopovers between flights that operated by different airlines. If, however, your child is changing between flights operated by the same airline – such as from a Finnair flight to a Finnair flight at Helsinki Airport – you may be able to order the service for the duration of the stopover as well. Always check with your airline for specific instructions when you order the tickets.
Reserve enough time for check-in at the airport
Make sure to reserve enough time for check-in at the airport. You are usually not allowed to check in unaccompanied minors online or at the automated check-in machines. Instead you should proceed to the check-in counter. This is so that the airline staff can go through important details about the flight and fill in a form which contains important information such as contact details for the child’s guardian and the person picking him or her up at the destination airport. The form usually also serves as the official agreement between the guardian and the airline about assisting the child during travel.
You can accompany the child to the gate
At Finnish airports, it’s possible for the parent to see their kid through security all the way to the gate, if the child’s boarding pass is marked with the unaccompanied minor status. If the flight is to a non-Schengen country, the accompanying adult also needs to go through border control and present their passport.
Unaccompanied children are usually seated first.
The airline staff will then help the child board the plane; unaccompanied children are usually seated first. The accompanying adult should stay at the airport until the plane has taken off.
Airline staff will ensure safe travel all the way to the destination
The airline or ground handling staff will take care of the minor throughout the flight and all the way to the arrivals hall. Your child will only be released into the care of the person you have nominated in advance, and the identity of that person will be verified before your child is handed over.