Unaccompanied Minors FAQ
Written by Adrian Tupper
Based on information found on the websites of airlines departing from Edinburgh Airport and some other airlines frequently used by travelers based in Edinburgh.
Last updated 2 Jul 2003
Unaccompanied minors have traditionally been welcomed on flights. Children visiting relatives or even returning home from boarding schools have benefited from the excellent service offered by the airlines. However in these changing times we cannot take it for granted that our children can be sent off safely to their granny in Lewis, in England or indeed further afield. This FAQ attempts to clarify matters regarding the carriage of unaccompanied minors and is a useful guide to parents and those planning trips for children.
The "flag carriers" tend to have the best policies for unaccompanied minors, although there may be an additional cost involved. Budget airlines in general do not permit unaccompanied minors. The age at which a minor is allowed to travel unaccompanied varies from airline to airline. As always, check the details and make arrangements at the time of booking *not* at check-in. Below the short FAQ is a list of airlines and their policy regarding carriage of unaccompanied minors. Of course, children are not "unaccompanied" if they are being supervised by airline staff and we use the term to mean that they are not travelling with a parent, guardian or responsible (as defined by each airline) friend or relation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the general policy of airlines regarding unaccompanied minors?
A: Policies vary considerably. Please refer to each airline in the section below.
Q: Which airlines do not allow unaccompanied minors?
A: Some of the budget airlines have a minimum age for unaccompanied travel which excludes younger children. This is typically 14 years old. Please refer to each airline in the section below.
Q: Is there an extra charge for an unaccompanied minor?
A: Not usually. However Icelandair, Lufthansa, SAS and Virgin Express charge a small fee.
Q: At what age can an older child accompany a younger child?
A: Policies vary. Certainly by age 18 there is no restriction but some airlines allow 16 year olds to accompany minors.
Q: Some of the airlines in your section below do not give the information I am looking for?
A: The information below has been obtained from the web sites of the airlines concerned soon before the date at the top of this FAQ. Where airlines do not disclose their policy, please contact them directly by visiting the "contact" section of their site.
Q: Is the information likely to change?
A: Yes. As airlines take more of a "budget" perspective it is likely that services will become more restrictive or a charge will be added. Always check with the airline before booking your fares.
Q: Sometimes you say that a minor may travel unaccompanied or accompanied by an older passenger. What's the difference?
A: There are strict procedures regarding unaccompanied minors. Relevant forms are required as is identification of the person collecting the child at the destination airport. Each airline will advise these conditions at the time of booking.
AER ARANN www.aerarann.ie
No information provided.
AER LINGUS www.aerlingus.com
Call Aer Lingus' reservations department.
AIR CANADA www.aircanada.ca
5 to 11 year olds may travel unaccompanied, where they will be supervised by attendants for a nominal fee. 14 days' notice must be given.
AIR FRANCE www.airfrance.com
Children of all ages may travel unaccompanied on AF. Under 5s must use AF's paid escort service. Under 2s are subject to an infant fare and do not travel free of charge. 5 to 12 year olds may use AF's "UM Escort Service" which is provided free of charge.
AMERICAN AIRLINES www.aa.com
5 to 14 year olds may travel unaccompanied on United flights. 5 to 7 year olds are restricted to direct flights whereas 8 to 14 year olds may connect with other United flights or those operated by partner airlines. Minors may be accompanied by a responsible traveller aged 15 or over.
No children under the age of 16 may travel unaccompanied.
BMI (previously BRITISH MIDLAND AIRWAYS) www.flybmi.com
5 year olds may travel unaccompanied by arrangement and with a signed form which is handed over at check-in. IMPORTANT NOTE: bmi flights operated by bmiBaby, EDI to EMA and CWL at ethe time of writing, do not offer this service. Please refer to the bmiBaby notes, below.
14 year olds may travel unaccompanied. Under 14s must be accompanied by an adult.
2 to 11 year olds may travel unaccompanied or accompanied by a traveller 16 years or older. 2 to 4 year olds may only travel using Braathens' Escort Service for which an additional full adult fare is charged. At least 14 days' notice is required.
BRITISH AIRWAYS www.britishairways.co.uk
5 year olds may travel on BA's "Skyflier Solo Service". If the flight connects with another BA flight then the child must be 6 years old. Call BA on 0845 77 333 77 and request the Unaccompanied Minors Service".
BRITISH EUROPEAN www.flybe.com
12 year olds may travel unaccompanied. 6 to 11s may travel unaccompanied only by prior arrangement. Call reservations on 08705 676676.
No children under the age of 16 may travel unaccompanied.
14 year olds and over are classified as adults. They may travel unaccompanied but no assistance can be given. 12 and 13 year olds pay the adult fare but may only travel accompanied.
5-7 years are accepted unaccompanied for nonstop and direct flights only. 8-14 year olds are accepted unaccompanied for nonstop, direct and connecting flights. Travel will not be allowed on a Continental flight departing between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. unless travel is on international flights, flights operating out of Honolulu, or domestic flights of 2 hours or less. Unaccompanied Minors will not be accepted for travel on the last connecting flight of the day to their final destination, or if there is any possibility of a missed connection. Unaccompanied minors are not accepted on flight numbers between CO4475-CO4499 and CO4700-CO4879, operated by AMTRAK (this is train service) as a part of its codeshare agreement with Continental.
EASTERN AIRWAYS www.easternairways.com
6 year olds may travel unaccompanied by arrangement. A signed parental form must be presented at check-in.
14 year olds may travel unaccompanied. Under 14s must be accompanied by a passenger aged 16 or over.
EUROMANX AIRLINES www.euromanx.com
No information provided.
12 to 16 year olds may travel unaccompanied on GO by prior arrangement. Call 0870 607 6543. Under 12s must be accompanied by a passenger aged 16 or over. Since GO has been bought by easyJet it is likely that the rules of the two airlines will be merged in the near future.
5 to 11 year olds may travel unaccompanied or accompanied by a responsible person 12 years old or over. Unaccompanied 5 to 11 year olds, or 12 to 15 year olds if requested, may use the unaccompanied minors service at a cost of ISK 2000 (about £20).
5 to 12 year olds may travel on KLM's unaccompanied minors service. 12 to 18 year olds may travel alone but may use this service if they wish. Call KLM on 00 31 20 474 77 47.
Please refer to the details for British Airways, for whom Loganair provide all their services.
5 to 11 year olds may travel unaccompanied on LH but there is a charge of up to 57 euros per child or family group. A female member of LH's staff will look after the children at all times.
12 year olds may travel unaccompanied although 12 to 15s require an indemnity form signed by a parent or legal guardian which must be presented a check-in.
Children of all ages may travel unaccompanied with SAS. Under 5's use SAS's Escort Service where a trained minder accompanies the child at all times. Contact SAS or a travel agent for fees and for more information. 5 to 11 year olds may travel unaccompanied, supervised by SAS staff, or they may use the Escort Service. There is a SEK 250 surcharge for unaccompanied minors. The unaccompanied minors service is also available for 12 to 15 year olds. A completed form, signed by parent or guardian, must be handed in at check-in. SAS recomment booking early as there is a limit on the number of unaccompanied minors on all flights.
6 year olds may travel unaccompanied by prior arrangement.
SN BRUSSELS AIRLINES http://www.flysn.com
No information given.
2 to 11 year olds may travel unaccompanied bu prior arrangement although Swiss do not commit themselves to this policy. They only state that they are "generally happy" to offer the service.
5 to 12 year olds may travel unaccompanied on United flights. 5 to 7 year olds are restricted to direct flights whereas 8 to 12 year olds may connect with other United flights or those operated by partner airlines.
VIRGIN ATLANTIC www.virginatlantic.com
5 to 12 year olds may travel unaccompanied on Virgin Atlantic flights.
VIRGIN EXPRESS www.virgin-express.com
5 to 12 years old can be accepted to travel as an unaccompanied minor. Unaccompanied minors are not accepted on connecting flights. Children from 12 up to 18 years old are considered young adults and are not required to use the unaccompanied minor service. However, the unaccompanied minor service is available to them upon request of the parents or appointed guardian. A fee of EUR 25 (or local equivalent) per one way (from point of origin till final destination) will be charged for this service.
Airlines usually offer discounts for 2 to 11 year olds when travelling with an adult. Unaccompanied minors may have to pay the full adult fare. Policies vary from airline to airline. Some budget airlines do not offer a child discount even when accompanied.
Some airlines state that the responsible adult must stay at the departure airport at least until the flight has departed. Some state 20 or 30 minutes after take-off before the adult can leave, presumably in case the child somehow misses the flight or is prevented from boarding. Some airlines state that a signed form must be provided by the responsible adult. It is likely that all airlines will require this even though they do not explicitly say so.
The adult collecting the child at the destination will have to provide suitable identification and may have to follow security procedures to meet the child at the gate of arrival.
It costs an airline to look after an unaccompanied child. Therefore it is no surprise that those offering the cheapest fares are also those who are least likely to offer an unaccompanied minor service. There is a worrying trend here, best illustrated with bmi. Their EDI to EMA service has been transferred to bmiBaby which does not permit under 14s to travel unaccompanied. This route has instantly gone from one of the best to one of the worst for unaccompanied minors. BA's new ticket pricing structure does not offer child discounts on their cheapest fares.
Special mention must be made to the smaller airlines who still manage to offer an unaccompanied minors service such as British European, Eastern Airways and ScotAirways. However these airlines struggle to compete with larger rivals and we shall keep watch on any developments along the lines of bmiBaby, above.route.