Flying alone on a commercial airplane can be a great adventure for some kids, and a frightful nightmare for others. Parents need to recognize the difference and act accordingly.
Sometimes tender age is a factor with the child who is not ready to fly alone. It’s most likely when a very young one has not had time to be away from parents for any length of time. Strange surroundings, loud noises, needs to rush from place to place, and being thrust into a world of strangers can unnerve youngsters who are not ready for such an ordeal.
Airline employees are very considerate of children who fly alone. They make sure every need is fulfilled and absolute safety is assured. In addition to the training they receive concerning traveling with children, most have their own families and have ongoing practical experience in handling other children during air travel.
Beyond the possible fears a young child may have about flying, there should be some basic physical requirements parents must consider. Because of the current advantages of instant communications, the child should travel with a cell phone and be able to use it easily.
The child who travels by air alone should know how to read signs, understand instructions, and at all times during the journey know how to seek help from airline employees. Parents should supply the child with snacks, reading materials, toys and small audio and/or video electronics.
Children flying alone always wear ID tags provided by the airline, and parents should be certain the tag information includes home phone numbers. If regular medications are necessary, the tags should include specifics about dosages to be applied by flight attendants.
When the flight is scheduled several weeks in advance, parents should acclimate the child to the upcoming adventure. Talk with enthusiasm about the fun of being way up in the sky. Show photos or video of typical passenger flights. Use your imagination and arrange furniture to create a passenger cabin set-up, and anticipate flying several times as a fun game.
If the child will be met at the destination airport by a grandparent or other familiar face, talk about the anticipation of seeing that person again, and what activities are planned during the visit. Looking forward to an adventure may take some of the fear of leaving home and being alone on the journey.
You’ll know by talking with your child when flying alone will be acceptable. There’s a readiness factor that makes it obvious that children under age six are rarely mature enough to fly alone, except in cases of extreme family emergency. For older children, parents must use their best judgement to determine when the readiness factor has been attained.