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Kids flying alone?

Categories: Mommy Angst, Wanna Fight About It?


Two of my kids are flying — alone — across the country today. Flying alone with a change of planes usually isn’t a big deal for kids flying unaccompanied, because airlines insist that (for a fee) an airline employee take most kids to their next gate and make sure they get on the plane. But my kids are flying standby (their dad’s a pilot), which doesn’t guarantee two seats together for my two (14 and 10) and doesn’t actually guarantee any seats at all.

I’m about 85% okay with this, for a lot of reasons: they are seasoned travelers; they’ll be equipped with a cell phone for emergencies; they’ve been prepped with what to do if they get stuck at DFW; they did this once before; and last but not least, it’s what they need to do for us to see one another this summer.

I’m 15% not okay because, well, I’m a mom. I worry about things. Things happen in the wacky world of air travel. Kids get sent to the wrong destination. Or they’re forgotten, stranded.

Even though I’m only 85% convinced that my kids flying alone is a good idea (you never know when that plane is going to just fall right out of the sky — as improbable as it is, that remote possibility is a big part of my 15%) I was surprised how many parents voice vociferous concern about kids flying alone. ANY kids; theirs, mine, and especially yours.

Like these:

  • You have got to be kidding!! I would never in a million years allow my children to travel without an adult.
  • I’d be half out of mind with worry wondering if they had safely reached their destination, and that a family member was there at the gate to receive them — with all the flight delays and gate changes that so often occur. No. I would not allow it.
  • How many times have we heard on the news of kids being snatched traveling on a plane alone?

(Um, what? Did I miss something? Kids snatched from AIRPLANES?)

My favorite, though, was this one on another forum responding to a query about the wisdom of siblings age 11 and 5 flying together, from a person who clearly prefers an all-adult airplane and maybe took a few swigs of a double-shot Sarcasticini before commenting:

How nice for all the surrounding passengers that they get to parent your FIVE year old for free on a flight, and/or frustratedly listen to your kids squabble and/or cause problems with no recourse.

In all my years of flying, I have seen a lot of kids flying solo. For the most part, they sat quietly, chatting with seat-neighbors, or kept to themselves. The out-of-control ones were always with parents. Huh. (That last is a numbers game — way more kids fly with family than do alone — but still.)

Would you allow your child to fly solo? Have you already? At what age? Do you object to solo-flying kids being in your vicinity when you fly?

photo: Turek, Stock Xchng

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4 comments so far...

  • Would I? Yes. But not yet, she’s still too young and her mild autism makes her act even younger.

    Having been a solo-flying child, I’m fine with solo-flying children in my vicinity. I find they tend to be better behaved travelers than some of the *ahem* adults. There were two solo kids on our last flight - nary a peep from either. From the kid in back of us who three times threw his foot up onto my daughter’s seat getting her increasingly more agitated each time, his mom, sitting right next to him, said zip, zilch! I’d far rather fly with the kids in front again.

    Mich  |  August 12th, 2010 at 11:01 am

  • When I was in college, I was the seatmate of a nine year old girl flying to visti her father for the summer. She was amazing well behaved and very grown up - even more than most grown ups.

    Heather  |  August 12th, 2010 at 1:48 pm

  • Sure, if they had flown before. Well, not yet (they are 3), but once they became a little more confident and experienced in dealing with the unexpected.

    I agree with those who say that independent kids often behave better than some adults, and usually better than kids who are raised to be less independent. There are probably exceptions, but yeah - I used to travel a lot, and the only kids who ever acted like brats or a-holes were the ones traveling with adults.

    Interesting parallel - have you ever noticed that siblings fight / act up a lot more when they are “supervised” than when they aren’t? It’s hard to say why, but it’s been observed by many.

    SKL  |  August 12th, 2010 at 8:09 pm

  • Yes I would. My son is about to be three, but he has flew so far with his grandmother (from Panama to New Orleans with three hours layover), i am always panicking he will misbehave with her, but he does great (yes, more so than when we do the trip together). He has done the trip eight times already (yes in almost 3 years) and he knows to put his sit belt and stay put until the light goes off.

    My nephews (twins 10 yo) just flew from Amsterdam to Panama back and forth alone (and is not the first time), i think that if your child is used to flying he / she will be ok (of course the age does matter)

    Mari  |  August 16th, 2010 at 11:27 am