How Old Do You Have to Be to Fly Alone?

Age requirements and fees vary for unaccompanied minors. Some airlines allow children as young as 12 to fly alone.
Lee Huffman
By Lee Huffman 
Published
Edited by Meghan Coyle
Child drawing picture with crayons in airplane. Little girl occupied while flying in aircraft. Travel with family and kids. Blue sky and sun outside the window

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Parents typically want to travel with their children, but that isn't always possible. Your children may have to travel by themselves for a variety of reasons.

So, that leads parents to ask, "Can minors fly alone?" And, "How old do you have to be?"

The answer depends on the airline and the type of flight you want to purchase. Learn about the rules for each airline, how much they charge and what restrictions govern unaccompanied minor flights.

Why do children fly by themselves?

Here are a few of the reasons why your child may need to fly alone.

  • Financial. Plane tickets can be expensive, and some families may not be able to afford enough tickets for parents and children.

  • Divorced parents

  • Time off work. Parents may have difficulty getting time off work to travel with their children. Whether the child is off to camp, going to see family or other reasons, they may need to travel alone.

Which airlines allow unaccompanied minors to fly?

Flying as an unaccompanied minor is available on major carriers Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit and United Airlines.

At what age can you fly alone?

The minimum age to travel alone varies among airlines. While there are no specific federal laws on how old a child must be to fly alone, no major U.S. airline allows children under the age of 5 to fly by themselves.

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Unaccompanied minors may also travel internationally if they have a passport and meet the airline's requirements.

Depending on which airline your child is flying and their age, the airline may require them to fly nonstop or on a direct flight that doesn't require a plane change. As they get older, some airlines allow them to take connecting flights.

Once a child turns 15, most airlines allow them to fly alone without unaccompanied minor rules and fees. Some airlines allow children as young as 12 to travel without these procedures.

Child travel policies by airline

The travel policies for unaccompanied minors vary significantly by airline. Depending on your child's age and circumstances, your child may not be able to fly on your preferred airline.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines' Junior Jetsetters program is an unaccompanied minor service for young fliers aged 5 to 17 on domestic and international flights. It costs $150 each way per flight.

The service is optional for young adults ages 13 through 17 years old.

American Airlines

American Airlines’ unaccompanied minor service is required for children ages 5 to 14 traveling alone. Children ages 2 to 14 can travel as unaccompanied minors with someone who is 16 years and older.

The American Airlines unaccompanied minor fee is $150 each way (plus taxes) and must be booked over the phone. The fee also covers additional siblings on the same flight. It includes early boarding, kids-only lounges in hub cities, an airport escort and more.

There are different levels of restrictions based on your child's age:

  • 0 to 4 years: Cannot travel alone.

  • 5 to 7 years: Nonstop flights only.

  • 8 to 14 years: Nonstop flights and connecting flights through select hub cities.

  • 15 to 17 years: Unaccompanied minor service is optional.

You cannot use this service on code-share or partner-operated flights, the last flight of the day or overnight connecting flights.

Delta Air Lines

For a Delta unaccompanied minor fee of $150 each way, up to four children ages 5 to 14 can travel together as unaccompanied minors. Minors between the ages of 15 and 17 can also use this service, but it is not required. With this service, Delta provides an employee escort and special amenities for children during their trip.

At select airports, children also have access to the Delta Sky Zone. This kids-only lounge featuring video games and snacks is a secure area for children to relax between flights.

Unaccompanied minors receive a bar-coded wristband that tracks their journey. Parents are allowed to accompany their children through airport security to the gate area until their departure.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines eliminated unaccompanied minor travel for children under the age of 15 in 2018. All children under 15 must travel with an accompanying adult to fly with Frontier Airlines.

Children ages 15 and older are treated as adults when flying Frontier. They do not receive special accommodations or airline escorts like those available with other airlines.

JetBlue Airways

Travelers between the ages of 5 and 13 are considered unaccompanied minors with JetBlue. Under the JetBlue unaccompanied minor rules, they can take only nonstop flights.

Additionally, there can be a maximum of three unaccompanied minors on each flight. So, you may not be able to pick certain flights if there are already too many unaccompanied minors on that flight. There is a fee of $150 each way for each child for this service.

Once children reach their 14th birthday, JetBlue allows them to travel alone without restrictions.

Southwest Airlines

Children ages 5 to 11 are required to book an unaccompanied minor ticket on Southwest. Parents can book these tickets online, over the phone or at the airport ticket counter.

The Southwest unaccompanied minor fee is $100 each way per child and due at booking. These fees are refundable if the minor does not travel or if they're later joined by an accompanying passenger age 12 or older.

Parents can get a gate pass from the Southwest ticket counter to bring their children through security and deliver them to their departure gate. At the gate, the child receives an unaccompanied minor lanyard that holds their paperwork and must be worn throughout the duration of their flight.

Unaccompanied minors cannot travel on connecting flights. They must fly nonstop or on a flight that does not require a change of planes. These travelers also cannot travel on flights that require an overnight connection.

Passengers 12 and older are able to travel as "Young Travelers" on Southwest. While Southwest allows these younger passengers to travel alone, parents should consider whether their child is capable of navigating the airport by themselves, dealing with flight disruptions and other scenarios they may face.

Spirit Airlines

The Spirit unaccompanied minor fee is $150 and its policy is as follows:

  • 4 Years and Younger Children must travel with another guest at least 15 years of age.

  • 5-14 Years children can fly on direct flights only and require booking the unaccompanied minor service.

  • 15 Years and older guests are not required to have Unaccompanied Minor service, but it is an option.

Young fliers are offered a snack and drink as part of the service.

United Airlines

On United Airlines, unaccompanied minor service is required for children ages 5 to 14 and is optional for passengers ages 15 to 17. These tickets can be purchased online, over the phone or at the airport.

At the airport, you'll check your child in at the airport ticket counter, where they'll receive a special wristband and envelope for their travel documents. Parents can get a gate pass at U.S. airports to walk their children to the gate.

To use the unaccompanied minor service, children must be booked on a nonstop United or United Express flight. The fee is $150 each way for up to two kids, $300 for up to four kids and $450 for up to six kids.

Comparison of unaccompanied minor fees by airline

This chart summarizes the ages and fees for unaccompanied minor travelers.

Airline

Fees

Alaska Airlines

$150 each way per child.

American Airlines

$150 each way per child.

Delta Air Lines

$150 each way for up to four children.

Frontier Airlines

Does not allow unaccompanied minors.

JetBlue Airways

$150 each way per child.

Southwest Airlines

$100 each way per child.

Spirit Airlines

$150 each way per child.

United Airlines

$150 each way for up to two kids; $300 each way for up to four kids; $450 each way for up to six kids.

The bottom line

Even if you cannot travel with your child, it is still possible for them to travel alone. If you're considering allowing your child to travel without you, you may wonder, "How old do you have to be to fly alone?"

While no major U.S. airline allows children under the age of 5 to travel solo, the rules and fees vary considerably for children ages 5 to 17. In some cases, children as young as 12 years can fly without any restrictions.


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