By Christina VanGinkel
If you have decided that your child is old enough to travel to a relative’s house for a holiday, by himself or herself and not in accompany of an adult, and that the travel will require flying on an airline, there are additional factors that you need to consider. You will not only need to check the cost of tickets and flight schedules, but depending on the age of your child, you will also be required to find out any additional fees. There will also be additional steps for dropping off your child and for whoever is picking them up. While this all may be common knowledge to some people, to others like me, who do not routinely fly, or even at all, the fee aspect of it can be an unexpected expense, but considering what the fees cover though, I do not think that it is an unnecessary cost.
This all came about when we recently made the decision to allow our thirteen-year-old son to fly to his Aunt and Uncles house this upcoming spring. We checked the cost of tickets for around the dates we were interested in him going, and were actually pleasantly surprised at how affordable the round trip would be. That was until we went to make the actual booking. That was when we were notified that there would be an additional seventy-five dollar fee each way, for a total of one hundred and fifty dollars extra, above and beyond the cost of the flight.
What we soon learned though, was that this was not just some fair-weather fee added on to make parents think twice about allowing their young teenagers to fly alone. The fees are actually to cover the cost of making sure, than an airline employee is always aware of where your child is, especially during any layovers, where they will accompany your child throughout the layover. On the occasion that the layover is a lengthy one, an employee will bring them to a room at the airport where other unattended minors are, and where another airline employee is watching over the group pf them, making sure that they reach their connecting flights on time.
The fee is also to help cover the additional steps taken to make sure that the correct adult on the other end of the flight is retrieving your child. Jokingly, I called it a babysitting fee and considering what one can pay for a good sitter for an evening out, the fee is not that high. While most thirteen-year-olds would not normally require a sitter, considering the big world of airports and connecting flights, this is an exception when I would gladly pay for one. The airline will also make sure that your child is taken care of in the event of a cancelled or delayed flight. Most airlines will even arrange for overnight accommodations and meals in extreme circumstances, such as very bad weather causing massive delays and cancellations, and handle any rebooking issues that may arrive from such a set of circumstances coming up.
Airlines will also often pre board minors, introduce them to the pilot, show them where the bathrooms are located, and go over safety issues before the rest of the passengers are boarded. In essence, they will try to make the whole flight experience as un-stressful for all those involved, both the parent and the child.
While some airlines will allow you to decline these services for a child aged fifteen or older, unless they are by that time, seasoned travelers, or extremely mature for their age, I would recommend this service as money well spent. Just the knowledge that my child will not have to be in his connecting airport for any length of time by his self, or have to make sure that he reaches his connecting flight on time, again by his self, is well worth the additional one hundred and fifty dollars the total round trip flight will cost. If you are going to be allowing children to fly by themselves any time in the future, be sure to find out what the airline they are flying on does for you and them for the additional fees, and then be glad that they will not be all alone on their flight. I consider it money well spent.