How my Unaccompanied Minors travel safely
I think you will agree with me when I say allowing your child to fly unaccompanied for the first time is flat out nerve wracking. Airports being such a highly targeted spot for fanatics. Safety and security are parents number one concern for children traveling alone. So how on earth was I going to make the decision and let my children fly away – though only temporarily – from their safe and secure nest? How do we as parents get over our anxiety and allow ourselves the enrichment of our children’s curious minds, help build their self-esteem, give in to their desire for adventure or simply visit family, allowing them that feeling of accomplishment that they have traveled on their own? How was I going to let go without having a nervous breakdown? Sometimes I wondered if I was making my kids leave the nest before they even knew how to fly, figuratively speaking of course. It may sound overdramatic, but this was a tough one for me, something I spent months and months contemplating.
We have family in more than three different countries, all on the other side of the Atlantic from our home on the French Riviera. Plus they were going to be taken care of from check-in until they were handed over to the designated person picking them up at the end of the trip. What could go wrong? And how could I avoid an incident anyway were I traveling with them? And so goes the story booking 2 nonstop Unaccompanied Minor (UMNR) Service flights from Nice to JFK.
For a smoother flight, here are some tips I used for my kids for more peace of mind when Unaccompanied Minor travel:
- If possible book non-stop flights only. Some airlines allow unaccompanied minors on connecting flights and some do not. I found I had more peace of mind knowing there weren’t any connections on my kids’ flight from Nice to JFK– hence fewer chances of things getting mixed up. I booked with Delta because I’ve personally always had good experiences with them; plus their UM fees were more reasonable compared to Air France and British Airways.
- Keep in mind that each airline has their own restrictions, rules, and fees for UM passengers. But most of them do not book UM via their Internet sites, so you would have to call their reservations center for booking.
- Make sure your child has a mobile phone, and he’s able to call you international, you want to be able to reach your child when they land or vice versa. Likewise, it’s important that your child knows your number by heart, which is not always the case with today’s phoning mechanism -we almost never see the number we’re calling. I made it a point way before this trip that my kids learn my mobile number by heart just in case.
- Give your child a list of names and numbers of family members from both ends. Normally the airline will have the contact information of the person picking them up, but I found it reassuring knowing they had a list.
- International (and some domestic) flights do offer food and drinks, but my maternal instincts had me pack snacks and sandwiches. Also games, a tablet if possible, and their favorite magazines or books.
- Carry-ons should be limited to a medium size backpack – not too small so their things are not crushed, and not too big, so it can easily fit under the seat in front of them.
- If your UM is traveling from France, please note there is a new law in effect as of January 15, 2017 that requires all UM passengers have an authorization form cerfa 15646*01 (1 per UM) filled out accompanied with the parent ID that is checking them in at the airport. You can access the form (cerfa 15646*01) directly by clicking here
- If your child is traveling with you and you have different last names, it’s crucial to have a copy of their birth certificated for passport control. There have been many stories of these controls in France, so be prepared.
Here is a list of airlines that allow Unaccompanied Minors on International flights:
Air France (my favorite), American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Lufthansa, Japan Airlines.
Are you thinking of booking your child(ren) on a UM flight? Have you already done so? We would love to hear from you. Drop us a comment below!