Advice For Teens Flying Alone?

Some good advice here. The best thing is to prepare him for handling common and normal situations - not wild King/Koontz fantasies.

Teach them what to do if the first flight is delayed. Teach them what to do if the connecting flight (if applicable) is delayed. Teach them what to expect if a flight is re-routed. Drill into their heads that the TSA has absolutely no sense of humor. Ensure that they have a contact at their destination. Make sure that both you and the contact are informed of any delays or changes as soon as possible.

They should stay in crowded areas, and tell them to be very, very wary of strangers who might try to engage them in conversation. This does not mean projected all your CNN-induced fears onto them. Someone touching their peepee is much, much less likely than someone trying to scam or steal their money / iPods / Gameboys / cellphones.

Thanks, everyone! I will print this out for them. And make sure that they know exactly what gates to go to, etc. Extra money, food, water, phones. No joking around!

I’m feeling a lot better about the whole thing after reading this!

I flew alone when I was young all the time. Started when I was about 9 and continued through adulthood (my parents lived in different states.)

By the time I was 12, I was an old pro, having dealt with delays and even cancellations! I could actually give travelling advice to adults when they got flustered!

It may be a little more difficult now that they don’t let non-ticketed people past security but it should still be fine. Just tell them to keep their tickets and boarding passes on them at all times, to not leave their things unattended ever, and to go straight to the gate and hang out there till the plane boards. Can’t get into too much trouble if you stick to that.

Connecting flights are a breeze and an hour should be perfect. Tell them that if for whatever reason they miss the connecting flight (due to a delay of the previous flight or whatever) to not panic, just go straight to the ticket counter and explain the situation and to tell them they’re a minor travelling alone. The airline people should take good care of them.

This reminds me of when I went on the French class trip to Paris my freshman year in high school (I would have been 13). Our teacher somehow got us to scatter and left us on our own to get back to our hotel using the metro. I didn’t think much of it at the time although I was somewhat nervous about it. We all made it back, no harm done.

Later my mom said, on the Metro at 13?? Wow, like she was proud of it or something. But as an adult I think, what was our teacher thinking?? She was responsible for us and she let us alone to find our way? There was no way she could have shadowed us because we were all separated.

Having divorced parents who lived on opposite sides of the country, I was a seasoned veteran of flying alone (even flying alone to Germany when I was ten from Los Angeles).

Hour should be enough time, and at 15, he probably should know he way decently enough around the airport. If he does miss his flight, this is what will happen:

If it’s the airline’s fault, they will either put him on the next flight out, or (worst case scenario) they will pay for a hotel and give him a voucher for free breakfast the next morning and put him on the first flight out the next day. It will be entirely his responsibility that he wakes up and makes it to the shuttle on time. This scenario really sucks because all your stuff is still at the airport so I remember being like 14 with $20 in my wallet and I was so bored and stuck in Dallas I just bought a calling card and called my friends all night which left me no money for food so I was pretty hungry.

If it’s his fault he misses his flight, then he is SOL. Probably have to fork over a few extra bucks to get on the next flight, so maybe you should give him extra cash in case or a credit card.

At 15, he should be old enough to fly alone without an escort, and if he feels like he is mature and responsible enough to handle it alone, then that is a good sign that he really is ready.

Don’t forget to give him lots of money, the food at airports is very expensive and they no longer serve food on most domestic flights and he’ll get hungry sitting on the plane. Also, some flights charge $3 to $5 for headsets, which are important to listen to music or watch the movie. $50 as mentioned earlier would not be inappropriate.

And your Expedia printout or whatever should tell you what gate he’ll arrive at in Dallas and where he needs to go for the next flight.

IME you can change planes in five minutes if necessary. It’s only when you have to go through the security perimiter that you have to allot two or three hours to get aboard a plane.

I recently put a 13 year old on an international flight. The airline had a standard policy for “UM” -Unaccompanied Minor-- passengers, which seems to be the same for all airlines.

The have different procedures for different ages. Under 13 required an adult at each end to sign a form.
Call the airline you’re using, and ask what’s up.

I’d only add: Have him double check his connecting gate when he gets off the plane in Dallas. Gate assignments often change from what is originally posted.

Memorial Day is Monday, no? If you want, email me the flights (email in profile or try wasnov05 / at / gmail . com - one of my toss-off addresses). I work 0930 to 1730 EDT and would be quite happy to provide alternate flight information in case of missed connections, or up to the minute flight info if it is on AA (other airlines update less freequently as AA has direct access to SABRE).

I’ll probably be popping by the office on the weekend as well, so any connection questions or UMR (unaccompanied minor) rules that the airline has I can easily look up.


I think your children will be just fine. But one tip I’d add to all the excellent advice already given is that if they’re in any doubt, they should find someone in a uniform - any uniform - and ask.

And one safety rule: do not wander about on the tarmac; follow the herd.

I would think if he ever got onto the tarmac, he would have more than enough help coming his way.

As someone who flew Christchurch-Auckland-Los Angeles-London alone at the age of 16, I wanted to say all of WhyNot’s advice is spot-on. I’d also made a couple of domestic flights on my own around the same age, and all I can say is:
It really isn’t that big a deal. Get on the plane, read a book, get off at the other end. It’s no different from taking a bus or train, when you get down to the nitty-gritty of it.

A good book is a must, or at least spare batteries for the Ipod/NintendoDS/PSP/Whatever your kids use for entertainment… and even though I don’t live in the US, flying AZ-TX-HI does seem to be going the wrong direction, unless there are stopovers in Cairo and Hong Kong on the way. :smiley:

“You want fries with that?”


And really, don’t worry about other people. Getting frisked by security five minutes earlier really takes people out of the molesting mood. Airports are high security, you know nobody has weapons, everyone’s ID is easy to discern, they can’t really get in and out easily and they’ve got a plan ride on their mind. He’s much safer there than at the local McDonalds.

I don’t know about the airports under discussion here, but at many airports - including the one at which I work - it’s common to walk from the terminal to the plane. I may stick my head outside the hangar doors, but I sure as hell don’t step outside them.

I’ve flown alone when I was about that age.When I was about 17 and I damned near missed my flight while I window shopped at various airport stores, plus I was (actually, still am) stubborn about asking for directions.

My advice is that when they land they try to find where their connecting flight boards at as soon as possible. That should be the first thing they do. Probably shouldn’t take anymore than 15 minutes to find the waiting spot. The next 45 minutes they can goof off and get food or whatever. But not before they’ve found where they need to go.