Custody and Visitation: Traveling Children

We at the Schneider Law firm understand the difficulties associated with shared custody agreements, especially for families that live in different states.

This insightful article from the New York Times addresses one of the many issues of interstate familial arrangements – child air travel. In its current state, the American Air Travel industry lacks a system designed to care for children unaccustomed to advocating for themselves. “Because there are no Transportation Department regulations regarding travel by unaccompanied minors, airlines create their own policies, beginning with who can fly, which is why experts emphasize the importance of educating children before they embark on a trip.”

Airline Requirements

Although many American carriers offer services for children designated solo fliers like select seats and airline escorts on and off the plane, and to connecting gates, there is no uniform system in place. While most airlines consider solo fliers from the ages of 5 to 15 as unaccompanied minors, the age limits and the additional fees associated with unaccompanied minors varies from carrier to carrier. Additionally, different fees and services may apply to multiple children traveling together. For example, children that travel together are usually promised a seat close to the front of the plane and airline agents will often escort minors to their seats, again when they deplane, and to connecting gates. Despite the services offered, not all flights are available to children traveling alone and many carriers limit younger children to nonstop or direct flights.

Parental Considerations

Parents of departing children with government-issued identification can obtain a pass that allows them to escort their child to the gate. The pass, which may be obtained at the check-in desk, may require them to stay at the airport until the plane has taken off, and most experts advise doing so in case the plane experiences a mechanical problem or delay and must return to the terminal. Likewise, most airlines will similarly issue a gate pass to the person designated to pick up the child, allowing the person to meet the child at the arrival gate.

Travel experts have recommended that parents prepare their children for flight as they would themselves, including sending them off with identification such as a birth certificate or a passport. Parents are also advised to pack a water bottle to fill after passing through security; some form of entertainment, like books or a tablet computer with an extra battery booster; a fleece or sweater for chilly flights; and food.

Experts also suggest that in the lead-up to the flight, parents should position it as an adventure to ease anxieties. Parents should involve their children in planning flights to make them feel empowered and excited. Finally, just because children can fly solo doesn’t mean all of them should.

If you have any questions or concerns as it pertains to [Texas Family Law], feel free to contact us at (817) 755-1852.