No airline will allow a child under the age of 5 to travel alone, although some will allow a child under 5 to travel with a companion as young as 12. Most airlines will not allow a child under the age of 8 to take a flight that requires changing planes to make a con-nection. Any child under 12 who has to make a connecting flight will be escorted by an employee of the airline. Southwest Airlines does not allow any child under the age of 12 to take connecting flights. Although children between the ages of 12 and 15 are not automatically escorted, the parent or guardian making the travel arrangements can ask the airline to assist the child.
Accompanied minors usually pay half or reduced fare when flying. Unaccompanied minors are required to pay full fare, as well as an additional service fee of between $30 and $75 each way (the price is higher when the child has to make a connection). On most airlines, that fee will cover more than one minor traveling within the same party.
Airlines usually require that a parent or guardian fill out a form with all relevant information about the child. While the airline does not generally take actual guardianship of the child during the flight, one of the personnel is generally assigned to look after the child. Solo child travelers usually have to wear a button or badge to make them easy to identify by airline staffers.
Some children are required to take medication. Airline personnel will not dispense medication to the child, but if the child is able to administer his or her own medication, the airline will allow the child to carry that medicine. The form that parents and guardians fill out asks for a list of medications or other medical issues that may be important for staffers to know.
Most airlines will not allow minors to take the last flight of the day. The reason is that, air travel being subject to such unforeseen circumstances as weather, there is always a chance of delay. If a late evening flight is delayed, it means passengers will probably have to wait until the next morning to catch another flight. A stranded child clearly presents more difficulties to the airline than a stranded adult.