At United, we understand just how important it is to provide a safe, comfortable, fun experience for children who are flying alone, whether they're going away to summer camp or visiting a family member. Our unaccompanied minor service, which is required for children ages 5-15, is designed to offer you peace of mind while we look after your child. They will have a unique experience onboard the aircraft, with benefits including:
- Seating near the front of the aircraft right in the center of the action, when available
- A complimentary food item on flights that offer food for purchase
- Pre-boarding at the beginning of the boarding process, offering extra time to get settled before takeoff
United's unaccompanied minor policy
Children ages 5-15 (as of the travel date) who travel without a parent, a legal guardian or someone who is at least 18 years old are considered unaccompanied minors and are required to use our unaccompanied minor service. These young travelers are subject to certain travel guidelines and requirements, including:
- Unaccompanied minors can only travel on nonstop flights operated by United or United Express®. Codeshare flights and other flights operated by our partner airlines are not eligible for unaccompanied minor travel.
- United does not offer unaccompanied minor service connecting to or from other airlines' flights.
- Children younger than 5 years of age are unable to travel as unaccompanied minors, even if they are flying with an older unaccompanied child.
- Unaccompanied minor service is not available for children ages 16 and older. Young adults ages 16 and 17 may travel alone on any United- or United Express-operated flight.
- A service charge of $150 for each direction of travel will apply for using the unaccompanied minor service.
When two or more children are traveling together
When two or more children are traveling together, the youngest child’s age – rather than the oldest – applies to the reservation and determines whether or not the child will need to travel as an unaccompanied minor. These young travelers are subject to additional travel requirements, including:
- Children younger than 5 years old will only be accepted for travel if they’re accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or someone who is at least 18 years of age or older.
- If the youngest traveler is 5 - 15 years old and the oldest traveler is 16 - 17 years old, the younger traveler is still considered an unaccompanied minor and will be required to use our unaccompanied minor service and adhere to the guidelines mentioned above.
To help everything run smoothly, we’ve outlined each phase of this journey – from the time you purchase the ticket through the actual day of travel – and have included a checklist and tips. We hope that the detailed information below will provide you with peace of mind each time your child travels alone.
Travel arrangements for unaccompanied minors can be booked in one of two ways:
Provide required information
To help ensure the safety of your child, we’ll need information about who is dropping them off and who will pick them up at their destination. It’s best to include this information when making your child’s reservation. If you can’t provide the details at booking for whatever reason, we recommend calling our United Customer Contact Center before their date of travel so you can be well prepared for departure.
Unaccompanied minors will be seated toward the front of the aircraft whenever possible – but not in designated exit rows – to simplify boarding and deplaning and make it easier for flight attendants to check on them during the flight. A United representative at a United Customer Contact Center will be happy to assist with seat selection.
Along with the ticket price, a service charge of $150 is collected for each direction of travel to cover the extra handling required when children travel alone. If you book on united.com, this charge will be added when you pay for your ticket. If you call the United Customer Contact Center to book, we'll also collect this charge when you pay for your ticket unless you prefer to pay later by contacting us prior to travel or during check-in at the airport.
When children and adults are traveling together on separate reservations
When children and adults are traveling together on separate reservations, the unaccompanied minor policy does not apply. Before the day of travel, call the United Customer Contact Center so a United representative can add the relevant information to each reservation. Please keep in mind that children traveling on a separate reservation will need to check in with a United representative at the airport, as online and mobile check-in aren’t available for children under 16 years old.
Even if your child is a seasoned traveler or has traveled alone before, we recommend using the following checklist to prepare for the trip:
- Write down important phone numbers in case your child needs to call you or another adult.
- Talk with your child about airport procedures such as going through security, finding the departure gate and boarding the airplane, so they know what to expect.
- Explain the importance of waiting for a uniformed United representative to escort them from the aircraft after they land. Older children may feel like they can navigate through the airport alone, but as part of our unaccompanied minor service, they are required to wait for a United representative so we can make sure they arrive safe and sound.
- If they are carrying any electronic devices, check that the devices are fully charged before you leave for the airport.
- Pack some books or games to keep your child busy during the flight.
- Some countries require travelers to complete an International Arrivals form prior to clearing customs and immigration at their destination. This form is distributed by flight attendants during the flight. To make it easier for your child to complete this form, please write down the answers for each line on a small sheet of paper and place it inside their passport. Visit the U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection website to see a sample form. Be sure to advise your child that if they have any questions, a United representative will be happy to help.
- Remind your child that the United representatives at the airports and onboard the plane are there to help make sure they have a safe, fun travel experience.
At the departure airport
On the day of your child's travel, you’ll want to allow for at least 30 extra minutes at the airport, in addition to the regularly suggested check-in and airport processing times. We want you to have enough time to check in, go through the security checkpoint and find the gate before boarding begins, so your child can board early.
- When you arrive at the airport, please check in with one of our United representatives. We're sorry, but online and mobile check-in aren't available for children traveling alone.
- We will verify the contact information listed in your child's reservation for the adults designated to drop them off and pick them up at the airport, or add this information to the reservation if it's not already there.
- We will give your child a wristband to wear so United agents and flight attendants can clearly identify them as an unaccompanied minor.
- Your child will receive a special unaccompanied minor envelope to keep important travel documents like boarding passes, young traveler forms, and their passport, baggage claim tickets and receipts, if applicable, safe and handy during their trip.
- You will receive a special customer service phone number to call if you have any questions after your child begins their travel.
Security and escorting your child
Whether or not you're able to escort your child to the departure gate will depend on where the departure airport is located.
- For all flights departing from the United States: You can obtain a "gate pass" at the United check-in counter that allows you to go through security with your child and escort them to the departure gate. When you get to the gate, introduce yourself to the United representative at the desk and tell them that your child will be traveling unaccompanied. You can then have a seat in the gate area to wait until it's time to board.
- For all flights departing from airports outside the United States: A uniformed United representative will meet you and your child at the United check-in counter. The representative will escort your child through security and customs to the departure gate.
Even if you are not able to take your child through security, you must remain at the airport until the flight has taken off.
When it's time to board, we'll invite your child on the aircraft ahead of other travelers during pre-boarding. The few extra minutes before general boarding give our flight attendants the opportunity to:
- Personally greet your child
- Introduce your child to the pilots, time permitting
- Take your child to their seat and help with stowing carry-on items
- Explain the safety features of the aircraft
- Point out lavatory locations
During the flight
Flight attendant check-ins
Flight attendants will check in with your child periodically throughout the flight. They will also be available by call button should your child have any questions or issues during the trip.
On flights that offer food for purchase, your child will receive one complimentary food item. However, you may also want to pack their favorite snack in their carry-on to enjoy during the flight. Please remember to avoid packing snacks made of gels or liquids larger than 3.4 ounces, as those items will be taken away by the TSA at the security checkpoint.
We offer different inflight entertainment options across our fleet, which vary depending on aircraft. To find out which entertainment options will be available on your child's flight, check the Inflight Amenities tab on the Flight Status information page on united.com or in the United app. This information is available within three days of departure. Please note that if the aircraft scheduled for your child's flight changes, the amenities available may also change.
Tip: If your child's flight offers personal device entertainment, please download the United app on their electronic device before you arrive at the airport. They will be able to access kids’ movies and other age-appropriate content through the personal device entertainment portal to enjoy during their flight.
At the arrival airport
Upon arrival, a United representative will meet your child and escort them to meet the person designated to pick them up as follows:
The designated adult meeting your child at the arrival airport will be required to show ID, so the United representative can verify their identity. The designated adult will also have to sign a release form indicating that they have accepted custody of your child.