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Frequently asked questions about children traveling alone

Can my child travel by himself to international destinations?

Children who are eligible to travel alone or with unaccompanied minor service may travel to an international destination, but please consider the maturity of your child when planning unaccompanied travel on an international flight. Nonstop flights within the U.S. are more appropriate for children with less maturity. If your child is traveling to an international destination, please verify international documentation requirements with the departure and destination countries and confirm any requirements with your local United Customer Contact Center before the day of travel.

Can my child, who is between the ages of 16 and 17, use United's unaccompanied minor service?

For tickets purchased on or after December 14, 2015: Unaccompanied minor service is not available for children over 15. Children ages 16 and 17 may travel alone on any United or United Express flight.

For tickets purchased before December 14, 2015

Children ages 12-17 can use United’s unaccompanied minor service on eligible nonstop flights, or they can travel as adults without unaccompanied minor service, on any United or United Express flight. If they will be using United's unaccompanied minor service during their travel, they can only be booked on eligible nonstop flights operated by United or United Express. United does not offer unaccompanied minor service on connecting flights or to or from other airlines' flights.

What information do I need to provide the airline when my child travels unaccompanied?

United requires the following information in order to accept an unaccompanied child for travel, and the best time to provide it is when you make your child's reservation:

  • The full name of the person bringing the child to the airport.
  • The home, cell and/or business telephone number and address of this person
  • The full name of the person meeting the child at his or her destination
  • The home, cell and/or business telephone number and home address of the person designated to meet your child

What information does the person meeting my child need to possess?

Make sure that whoever is meeting your child knows all the relevant details of the child’s itinerary and is able to contact you or the airline to confirm the arrival time of the flight. The person meeting your child should also have identification that exactly matches the information that you supplied the airline. You should have that person arrive early at the airport and contact you when they arrive. If you cannot confirm their arrival at the airport, have an alternate person meet your child and notify the airline.

How early should I arrive at the airport?

Allow for at least 30 extra minutes (in addition to regular airport processing times shown for your airport). The airport service agent working your child's flight will verify the information in your child's reservation or place the information in the reservation if it's not already there. In addition, the agent will complete the Young Traveler form attached to your child's ticket jacket.

You will receive a security checkpoint pass which will permit you to pass through security with your child. It is then necessary for you to wait at the gate until the time of departure. Please note that due to security restrictions at some airports you may not be permitted to enter the gate area. In such a case, your child will be escorted by a United representative.

Unaccompanied children are very special United customers, and we invite them to board ahead of other customers during priority or courtesy boarding. These extra few minutes on the aircraft prior to everyone else boarding provides the flight attendants with the opportunity to:

  • Personally greet your child
  • Introduce your child to the cockpit, time permitting
  • Take your child to their seat and assist with carry-on items
  • Orient your child to the safety features of the aircraft
  • Point out lavatory locations

Can I go on board the plane with my child?

You'll be asked to say goodbye in the terminal area because the loading bridge and the aircraft are secured areas and access is restricted to ticketed customers only. A United representative will escort your child on board and introduce him or her to the flight attendants. United recommends a parent or guardian stay at the airport in the immediate gate lobby area at least until the child's plane takes off. Planes sometimes return to the gate for various reasons, so you may want to stay for a while after the plane departs the gate and is airborne.

What can I do to help my child feel more comfortable during the flight?

Take the time to explain to your child what he or she can expect to happen during the flight, particularly if your child is flying for the first time. Please make sure your child knows who will meet him or her at the final destination and, if appropriate, give your child a copy of that person’s contact information so the child can contact that person in the event of a delay, cancellation or other problem. Pack some snacks – avoiding food items that are gels or liquids – and a book or other quiet activity for your child to have during the flight and/or any layover, and consider a small amount of cash for incidentals. Finally, discuss appropriate behavior with your child. This includes the child’s own behavior, as well as the behavior of other passengers. Your child should know to inform a flight attendant or other airline representative immediately if he or she experiences any behavior on the part of another passenger that makes the child feel uncomfortable or fearful during the travel.

Will my child receive food during the flight?

On flights that offer food for purchase, your child will receive one complimentary food item. In case your child is on a flight where food is not available for purchase, you may want to also pack some snacks for your child to enjoy during the flight. Please avoid packing snacks that consist of gels or liquids in quantities larger than 3.4 ounces as such items may be allowed on board, but must be declared to the TSA at the security checkpoint for screening.

Where can I meet my child upon arrival?

An airline representative will meet your child upon landing and escort them to meet the person designated to pick them up as follows:

  • For all U.S. domestic flights and select international flights that have immigration and customs preclearance at the departing airport: You can obtain a “gate pass” at the United Ticket Counter in order to proceed through security to the arrival gate to meet your child. Arrival gate information is available on the United App or at

    Note: For late-night flight arrivals when the TSA Security Checkpoint is closed, you will meet your child at the United baggage claim assigned to the flight.

  • For international flights: If your child is traveling on a flight that requires International Customs/Immigration clearance, you will meet your child in the greeting area on the arrivals level outside baggage claim.

We recommend that you explain to your child in advance that it is important to wait for a uniformed airline representative to escort them after their flight arrives. Older children may feel capable of navigating through an airport alone, but failure to follow United’s unaccompanied minor policies can cause unnecessary anxiety for both your child and those responsible for your child and may place your child at risk.

What if my child’s travel is affected by delays, cancellations or other problems?

It can be very stressful when flights do not operate as planned, especially for unaccompanied children. In the case of weather or other delays and cancellations, United will contact you or the person designated to meet your child at his or her final destination. You can also track the status of the flight on Advise your child to remain with a United representative at all times. Consider giving your child a calling card or teaching him or her how to make collect calls so he or she can reach you.

My child is on medication; how is this handled?

United representatives are not allowed to administer medication to any passenger. If your child has a condition that requires medication, please consult with your physician before making your reservations. They may feel that it would be best to postpone travel until medication is no longer needed and/or they may be able to recommend a different dosage for the day your child travels so that medication is not necessary during the travel period.

Does United allow my child to carry a pet in the aircraft cabin?

No, in-cabin pets are not permitted to travel with your child; however, United can assist in transporting your animal.