One of the consequences of relocating after a divorce is the problems you can face getting a child back and forth for visitation when the other parent lives hours away. Fortunately, the airlines are well-aware that many children will be flying solo — especially during the upcoming holiday season.
Here are some of the most important things you need to know in advance — before you book your child’s holiday flight:
1. It is going to be more expensive.
Most airlines have a program for unaccompanied minors on their flights. This basically consists of a crew member taking charge of your child to make sure that he or she safely gets to his or her destination.
However, you have to pay for that crew member’s time, and that’s not an insignificant cost. For example, United Airline’s unaccompanied minor service — which is not optional — costs $150 each way. Make sure you plan for the expense in your budget.
2. There are restrictions on minors who fly alone.
You can’t send a child under 5 years of age alone on a flight. You also can’t put him or her in the company of an older sibling — even if that sibling is 15-years-old and perfectly capable of shepherding a younger sibling.
In addition, you may have to find a direct flight to your child’s destination. Many airlines won’t allow an unaccompanied minor under certain ages to change planes along the trip.
3. Help your child pack for the trip.
This is one time you don’t want to allow your child to exert an independent streak and pack his or her own bag.
Make sure that you pack your child’s carry-on (a backpack might be best) with snacks, travel documents, emergency phone numbers and something for in-flight entertainment.
4. Make sure that your child knows what to expect.
Talk through the whole process of the trip with your child. Go over everything your child can expect to happen. Make sure that your child isn’t harboring any hidden fears about the flight or the trip in general.
Child custody and visitation issues can be complicated to sort out. If an issue erupts over the holiday visitation schedule or your move, don’t try to handle the situation on your own. An attorney can protect your rights and help negotiate a fair agreement.