Air Travel Rules for Minors

Navigating through airports and getting through security is challenging. Adding children into the mix further complicates the process. Parents should plan ahead, tell children what to expect and arrive early. All luggage, diaper bags, backpacks, strollers and car seats pass through the x-ray machine. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers inspect anything too large to pass through the machine.

Small Children

Small children are safest in a child restraint system (CRS), especially during turbulence or an emergency. It must be less than 16 inches wide to fit in the seat. Place the restraint in a window seat in a non-exit row. Many airlines offer discounts for children under the age of two.

Children who weigh between 22 and 44 pounds can use a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved harness restraint.

To keep him occupied, airlines recommend packing a bag of snacks and toys for the child.


If a minor is unable to stand or walk, a security officer conducts a pat-down search. He will also inspect her equipment.

The TSA recommends that parents tell officers if the child may become upset due to the disability. TSA's website states you should, "Offer suggestions on how to best accomplish the screening to minimize any confusion or outburst for the child."

Unaccompanied Minors

To allow an unaccompanied minor between the ages of 5 and 14 to fly, airlines require paperwork that can include the child's name and age, medical issues, the name of the individual to whom the child can be released and other information. In addition to the ticket price, you must pay an escort fee. An airline representative escorts the child from the plane and releases her to the adult you named with proof of identification.

Flights requiring connections have added restrictions. Typically, children under the age of 7 are prohibited from all but nonstop flights. Southwest Airlines prohibits connecting flights for all minors under the age of 12. They must be 15 and older on U.S. Airways and JetBlue.

Older teens can fly without an escort. Individual airlines set the exact age limits. Typically, those 15 and older are safe to fly alone. On international flights, all children under the age of 17 must have a signed document from a parent or guardian providing permission, the child's destination and the expected length of stay.

Provide minors with cash for incidental expenses, emergencies and telephone calls.


Avoid sending a minor on the final flight of the day. In the event of delays or cancellation, there is a better chance of catching another flight.

If the worst-case scenario occurs and the minor is stranded for a period of time, airline personnel contact the parent or guardian on the contact form and the person responsible for picking him up. An airline employee continues monitoring him until the next flight boards.