While thousands of children flying alone are making their way across the country in the next few months, somewhere on the ground they will be matched by thousands of fretting parents.
Every summer there's at least one story about an unaccompanied minor wandering off of an airplane or exploring an unknown airport, but the fact is that the number of incidents concerning children flying alone is minimal.
Even so, for peace of mind and safety, there are a few things you can do to make a solo flight go smoother--for both you and your child.
First, prepare your child. Talk him through the expected day, including what might happen on the flight. Also be sure to explain that he must listen to the flight attendants, and that if he has any questions or needs something, to ask one for help.
Second, book earlier, non-stop flights. While earlier flights tend to suffer from less delays, non-stop flights are key to your child's safety. Plane changes and airports can be tricky, so it's best to avoid them altogether.
And thirdly, make sure to occupy your child. Airline employees won't watch your child's every move, so be sure to pack enough books, games, toys and snacks to keep him occupied before and during the flight. Hopefully if he has everything he needs, he won't wander off or cause problems.
In the end, there's only so much you can do to ensure the safety of children flying alone. But if you properly prepare your child and believe that he is mature enough to fly solo, then the chances of a safe flight are pretty good.