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Every summer, thousands of children fly alone for the purpose of visiting family, friends or summer camp.
Though the overwhelming majority of these instances go smoothly, undoubtedly there will be at least one child who misses his flight or wanders around an airport for a few hours because of a delay.
While the public's first instinct is often to blame the airline, the fact is that it may not be responsible for mix-ups when children fly alone.
There are no official regulations regarding what the airline industry has dubbed "unaccompanied minors." Instead, each airline has its own rules determining who can fly, how they can fly, and what kind of supervision is provided.
At this juncture, most airlines only promise to safely get your child on the flight and to the designated person at the other end.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Despite this, airlines are subject to common carrier liability, meaning that, under negligence law, they owe their passengers the highest duty of care. When children fly alone, that standard of care may be even greater.
What this means is that, despite contractual waivers, an airline may be held responsible for incidents that go above and beyond a missed flight.
In other words, should something happen on the flight, or with another passenger, it's possible that the airline will be held legally responsible.
Even though there is potential airline responsibility when children fly alone, it's best not to rely on overworked flight attendants. Instead, prepare your child so that he knows how to act when flying alone.