As a teenager, I am considered an “adult” on most international carriers (and therefore have to pay the full fare) but am still on the edge of being considered a child on most US carriers. Therefore if I were to travel alone, I would have to pay a fee.
Last year, I flew unaccompanied for the first time on JetBlue Airways from Portland, Maine to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (which is JetBlue’s biggest hub). I was less than a year away from being considered an adult, but whatever. Rules are rules.
A lot of people seem to have questions on what traveling unaccompanied is like and there is not a lot of stuff online that answers those questions. In this post, I will try to capture the experience of traveling unaccompanied.
By the way, there will be a full review of this flight coming out in the near future, which will talk more about the service and the flight itself.
Extra Fees During Booking
Extra fees for unaccompanied minor services vary by airline. JetBlue charges $100 for every one way nonstop flight, while most of the legacy carriers charge $150.
Rules for Traveling Unaccompanied
Obviously the rules vary by airline, but there are some rules that are the same for all of them. Unaccompanied minors should be responsible for their own stuff and should be able to feel comfortable on an airplane without someone they know. In terms of the flights, different airlines offer different rules. JetBlue is probably the one of the airlines with the most restrictive and direct rules because they only offer the service on nonstop flights to children under 14 years old. Other airlines have different systems, which you can find on their websites.
Now to the actual experience. While checking in, I was not allowed to use the kiosk and had to be with my supervisor. The check in process took a bit longer than usual. I handed over the form that was signed by my mother. My supervisor showed his ID, and the agent gave my supervisor a “gate pass” which is basically a boarding pass that allows your guardian or supervisor to get to the gate (but not onto the plane). She also gave me a little pouch with my boarding pass, flight details, and the form, and a bracelet with the letters “JFK” on it (the ICAO code for John F. Kennedy Airport).
Keep in mind that if your guardian or supervisor does not want to go past security, you can also go with a JetBlue crew member.
I gave the form to the gate agent, who handed it over to a crew member, The unaccompanied minors were the first passengers that boarded the plane. It was at this point that I parted with my supervisor and handed over to a crew member. The crew member led us down the jetbridge and to the back of the plane, where all the UM’s were seated. This way, it was easy for the flight attendants to watch us.
After getting settled in, one of the flight attendants (possibly the lead attendant) showed us a few features of the E190 we were on (such as the flight attendant call button) and gave us some safety information. We were also offered complimentary earbuds (which cost $5 to buy otherwise). It was at this point that the rest of the passengers began boarding.
The onboard experience was pretty much the same as you would find without UM service. The FAs didn’t check on me much, but would probably check on you more if you were on a longer flight. We got to enjoy JetBlue’s awesome Direct TV and their great snacks. I will get more into this in the full review. We landed on runway 13L about 20 minutes late and given this runway’s close proximity to JetBlue’s Terminal 5, we had an extremely short taxi to the gate.
Upon arrival, my mother was waiting at the gate. She had gotten a gate pass just like the supervisor at departure. A crew member handed the JFK gate agent the form, and my mother showed her ID and signed the form. The rest of the experience was basically like any other.
Overall, at least on JetBlue, the unaccompanied minor experience was super simple. Although it was pretty costly, it was less money than booking another ticket for a person to fly with you if they didn’t need to. If you have any questions, definitely ask in the comments. (And if you have any questions are about the service, airports, entertainment, etc., save them for the full review!)
[Featured image by Flickr]