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Summer is the busiest time of the year. Airports are congested with the 100,000 children flying solo each year.
There are so many kids on Southwest Airlines during the holidays, it could be renamed 'Kids' Express,'" says NOSM member, Layne Morgan, who with her son, Eric, co-authors SingleMOTHER's occasional Kid to Kid column.
Eric 10, flies monthly to visit his father in another city. Many kids who fly so often between separated parents' homes have frequent-flyer accounts!
My son, Spencer, and I have flown regularly between Charlotte and New York, and even though he doesn't always sit with me (his choice!), I have never personally experienced letting my child fly unaccompanied by an adult. But from talks with airplane personnel, and the parents and children who know the ropes of kids flying alone, here are some tips for those who are new to this:
-- Put your child's name on everything, from clothing to toys.
-- Don't let your nervousness invade your child. Believe it or not, most kids find flying alone an exciting adventure.
-- It is your job to find entertainment for your child. The airline's only responsibility is to get your kid from one destination to the other. Children under 12 are supervised by airline personnel, but you must specifically request assistance if your child is older.
-- If a flight is delayed or canceled, instruct older children never to leave the airport with a stranger. They should seek an airline official for help.
-- If you want a special kids' meal (fun foods plus crayons or activities) reserve it a day in advance. Don't forget to pack your child's favorite snacks, too.
-- If the child has a medical condition such as diabetes or asthma, be sure to let the flight attendants know about their medicines.
-- Make sure the person picking up your child at the other end has suitable I.D. to prove they are the ones named in the child's permission form. Remember to tell the airline that your child will be flying alone when you book the flight, and again at the gate.
-- Teach your child what to do in emergencies, and how to use public telephones. Be certain that she has a place for her tickets and extra cash and don't forget to give her a list of important phone numbers.
-- As a s single parent, you may think you'll be less teary at the gate if you had a spouse to wave good-bye with. Not true. Most single moms report feeling of sense of security in that they've taught their children self-reliance, simply by their own example of single parenting.
For more information, the DOT, and the National Child Safety Council have prepared a brochure called "Kids and Teens in Flight." It's available free by writing to the of Office of Consumer Affairs, Department of Transportation, 400 7th Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20590.
This article was reprinted with permission from Single Mother, May/June 1994, Issue #18 Copyright 1995 by Single Mother. All rights reserved. This article may be printed out for personal use but may not be reproduced in any other manner, including electronic, without prior written consent from Single Mother. Permission requests may be submitted to Andrea Engber.