Fly through Travel Bookings for Unaccompanied Minors with this Airtight Guide!

*Last substantive update, 1/19/2024.

As students enroll and the excitement builds, the preparation for summer begins! And preparation looks different for every trip, from bicycle training rides to breaking in boots. Preparation also may include major items like booking airfare. Our hope is that this blog post will help inform our families about important things to consider when exploring flights for their child – especially for students flying as an unaccompanied minor (or as an “Unaccompanied Minor”*).

*A Note on Terminology: A fourteen year old flying on their own is, of course, an unaccompanied minor – but unless their family has paid the airline for their service, they are not an “Unaccompanied Minor.” This capitalized term refers to the airline’s service that allows parents and/or Apogee staff to get a gate pass for security and either escort the student to their gate for departure or meet them at the gate upon arrival. Note that the Unaccompanied Minor process is slightly different when traveling internationally – typically an airline representative will meet the student at the gate rather than the Apogee staff member, and will escort them through customs and immigration until they are able to meet with their trip leader outside of the secured area. There is always a fee for this service and there are numerous restrictions that vary from airline to airline. Without the Unaccompanied Minor service, the student is recognized as an adult and not subject to additional traveling restrictions. Most airlines will require Apogee’s younger students (between 11 and 14) to use the Unaccompanied Minor service. Older students (between 15 and 18) will usually have the option to use the service but without the requirement. 

Editor’s Note: When the Unaccompanied Minor service is optional, and if you and your child are comfortable having them travel without it, we recommend declining the service. It’s costly, logistically cumbersome, and if you don’t need it, please pass on it.

Two students meeting our leaders at the airport for our Caribbean Service: Puerto Rico

Purchasing Flights

No matter the age, or if the destination is Spain, Maine, or Alaska, we recommend these steps before booking a flight:

  1. Find flights that fall within the specific time window for your child’s trip. You can find this information on the Travel Information document on your CampMinder portal (login here) under the “Forms and Documents” section once your child has been enrolled. Please check with the office if you are having trouble finding a flight that arrives or departs in this window.
  2. If you plan to use the airline’s Unaccompanied Minor Service, call the airline to confirm their Unaccompanied Minor policy prior to making a reservation. The policies are often not clear or entirely up-to-date online and there may be exceptions or differences in the policy depending on the arrival and departure location. Additionally, some airlines require you to make reservations for Unaccompanied Minors over the phone.
  3. Ask the airline about necessary documentation for Unaccompanied Minors. You may be required to give the name of the Apogee employee who will pick up/or drop off your child. If so, please give the airline your/the parent’s contact information at the time of the ticket purchase as a placeholder. Then, plan to call our office in late May to get the details of the staffer who will be the person collecting your child. If we don’t hear from you, we’ll reach out with that information as well in the lead up to the trip.
Our Alps Explorer group ready to head out from the airport after arrivals into Geneva!

Unaccompanied Minor Reference Guide


Cost: Unaccompanied Minor (UM) services range from $50-$150 each way, depending on the airline.

Routes: The vast majority of airlines will not allow Unaccompanied Minors to transfer to or from other airlines. Additionally, most allow Unaccompanied Minors to travel only on nonstop or direct flights. Some exceptions exist.

Specifics by Airline*:

*Guidelines only! Because the airlines can change their policies at any time without notice, we strongly recommend that you check in directly with your airline for their current policy. This information was found online in November of 2023.  

  • United Airlines: Ages 5-14 must use UM service. Available, but not required, for ages 15-17. Nonstop flights only. $150 each way.
  • American Airlines: Ages 5-14 must use UM service and includes both nonstop and connecting flights through major American hubs. Ages 15-17 have the option to request UM service. $150 each way.
  • Delta: Ages 8-14 must use UM service and “may travel on some nonstop and connecting flights.” Ages 15-17 have the option to request UM service. $150 each way.
  • JetBlue: Ages 5-14 must use UM service. Nonstop flights only. $150 each way. Ages 14 and over “are entitled to assistance from JetBlue staff if needed” and should contact JetBlue for more details.
  • Southwest: Ages 5-11 must use UM service. Nonstop or direct flights only. Ages 12 and over may travel independently and are referred to as a “Young Travelers” which does not require a fee. $50 each way for flying as a UM. No UM service internationally or for ages 12-17. 
  • Air Canada: Ages 8-11 must use UM service. Ages 12-17 have the option to request UM service. Nonstop flights only. $110-$118 each way.
  • Alaska Airlines Ages 8-12 must use UM (or as Alaska Airlines calls them: “Junior Jetsetters”). Ages 13-17 have the option to request UM service. Travel may not begin between 9 PM and 5 AM. Unless no other option is available, no connections to the last flight of the day, or layovers of more than 2 hours. $50 for direct flights each way and $75 for connecting flights each way.
Our Northwest Explorer team gathered up and ready to hit the trails!

Lastly, don’t forget to put up your tray table and keep your seat back in the upright position – safe and happy travels, and we’ll see you on trip start day. Bon Voyage!