Last week, I wrote about a father who ditched his eight-year-old in economy class while he flew business class on a 12-hour flight to Asia. The story has garnered fierce opinions on both sides.
Some have argued that it is never appropriate to separate children from adults on an airplane. Many have argued there is a certain age where it becomes acceptable to place the kids in economy class while the parents fly business class.
My title question expresses an implicit assumption that there is an appropriate age, at some point, to relegate children to economy class. Where that age lies may vary by child, but I do not believe an eight year old should be left alone on a longhaul flight. Now a 16 year-old? That’s a totally different matter.
When a child is old enough to be self-sufficient, the child is old enough to fly alone. But since every child matures differently, leaving it to self-evaluation can create problems. Parents tend to think highly of their kids…sometimes to a fault. A bright-line rule is a better solution, even if it means that some kids who can fly alone without issue are not permitted to.
Let’s not forget that the story last week was a blatant violation of United’s unaccompanied minor policy. Parents are permitted to separate from their children onboard, but must pay unaccompanied minor fee if the child is under the age of 14. That fee ensures that FAs, not passengers seated nearby, care for the needs of the child.
14 strikes me as a fair age. Sure, there may be 12-year-old who are far more mature than than older teenagers, but 14 represents a reasonable compromise.
I’m still relatively new to the parenthood game. My son is approaching two years old and will soon be required to buy his own seat. Up until this point he has only flown in premium cabins because it just makes sense as a lap child. But as he grows older, I’d don’t want to spoil Augustine. While I can see myself banishing him (and any potential siblings) to economy class while Heidi and I fly business class, part of me find this idea sad. I’d also like to think that we will enjoy traveling together and can all tough it out in economy class, if necessary, to travel together.
I guess time will tell.
The issue is not whether children should fly alone, but how to define a child. What do you think is an appropriate age for a child to fly alone? Or do you believe that families should always just stick together on airplanes, even if it means everyone flies in coach? Chime in below with your opinion.