The Unaccompanied Minor Program
Will your student be 14 years of age or younger at the time of their GLA program?
Do you want your student to fly with a chaperone?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, then read on!
What is the Unaccompanied Minor program?
The unaccompanied minor program is an additional service provided by an airline carrier at a fee. Typically, this program is required by airlines for travelers 14 years & younger who are traveling alone (each airline is different); when purchased, a flight attendant is appointed to your student to hand off to a pre-determined contact person upon arrival to the country of destination.
Whether your student is required to travel as an unaccompanied minor because of their age, or you voluntarily opt in for this program because you would prefer that your student be chaperoned as they travel, there are a number of rules set by the airline that you must abide by when booking the ticket. If you do not follow these rules, your student can be denied boarding.
Seeing as each airline has different rules for their own unaccompanied minor program, GLA strongly recommends that you work with our travel agency partner, StudentUniverse. While you are not required to work with StudentUniverse, they will ensure that your selected flight meets the airline's rules with regard to an unaccompanied minor program.
PLEASE NOTE: There are multiple ways to work with StudentUniverse, however since the unaccompanied minor program has such a specific set of rules to follow, we recommend that you call or email them rather than going online. Also, most airline websites will recognize that your traveler is 14 years of age or younger but will not recognize that the airfare you are purchasing does not meet the unaccompanied minor program rules.
What are some of these rules & why can't GLA advise me on them?
For the most part, each airline has a similar unaccompanied minor program; however, airlines regularly change the rules of travel, which is why GLA has partnered with StudentUniverse to be the experts! Here is what we do know:
- This program is not optional on most US carriers if you are 14 years of age and younger.
- This program does cost a fee; you can budget approximately USD $150 each way, USD $300 round trip.
- This program does not allow its travelers to fly on the last flight of the day.
- You may not use multiple airline carriers or codeshare departures if you are traveling with the unaccompanied minor program.
- The traveler cannot fly on separate domestic & international tickets; e.g. you cannot purchase a round trip flight from New York to Lima & then purchase a separate round trip ticket from Lima to Cusco if you want your student to enroll in the unaccompanied minor program.
- Some airlines have a limit to how many minors they will allow to travel on one particular flight. It is recommended that you call the airline immediately after purchasing your ticket to enroll and pay for the unaccompanied minor program. You can call the airline back at a later date and provide the information for the designated pick up and drop off person.
StudentUniverse will be able to assist with not only ensuring you meet the above rules, but also the airline carrier specific rules. PLEASE NOTE: Most airline websites will recognize that your traveler is 14 years of age or younger but will not recognize that the airfare you are purchasing does not meet the unaccompanied minor program rules.
What happens once/if I decide to purchase the Unaccompanied Minor Program?
- Once you have received your Welcome Email & been given approval to book a flight, proceed with purchasing a plane ticket that meets the rules of your chosen airline's unaccompanied minor program. Then you will need to call the airline yourself to opt in & pay.
- The airline will ask you to provide the name & contact information of our designated GLA staff member who will receive your student at their destination.
- The name & contact number of this individual will be available to you via an online resource called the Travel Portal. This resource is for enrolled families only.
- IMPORTANT: Do NOT guess! The name you provide the airline must match the GLA staff member's passport.
- You DO NOT have to provide the above information to the airline when you call to opt in & pay for the unaccompanied minor program. You can call back & provide the information at a later date.
- Sometimes, the airline will request an address for the individual receiving your student at the destination. This will also be available via the Travel Portal once you become enrolled.
- Once you have a plane ticket & have called the airline to opt in & pay for the unaccompanied minor program, you will need to contact your Travel Coordinator to let them know that your student is traveling as an unaccompanied minor. We will place a note in the student's file as well as the flight roster.
- Make sure to specify if your student will both arrive and depart as an unaccompanied minor.
- Should you decide to cancel the service after purchasing it, please notify your Travel Coordinator immediately.
- Within 15 days of your program departure date, review the flight roster to confirm you have the correct name and information.
While it's generally understood that a passport in hand is the legal consent that a minor may travel internationally & independently above the age of 14, you may still opt for this service for your student if they are age 16 or under. Please check with your airline carrier for more information.
If my student is NOT flying as an unaccompanied minor, do they need additional documentation?
Contact your airline for their current policy on minors traveling abroad without an adult in accompaniment. They may require additional forms or documentation.
What is it like to travel as an unaccompanied minor?
There are three stages to traveling as an unaccompanied minor: the drop off, the travel & the pick up. Here is a glimpse into what you can expect!
1) The Drop Off: When you arrive to the airport to check in for the flight, the airline attendant will confirm that the passport of the minor matches the name on the plane ticket & then check the ID of the adult dropping off the minor. The name of the adult would have been provided to the airline earlier when you called to provide the airline the name & contact number of the GLA staff member receiving your student at their destination.
Next, the airline attendant will issue the minor their boarding pass for the flight. At this point, the adult dropping off the minor will bid them "see you later!" and the student will proceed through airport security & immigration with the airline attendant. From this point on, the airline attendant will either remain with the student in the terminal or bring the minor to a designated & secure waiting area, separate from other travelers in the terminal. If the latter occurs, the minor will be retrieved from this secure waiting area and chaperoned onto the plane.
2) The Travel: For the duration of the flight, the minor will be chaperoned by an airline attendant. If the flight involves any layovers, the airline attendant will remain with the minor or in some cases, the minor may be bought to a designated & secure waiting area that is separate from other travelers in the terminal for the duration of the layover & then picked up by an airline attendant prior to boarding the next flight.
PLEASE NOTE: If the minor knows of other GLA students on the same flight who are not traveling as unaccompanied minors, the airline will not allow the minor to reside with them. Since the airline has assumed responsibility for this minor, they remain with them or bring them to the designated & secure waiting area for minors. Travelers not enrolled the the unaccompanied minor program are not permitted in this waiting area.
3) The Pick Up: At the destination & just like the drop off part of this process, the designated GLA staff member (whose name you would have given the airline at an earlier date) will have to confirm their ID with an airline attendant at the airport. This takes place before the minor's flight is scheduled to land.
The airline attendant will note that the receiving party for the minor is present & instruct them to wait outside of customs in the correct terminal. When the minor lands, the airline attendant who traveled with them will escort through immigration, to baggage claim & finally through customs. Once outside of customs, the airline attendant will transfer responsibility of the minor to the designated GLA staff member. At this stage, the process is complete.
PLEASE NOTE: Often there is some paperwork issued to the airline when the designated GLA staff member makes it known to the airline that they have arrived at the airport to collect the minor. This paperwork is then signed off on by the airline attendant who traveled with the minor & the GLA staff member who is assuming responsibility. This signature completes the process.
When the minor returns home, the process remains the same, but the roles are reversed. The drop off person becomes the designated GLA staff member & the pick up person, the adult who initially dropped them off in the first place.
Who do I call if I have questions about the process at the airport?
If you have questions about the process at the airport, you should call the airline with which your student is traveling. Because each airline's program differs slightly, you will want to speak with them directly.
If you are ever unsure though, please contact our travel agency partner StudentUniverse. We recognize that the unaccompanied minor program can be complicated & want to ensure that you feel comfortable with the ins and outs!