Even minors need a passport to travel to another country.

Airline Ticket Rules for Children

by Emily Weller

Taking a family vacation or traveling to see relatives often involves flying. Flying with children can be a lot more of a hassle than taking any other form of transportation. The specific rules for getting a ticket for children and putting a child on a plane vary from airline to airline. The rules also vary depending on whether you're flying domestically or headed to another country and whether the child is making the trip alone.

Identification for Children

Adults over the age of 18 always need to show identification, such as a driver's license or passport, before they get on the plane. You don't always need identification for children when you fly, as long as a parent or guardian is flying with the kids. American Airlines might require a birth certificate for some children, while Southwest requires proof-of-age for children and infants if you buy a child's fare for them. If you aren't sure of the rules of the airline, it's a good idea to bring along a copy of your child's birth certificate to the airport. All children, even infants, need a passport if they are traveling to another country.


The cost of a ticket for a child varies from airline to airline. Delta Airlines and American Airlines do not offer discounted tickets for children on domestic flights, but may have the discounts if you are traveling abroad. Southwest does offer rates for children, as long as you can give the airline proof of the child's age. If you are traveling with an infant, the rules for tickets can get complex. Some airlines don't require a ticket for babies under the age of two, as long as you will hold the baby in your lap for the flight. You also have to be the baby's parent or guardian and be older than 18. If you want to set the baby in a safety seat, you'll need to buy him a ticket.

Child Safety Seats

When traveling with young children, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly recommends that you bring along a child safety seat. Just as you wouldn't hold a baby in your lap while driving a car, the FAA has decided it's not safe to hold a baby in your lap on a plane. The FAA recommends a safety seat for children under 44 pounds. The seat should have a label that reads "This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft" or else you can't use it when flying. While recommended, safety seats are not required by the airlines for all children. American Airlines does require them for children over the age of two.

Unaccompanied Minor Rules

Sometimes, your child might need to travel by himself on a plane. Airlines have specific rules for children under the age of 17 who are flying by themselves. Typically, a child needs to be at least 5 years old to fly alone. An airline might restrict the type of flight a child flies on based on his age. For example, American Airlines only lets 5- to 7-year-olds fly on direct flights, if accompanied by someone 16 or older. In many cases, a parent will have to bring the child to the airport and complete a form stating who will pick the child up at the destination airport. If your child is flying on his own, you will usually need to get a gate pass and wait with him until he boards the plane.

About the Author

Based in Pennsylvania, Emily Weller has been writing professionally since 2007, when she began writing theater reviews Off-Off Broadway productions. Since then, she has written for TheNest, ModernMom and Rhode Island Home and Design magazine, among others. Weller attended CUNY/Brooklyn college and Temple University.

Photo Credits

  • Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images