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unaccompanied minors travelling on a plane

What is Unaccompanied Minor Service?



What is an unaccompanied minor?

An ‘unaccompanied minor’, commonly known as ‘UM’ is a child who is travelling alone without a parent, guardian or responsible adult. The term is frequently used in airline policies, however, the specific meaning varies from airline to airline. In many airline policies ‘unaccompanied minor’ refers to an airline passenger aged between 5 and 14 years old. Unfortunately, there is not a single clear definition that is agreed upon by all airlines so it can be confusing to the passenger as some airlines state different ages.


Can an Unaccompanied Minor travel alone on an airplane?

It depends on the specific airline rules.  Some airlines do not allow minors to travel without an adult; other airlines allow them to travel only if they purchase the airlines Unaccompanied Minor Service (UMS), other airlines allow unrestricted travel between certain ages.


Unaccompanied Minor Service (UMS)

Unaccompanied Minor Service is the special service which airlines provide for unaccompanied minors.  This service is commonly abbreviated to ‘UMS’.  The quality of the service may vary depending on the airline, and the staff delivering the service.

Booking UMS: The person who requests the unaccompanied minor service (typically the parent or guardian) will need to complete and sign a UMS booking form, naming the responsible adult who will deliver the child to the airline staff on departure and also naming the adult who will collect the child at their arrival destination.  It is essential that this information is accurate and the adults have official ID to show the airline staff. The airline staff may refuse to allow the child on the flight or release the child into the care of the adult on arrival at their destination if they do not have acceptable ID.

Departure:  Airline staff will collect the UM from the check-in desk, escort the minor through immigrations and customs, take them to the gate, and ensure they board the flight.

Transit Connections:  If the flight includes a connection, airline staff will escort the minor throughout the connection period. The airline staff will collect the minor from their flight, stay with them throughout the stop-over, take them to the gate of the connecting flight and ensure that the minor boards the plane. If a minor misses a connection, the escort will assist with ensuring they catch an alternative connection.

Arrival:  When the minor reaches their destination airport, the responsible adult named in the UMS booking form will need to show formal identification before the airline staff release the minor into their care. The person who collects the minor must have ID to prove who they are, and this must be the identical to the named person on the original UMS booking form. A different person cannot represent the named person, even if they have the original person’s ID with them as proof of representation


Is UMS compulsory?

It depends on the airline’s rules. Most airlines have specific rules about unaccompanied minors. UMS is compulsory for certain ages but the compulsory age is different for different airlines. Some airlines will allow unaccompanied minors to travel if they pay an additional fee for UMS. Other airlines will not allow an unaccompanied minor to travel at all. For airlines that provide UMS, the service can be requested even if it is not compulsory.


How much does UMS cost?

There are 2 factors to consider:
Direct costs of UMS service (i.e. what the airline charges): Each airline has a different UMS rate but typically these cost between £50 – £100. The rates change frequently so check when you book.

Indirect costs of UMS service (i.e. additional taxi charges): Each taxi company has a different UMS rate which depends on their typical waiting time charge and which airport they are collecting from, as car parking charges at airports are expensive and vary dramatically.  At Study Links we try to negotiate the cheapest rate for all of our clients.


Important things to think about when travelling as a UM

Some minors may require extra documentation when travelling as an unaccompanied minor. For example, passengers with Russian nationality are sometimes required to have a notarized statement in Russian from both parents confirming that they consent to the child leaving the country unaccompanied. Check with your airline if this is necessary when you book your plane ticket and make your UMS booking.

If the plane is rerouted to a different airport on arrival because of bad weather conditions, the airline staff may insist that the original escort must collect the child at the original airport even if they are able and willing to travel to the rerouted airport. For example, if a student is flying to London Heathrow Airport but bad weather means they are redirected to Manchester Airport, it is the airline’s responsibility to ensure that the student has alternative transport to travel to Heathrow airport (usually a coach service). The airline staff could refuse to allow the child to leave their care and be released to their designated adult at the rerouted airport. It is therefore advisable to check with the airline if this is possible before the escort travels to the rerouted airport.

UMS does not only affect the flight. It affects the costs of airport transport when the child is taken to and from the airport before and after the flight. The adult taking the child to the airport must enter the airport and officially hand over the child the airline staff. They must also wait at the airport to ensure the child has departed safely. The person collecting the child at the arrival destination must also enter the airport and show their ID. For this reason, purchasing a UM service from the airline also results in increased taxi costs to cover the cost of car parking fees and waiting time.

The ‘UM’ term is also often used when booking airport transfers for minors, because flying as a UM affects the service that the transfer company must provide in order to meet the airline’s requirements when picking-up / dropping-off the minor at the airport.


General tips for travelling

See our ‘tips for travelling’ blog about other important things to consider when travelling abroad!


Want the UM service without the fuss?

If you are wanting a high quality check-in and/or collection service, but without the UMS restrictions, contact us.  We offer a high quality service for both drop-off and collection, so that your journey is stress-free! We have Study Links representatives inside the airport to deliver this service.

Study Links Drop-off:   We can meet you when you arrive at the airport, help you check-in, take you through immigration, wait with you until your flight is ready to board, and escort you to your gate so that you catch your flight!  If you have any problems at any stage, or you don’t understand something, they are there to help you immediately!

Study Links Collection: As soon as you step out of the plane, we have representatives who can meet you at the gate.  They will take you through immigration, help collect your baggage, then take you to your onward travel meeting point (e.g. wait with you until your scheduled taxi arrives).  If there are any problems at immigration or any other stage, they will help you!


Ailie (1)
By Ailie Fan, Operations Director at Study Links

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