You asked

At what age will my child be ready to fly alone to visit a relative?

At what age your child is ready to take a flight to visit a relative on his or her own depends a lot on your child’s development, and on the airline you use. For the most part, however, experts agree that you shouldn’t try this before your child is around seven or eight years old.

If you want to gauge your child’s readiness, consider how he or she fares with other routine tasks. Can he or she go to the bathroom unaided? Can your child eat without your help, including cutting up food? Does your child know his or her address and telephone number? Does your child know how to use a mobile phone or a phone card? All of these are skills that will determine whether your child is ready to make a flight to visit someone on his or her own.

You’ll also need to consider your child’s behaviour, and his or her ability to control emotion. While it’s true that airline staff do watch over kids who travel alone, they are busy, and they cannot provide the level of care a younger child will need for the duration of the flight.

Some airlines also have differing views. For instance, some international airlines allow children as young as 5 years old on their flights (British Airways won’t allow unaccompanied minors under 12, Ryanair does not accept kids under 16, but Air France and Virgin Atlantic take kids from 5 years old).

Nearly every preschooler out there is not ready to fly alone. It’s not safe, and your child is likely to be scared if made to fly alone. It’s far better, at this age, to rather accompany your child on the flight, or make alternative transport arrangements.

Even if your child has had lots of experience flying with you (and that’s another prerequisite to add to the readiness list) he or she is likely to be scared to fly without you. Don’t try to force the issue just to save money. It can lead to a lifelong fear of flying.

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