Teenagers flying alone

(18 Posts)
coral Fri 01-Nov-13 09:52:56

have any of your teenagers experienced problems getting through immigration when flying alone recently? I ask because my 16 year old dd got the 3rd degree when flying back through heathrow and was told she was not allowed to fly unaccompanied under 18 years of age. I can't believe this is true for a 16 or indeed 17 year old as it is totally ridiculous that they need to still travel as unaccompanied minors at that age! She's flying alone again in dec and I just want to make sure it goes smoothly this time. Although she had over a year left on her child passport we've applied for her first uk adult passport to see if this makes a difference. Do any of you find it's necessary to send anything else with your solo travelling 16 or 17 year olds? Many thanks

AliceInSandwichLand Fri 01-Nov-13 09:57:25

Both my daughters have flown numerous times alone while aged 15-17 when on their way to and from language exchange partners, and they do not have to fly as unaccompanied minors, they just aren't allowed to use the biometric lane at passport control. They have often been asked questions about the reason for their journeys, but have been allowed through without problems when they have explained. I have never sent anything extra with either of them, but a letter saying they have your permission to travel alone wouldn't be a bad idea, maybe?

wakemeupnow Fri 01-Nov-13 14:04:50

Sounds like she was just unlucky. My ds has flown alone since he was 16 and never has problems.

AtiaoftheJulii Fri 01-Nov-13 16:05:41

My 15 and 16 year olds flew to Canada this summer with no such problem, although it was to and from Gatwick. I wrote a letter for them to take with them (my kids have travelled quite a bit with grandparents so I always do a letter for that!) but no one was interested in seeing it.

redmapleleaves Fri 01-Nov-13 19:29:36

Our 13 year old has had problems when returning to UK alone. We have also had problems when travelling as as a family as I kept my own name and she and her brother have her dads. Last time, Immigration said even when travelling together, I should carry her birth certificate as 'they could demand it, and refuse entry until it was faxed to them'. Despite a UK passport.

We now travel, whether alone, or together, with a wodge of letters, proof of residence, inland revenue letters, birth certificates, plus the passports. Crazy.

AphraBane Fri 01-Nov-13 19:32:38

DD1 flew alone for the first time two months ago and there was no problem. But she was flying from one Schengen country to another, meaning that there was no passport control at either end.

Tinlegs Fri 01-Nov-13 19:35:44

This is worrying. My son is flying alone (14) on Easyjet to France next summer from UK. The airline allows it at 14. Do I need to check with anyone else?

coral Fri 01-Nov-13 21:10:32

Many thanks for the responses so far - glad to hear that at least some teens have managed to travel solo without any problems. I do think she probably got an overzealous immigration official who was having a bad day but it has made her quite uneasy which surprises me as she is normally a confident, articulate young lady - makes me really cross that they felt it necessary to take a 16 year old, who is clearly a British Citizen to task! Interesting redmapleleaves that you've also experienced problems getting back into the UK - that's what I can't quite understand - you would have thought that getting back into your country of birth on a UK passport would have been the easy bit!

Think I will send a copy of her birth certificate with her and a letter from me confirming she has my consent to travel unaccompanied - redmapleleaves, did you get the letters you took with you notarised or witnessed?

Tinlegs - I've been trying to find out what the UK immigration stance is on unaccompanied teenagers but can't find any info anywhere. The UK Border agency does not have any info on it relating to British Citizens and no contact info which I can find to actually ask questions!

Any other suggestions ... or positive stories ... will be most welcome!

goinggetstough Fri 01-Nov-13 23:06:41

My DCs flew backwards and forwards from UK( Gatwick, Heathrow and Bristol) to Europe numerous times as we lived there and they were at school in UK. They were never stopped and we never provided any additional information. One DC was asked when he flew for the first time from a small airport was he old enough to be travelling by himself. He told them yes he was as he was 13 and there was no problem.
On Eurostar there used to be a consent form to fill in if DCs were travelling by themselves. Mine carried the form on the few times they travelled on the train but were never asked to show it.

frenchfancy Sat 02-Nov-13 07:36:42

Dd1 (14yrs) flew back to France this year alone. She had a letter (witnessed) but was never asked for it.

livinginwonderland Sat 02-Nov-13 08:24:14

I flew to Australia on my own at 17 to see family and I was fine. Staff at Heathrow asked if I needed help and Cabin Crew asked if I needed help transferring through Singapore, but I've done the flight countless times and my family met me in Melbourne and I was fine.

If the airline allows it, she should be absolutely fine.

redmapleleaves Sat 02-Nov-13 19:58:20

We have been coming back from Africa from country with high number of UK nationals but who are resident abroad. We didn't get letters etc witnessed, but have needed to show them, including when DD was coming back to boarding school.

I think it makes a big difference whether it is a Schengen country or not, - eventually took to flying out/back via Netherlands and that stopped the problem. It has all been sortable, but because of the implications stress levels have been very high.

Abra1d Sat 02-Nov-13 20:00:41

My daughter has flown alone to and from France since she was 13. She is always stopped, perhaps because she is small for her age. She always carries a letter from us explaining that we give permission for her to be flying and whom she is staying with.

Abra1d Sat 02-Nov-13 20:03:30

We never bother having the letters witnessed or notarised. Last time my daughter flew, they said we should put our passport numbers on the letter along with everything else.

It shows they are being careful about potentially vulnerable young people and I am glad they check. Our French exchange, also small, was asked for her letter too last week at Heathrow.

AphraBehn Mon 04-Nov-13 08:06:07

My then 16 year old DS was questioned at check in last year, he was flying out to meet us in Orlando. This was despite me checking with the airline if I needed to make any special arrangements. They let him fly after checking with someone senior.

NCISaddict Mon 04-Nov-13 08:40:30

My 17 year old was asked who he was travelling with (I was in the neighbouring queue) and when he said me was told to go in the queue with me next time. I was a bit shock as he's 6 foot with a beard ffs, he doesn't need me to hold his hand.

coral Mon 04-Nov-13 14:32:42

Thanks for your further replies - I can see why the authorities do check for minors in their early teens, but once they are 16 and 17 and young adults in my view, they really should be allowed to fly by themselves without unnecessary interrogtion - I agree with you NCISaddict that they are old enough now not to have to hold anyone's hand! What you have described is really just a tad ridiculous - by the time our children reach 16 and 17 we really should have brought them up so that they are independent enough to sort themselves out! There is no magical wand which is waved at 18 which suddenly makes you able to do these things confidently - it's about your parents ... and society ... gradually letting go and easing you into an independant life whilst providing the necessary help and guidance along the way. It does seem that it very much depends on how overzealous the immigration officer is who processes you though!

Anyway, I've checked with the embassy for the country she is visiting as to what their procedures are regarding under 18's - all I need is a letter signed by her parents that she has permission to travel alone and where she is staying whilst abroad - I'm going to add our passport numbers - thanks Abra1d for the tip! - and hope that is sufficient ... and I'm going to take all of the original British documentation we have to Heathrow when I go to meet her on her return so if there is a problem i'll have everything to hand.

motherstongue Tue 05-Nov-13 11:24:00

My DS and his school friend were meeting his friends sister at Heathrow to travel back home together at half term. The boys are both 15 and the sister 11. She was to fly as an accompanied minor (as per the rules) but the staff wouldn't allow her to sit with the boys whilst waiting for the flight, they took her into a lounge, on her own, when she would have felt better with the boys! They wouldn't let the boys into the lounge with her! Seemed a bit pedantic to the boys and us.

Another weird rule is Virgin's policy on teenagers flying alone. They said our DS could fly unaccompanied as long as we stayed within the airport until the aeroplane had taken off. This is no problem at the home leg of the school journey but we did wonder how we were meant to accommodate that ruling on his way home from school. Just bizarre

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