Fast forward 18 months, B is now 10 1/2 and will be flying unaccompanied for the first time over the Thanksgiving holiday. I am not excited about it but after discussing it with my hubby we both decided we thought he was ready and it was time to let go a little bit.
I know I can't keep my kids young forever and I know I need to let them grow up, little by little. Growing up meaning becoming independent, being responsible, and I know that kids cannot become both independent and responsible while being smothered by their parents.
A major reason for me coming to my decision is the fact that once he is 12 years old flying as an unaccompanied minor isn't even an option. Once he is 12, if I want him to fly without me he is totally on his own. Since we live across the country from all our family I definitely wanted him to have 1 or 2 practice runs, flying as an unaccompanied minor before he turns 12 and would have to fly completely independent.
Another reason I decided it is ok is because he is on a non-stop flight and a flight attendant will at least be available if he needs anything. I've been on flights with unaccompanied minors before and I am not fooling myself. I know the flight attendant will not be babysitting him but if he asks for something, they should get it for him, and they should check on him a few times throughout the flight.
I will also go with him through security, to the gate, and watch his flight take off. With his flight being non-stop all his grandma has to do is arrive early enough on the other side to get through the ticket counter and security and it should go off without a hitch.
Maturity-wise, I definitely know he is ready. I've heard from countless people how mature and independent he is. He is the type of kid that can make decisions quickly and take charge if need be. He won't let people push him around. Yet he is a good listener. He can sit quietly for extended periods of time, reading, and playing his DS.
He thinks he is ready and is very excited to fly solo. This is a biggie for me. To send a scared child on a plane alone seems very unfair. He keeps telling everyone how worried I am and how he is not worried one bit, just excited.
Despite all the logical reasoning I have done to be okay with him flying alone I still have several concerns. My biggest concern is flight time. His flight on the way there is 4 hours. 4 hours is a long flight for me and I start to get antsy after being cooped up in a tight space for 4 hours straight. He tends to want to get up and walk around or have to go to the bathroom a lot when he starts getting bored. I hope he can make it through his flight only getting up 2-3 times.
I am a little concerned about where he'll sit and who he'll sit by. The last flight I was on put the unaccompanied minors in the bulk head seating where they had no access to their bag during take off and landing. This would cause a problem for B. I am going to ask if he can sit up front, but in the 2nd row so he has access to his bag and on the aisle so he doesn't have to climb over people when he gets up. I already reminded him that if he feels uncomfortable with the people sitting next to him he can discreetly ask the flight attendant to move. Generally on flights people are friendly and accommodating but God forbid he sits next to some creep.
I also slightly concerned that the flight attendant assigned to him will be less than helpful. The last flight I was on with unaccompanied minors the flight attendant seemed annoyed she had to deal with the kids and was a bit short with them. If B thinks he is being ignored or wronged by someone he tends to argue, which can get him in trouble. I hope he gets someone pleasant and helpful and that he does as he is told to do.
Lastly I am concerned that the pick up on the other end will not go smoothly. Getting through the Southwest ticket counter isn't too bad but security at the Denver airport can take forever. I've also had Southwest flights land up to 25 minutes early. Add in the fact that his grandma is traveling from about an hour away and needs to allow time to park. The whole equation leaves me a little nervous. There are many spots where she could get tripped up or delayed. If B gets off the flight and his grandma isn't there I know he will not fret and I know the flight attendant or gate agent will stay with him. I just hope she gets there extra early and just hangs out. When he comes back home I plan to get to the airport 2 hours early, even though it has never taken me more than 45 minutes to park, wait in line, and go through security. I would rather be extra early and use that time to read or play on my laptop, than to not be there when my baby boy arrives back home.
So this is the big issue for our family this week. Has anyone gone through this? Does anyone have any suggestions? Things he needs to bring I may not be thinking of? Things I need to talk to him about before he leaves? This mama is worried so even some encouragement would be appreciated. Thanks, you guys are great!