Every summer we head up to the hills where we are blessed to have a home. Quite literally we are out on the first flight on the first day of summer holidays. Delhi is a sweltering 45deg + by the time we set off. There was a time when I’d stay on there till the last weekend before schools re-opened. Off late however, with Label Shabel taking off and business shaping up, for many reasons it now is the busiest time of the year for us. Which means no 2 month long breaks for me anymore!
That’s no reason for the kids to cut short their holidays. With both parents at their busiest time, its hardly a summer break for them to be back with us. So in a tradition like from many of our own childhoods, the boys stay on to spend the vacations with their grandparents in the hills. Which means at the end of the summer they must come back on their own.
The first time we decided to make them travel on their own, there was much excitement (on their part) and nervousness (on ours.) Were they old enough? How would they manage? What if something happened? And the more practical concerns…what if they started fighting amongst themselves on the way? What if they had to use the toilet just when boarding was being announced?(they do it every time with us) What if ….what if??
We quickly learnt that it couldn’t be simpler. The airlines handle it so efficiently that travelling back alone has now become an exciting part of the vacation for the boys.
The process is quite simple and all relevant information is easily available on the websites of all airlines. We usually travel via Indigo and are quite happy with their Unaccompanied Minor services. Kids under 5 need someone above 18 to be Booked with them. Between 6-12 years, they can be booked under Flying Solo. And much to the joy of my teenager, 13-18 years they can travel alone! ( or be booked under flying solo – whatever puts you at ease.)
You have to pay an extra charge of Rs 1500 one way. The paperwork is quite simple – the form can be downloaded from their website and along with ID proofs in triplicate – of the kids, of the adult handing them over at the departure point and ID proof of the person who will receive them at the other end. That’s it. Right at the check-in point, the kids are assigned a person who stays with them till the time they board the aircraft. Paperwork is handed over to a concerned flight attendant who then checks on them multiple times during the flight. At the destination, a ground staff member is usually waiting for them at the arrival, receives and escorts them right from the plane exit, through luggage retrieval and outside the airport where there is an adult waiting. You have to show the same ID submitted with the forms before they release them in your care.
With Indigo the flying solo programme includes a meal so you need not stress about food or money. Apart from that it’s important to make sure the kids have everything they will need on the flight with them in a backpack so they can carry it around easily and hands-free. No excess baggage stuffed into a stroller for them to lug around. All they need in the bag is a book, a gadget like a handheld game or an iPad with games if they are old enough, headphones and music since my boys love music, all fully charged. I always pack a light jacket or overshirt in case they get cold on the flight. My teenager is only enough for a phone but its a good idea to put down all important phone numbers in a small notepad just for good measure. Of course, they are my kids so everything is well labelled with name labels and bag tags!! That’s it. Keep the bags light, send them off and know that they will be well looked after and will enjoy the experience.
(The information listed above is from personal experience and is not claimed to be airline regulations. Please confirm updated details on specific airline website for final information.)