HERE AT PDM we often get asked about the rules for one parent travelling alone with their children and the procedure for booking flights for unaccompanied children.
We are pleased to report that both situations are quite straightforward, but it is wise to be aware of the rules, particularly in Portugal where children under 18 years who are leaving or re-entering the country with only one of their parents or legal guardians need a travel authorisation document. This authorisation must be signed by the absent father, mother or guardian. As with so many legal documents here, the signature must be notarised if the father, mother or guardian reside in Portugal. If they live elsewhere in the world, the signature must be authenticated by a Portuguese embassy or consulate in the country where the father, mother or legal guardian reside. This travel authorisation is also required when a person other than their father, mother or legal guardian accompanies minors or if the child is travelling alone. In such cases the travel authorisation must also clearly show the name of the accompanying person and be signed by both parents, unless it is proven that one is not present. We recommend that the following basic data should be included: the name of the minor, address, ID-card or passport number, destination address, duration and purpose, who they are going to visit and the contact information of the parents (guardian).
If your child is travelling alone to Portugal, bear in mind that non-Portuguese resident minors under 18 years and travelling alone, may be refused entry to the country if they do not have proof that someone in Portugal will take responsibility for them during their stay.
Once you’ve sorted out the paperwork, it’s time to book the flight and prepare your child for their solo journey. Airlines call a child who flies alone an unaccompanied minor (UM). Generally, a child must be five years old to fly alone, but most UK charter airlines will now not take UMs under the age of 16, with the exception of a few who will carry them from 12.Scheduled airlines will take children from five, but each airline has its own policies, restrictions and requirements, so it’s important to check every time you book.
The best way to prepare your child for their first solo journey is to explain what to expect ahead of time. The child should know what will happen at the airport, through security, on the plane and at the destination. On the day of travel, parents should allow extra time at the airport to fill out paperwork and pass through security. Airlines generally ask parents to stay at the gate until the plane has pulled away from the gate since mechanical problems or weather delays could result in the flight being cancelled. The plane should be well on its way before adults leave the gate.
There should be a back up plan (or two) for picking up the child at the destination and the person picking up the child at the arrival city should allow plenty of time to get through security and to the gate and makes sure they are carrying identification, such as a passport, to show to airline officials.
Top tips for happy landings
•Make sure that your child has instructions on how to handle flight delays or cancellations, including emergency contacts and a means to pay for necessities, such as overnight accommodation.
•Familiarise your child with the plane ticket and the need to keep it in a safe place.
•Try to book a morning flight. If it is delayed or cancelled, you have the rest of the day to make alternate plans.
•Small children may have trouble with checked baggage – bear in mind that you can check it in, but they may have to pull it off the carousel at the other end.
•Get to the airport early to ease check-in and get children accustomed to their surroundings. If possible, show them where help desks are located, and get them to recognise uniformed employees.
•Give them a picture of the person meeting them — with the full name, address and phone number written on the back.
•Make sure the adult meeting your child at his or her destination is carrying photo identification.
•Pack some snacks: juice boxes, crisps, sandwiches and fruit.
•Give your child a mobile phone that has emergency contact numbers in it and which works in the destination country, and a small amount of cash to cover incidental expenses in the event of an emergency.
WIN WITH PDM
Fancy the chance to win a 10 euro PDM travel voucher*? Simply answer the following question and either fax or email your answer, with name, address and telephone number, to the PDM office in Lagos, (Fax 282 760 154, Email: [email protected]). The winner will be the chosen randomly from all correct answers received.
Q. Which US state absorbs the most lightning?
* Terms and conditions apply. A complete set of competition rules is held in the PDM offices.