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How I made a mistake over the British Airways rules for unaccompanied children

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What are the British Airways rules for unaccompanied children flying with the airline?

We haven’t written about this topic since 2018. This is the excuse I am using for having almost come a cropper last month. (My other excuse is that I didn’t write that 2018 article!).

Let’s run over the British Airways rules for unaccompanied children.

British Airways minimum age for child flying alone

Back in 2018, BA raised the minimum age for a child travelling alone from 12 to 14.

The ‘Skyflyer’ service which allocated chaperones to unaccompanied minors was scrapped by British Airways in 2016 as a cost cutting measure.

The problem was that children aged 12+, who were still allowed to travel on their own, were struggling to cope without any adult oversight. The 2018 change raised the minimum age to 14 and this seems to have worked OK.

Where I went wrong ….

My 15-year old daughter attended a summer camp in Europe last month.

I had assumed that there wouldn’t be any problems. Aside from the fact that 15-year olds these days are more mature than I was at 18, my daughter flies 5+ times per year with British Airways and is a British Airways Executive Club Silver card holder. She knows Terminal 5 back to front.

What I didn’t know is that any child aged 14 or 15 and travelling alone MUST bring a completed parent / guardian consent form and a copy of the parental passport with them to the airport.

At no point in the ticket booking process was this mentioned, I’m sure. says (emphasis mine):

If you’d like to book a flight for a child under the age of 16 who will be travelling alone, please get in touch via our Contact Us page as you can’t do this online.

This is not true. I had no problem booking for my daughter at, and as her BAEC number was in the booking British Airways knew exactly how old she was.

British Airways rules for unaccompanied children

I know for a fact that the need for paperwork was not mentioned during online check-in. OLCI didn’t actually work but did not explain why – I assumed that, because she was travelling alone, BA staff simply wanted to see her in person at a check-in desk.

(I am not passing the buck here. I accept it is my responsbility to know the rules. I just wouldn’t mind being pointed in the right direction to find the rules!)

Luckily, because my daughter was flying at 8.30am, my wife offered to take her to Heathrow alone and leave me in bed. This meant I was able to help when I got a call from Terminal 5 at 6.30am.

My wife had to complete the consent form and provide a paper copy of her passport photo page. This is key – the original passport is not acceptable (not that my wife had it) and a picture shown on a mobile device is not acceptable. It must be on paper so that the child can carry it with them.

Luckily – and full credit to the Terminal 5 check-in staff here – once I had sent a photo of my wife’s passport to her mobile phone, a T5 check-in supervisor was able to print it off after it was forwarded to a certain email address. My daughter made it through check-in with time to spare.

Let this be a lesson if you are planning to let your 14- or 15-year old children fly on their own in the near future!

Full details of the rules are on this page of


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Comments (112)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Ruralite says:

    Our son (now mid 20s) flew regularly on his own from age 15 and, like your daughter, was an experienced flyer by that age anyway. We always gave him a permission letter signed by both of us with photo copies of our passports in case of any issues but he never needed them. The only time he ever got quizzed was after flying UK – UAE – UK – Russia – UK one xmas/new year age 17. He was at a UK boarding school at the time and the border control officer on his return to the UK wanted to know why he was late back for the start of the new school term and who had allowed him to be late back! Term start at boarding school was later than state schools which he explained and he was sent on his way – no interest at all about why he’d been to Russia on his own (staying with a school friend).

  • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

    All sorts of rules out there.

    Germany requires that you sign your passport. Was ok when signature was included in the passport but now it’s not so you must sign. I remember some posts on flyer talk where people were refused entry and weren’t allowed to just sign it there and the n.

    Few months ago I was at JFK and a flight to Canada was departing and there were announcements about making sure your passport was signed as apparently it’s a Canadian legal requirement.

    • Derek says:

      I had to go and check my passports. I don’t remember signing my Canadian passport, but yes it’s there on page 3. But my British passport is signed, too, albeit from a separate signature that’s incorporated into the passport. My wife’s Canadian passport (a year older than mine) has the same, mine does not.

      • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

        It changes.

        My 1990-2000 passport I had to wet sign
        My 2000-2010 passport it’s printed on the photo page
        Ditto my 2010-2020 one
        My 2020-2030 one required my to wet sign

        Based on international rules so can vary from time to time

    • Roy says:

      When I collected my passport from the passport office a couple of years ago (after an online premium application) they were very clear that I had to sign the passport before using it.

      I don’t think the requirement is new, although for many years they printed the signature during the production process, based on the signature on the paper application form. Of course, now they discourage using paper forms, so we’re back to signing the passport on receipt.

      • Rob says:

        BA now announces over the tannoy on flights into Germany that your passport must be signed, or else.

        • Gordon says:

          “must be signed, or else” Is this tannoy announcement in the voice of “Herr Otto Flick” from Allo Allo by any chance!

    • David says:

      As for all my debit or credit cards, I have never signed any of them. Nobody has ever checked.

    • SamG says:

      I had a slightly weird experience flying LHR-JFK the other day, I couldn’t use the kiosk to pass the passport check so had to go to a human. She asked if I’d signed the passport myself (yes obviously) and then seemed quite surprised I’d done that! Red 2019 one.

  • Derek says:

    “as her BAEC number was in the booking British Airways knew exactly how old she was”

    My first thought was that given that BAEC is not strictly BA I’m not sure they have the legal right to exchange that information.

    But… it’s an international flight! You had to give them passport info, whether she was a BAEC member or not. And sharing that info from BAEC is definitely agreed the first time you make a booking. So, yes. It’s actually BA’s screwup–when they say you “can’t” make that booking online they need to ensure that it’s physically impossible.

  • David says:

    Now you need a signed letter of consent from the other parent if you take your child to the USA with just you – so what happens if they travel alone ?

  • Site is says:

    Why, why why. I bet if something happened to your unaccompanied MINOR hlchild you would be the first to complain. But it seems to be a site of boasting people who travelled alone. Of course there is no risk of travelling on airlines like you would gey walking the streets on your own.

    • Rob says:

      You’ll find the 2023 ’15 year old girl’ model, especially the one available in Central London, has many additional safety features and sensors built in which didn’t exist on earlier versions and tend to ensure safety in even the most hazardous of conditions.

      • Gordon says:

        I concur, our 14.5 year old granddaughter stays with us regularly, and she is one of the 2023 models, I would not like to get on the wrong side of her!

      • Bagoly says:

        🙂 although I would suggest “developed in” rather than “available in”.
        That reminds me of one of those 1980s A4 office joke sheets which had for physical characteristics: “boils at nothing, freezes without reason”.

  • Bonglim says:

    Slightly off topic – but many years ago I travelled with my brothers, aged 7, 11, 13 on a flight to USA to visit relatives. My parents, not that well off, had to make it as cheap as possible, so we flew 3 legs to our destination – and it was the best trip ever.

    Flight 1 – my brother was messing with the oxygen mask holder after I told limit was a ‘special drinks holder’, managed to pull it fully open and a few people around freaked out thinking it was a disaster. Captain had to be called to ‘fix it’ with making tape.

    Flight 2 – the entire cabin was a travelling teenager band. We had a massive pillow flight lasting the entire 2 hours.

    no such drama on flight 3….. but while under the care of the airport staff before flight 3 we were being driven around in a golf-cart style buggy. The carer went to the toilet and we ‘stole’ the buggy and spent 30 minutes just driving it around the airport until someone stopped us.

    I feel sorry that the current generation are never going to be able to have as much fun as we had. Apologies to the airline staff, at least one of which might have thought they were going to be fired when they lost us in Detroit airport.

  • Keith says:

    Currently at Schiphol. Some poor chap struggling to get through passport control with his 17 year old son. Apparently, unless if you are travelling with a child alone, you need a consent form from the other parent. Another perfect example of stupid thinking. A bit like the robot plate collectors in the KLM lounge. Totally inefficient. Though fun to watch them scare and amuse children. And big children like me.

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