Whether you're flying to visit family or to tour the college of your dreams, it's natural to worry that you'll be unable to purchase a plane ticket if you are not 18 years of age. Fortunately, no federal age requirement exists for purchasing airfare -- though regulations vary from one airline to another.
However, it's essential that you obtain your parents' permission before making your purchase and that you follow all laws while booking your flight. Read below to understand age requirements for buying tickets for air travel.
The Department of Transportation does not regulate the purchase of airline tickets by minors or the flights of unaccompanied minors. Instead, the DOT allows airlines to set their own individual rules and regulations.
Additionally, the Transportation Security Administration does not require travelers under the age of 18 to show identification when boarding domestic flights. Any minor with access to the Internet and a credit card can technically purchase a plane ticket and fly unaccompanied without breaking any federal laws -- so long as the minor is authorized to use the credit card.
Every airline has its own regulations governing the flight of unaccompanied minors, but none regulate who can purchase the ticket, for either domestic or international flights. Many airlines require that children 11 and younger be accompanied by someone over the age of 12, while others require the young adult accompanying minors be at least 15. Children older than 12 are not considered unaccompanied minors by airlines, and are free to present themselves at the gate and fly without a parent or other adult present.
Purchasing the Ticket
If you have access to a credit card, you can purchase your own seat for any flight online, using virtually any travel website. If you're using your parents' credit card, make sure you have their permission before making your purchase, or you could be charged with fraud and theft.
Minors with cash can purchase a ticket from a booking agent at the airport. Regardless of how you opt to purchase your ticket, make sure your parents have permitted you to travel and give them a full copy of your flight itinerary.
Information for Parents
Because so few regulations govern airline travel for minors, children can easily travel by plane without getting their parents involved in their plans. Today states that children who look older than 12 are unlikely to be questioned by airport or airline staff, meaning your child could easily walk onto a plane after purchasing a ticket without your knowledge. The DOT states that parents who suspect their children are traveling without permission should call the local police immediately.
Navigating the Post-Purchase Experience
After you have purchased your ticket, whether it is one way or round-trip, the post-purchase experience is mostly the same. For those under 18 that would like guidance going through the airport, they may contact a travel agent and have an adult chaperone accompany them through the airport. From the ticket counter, to luggage check, through security and all the way onto the plane.
Know what to bring for check-in as well. Bring your luggage to check along with all important documents, plus your carry-on bags and ticket!