Making flying child’s playBuddha Air offers requirements and tips for guardians about accompanied minors on its flights
With increased mobility and many Nepali parents working overseas, there has been a spurt in unaccompanied minors as passengers on domestic flights.
Most international airlines have special protocols to guide children travelling alone to their destinations, and in Nepal Buddha Air has announced similar provisions. The carrier provides the service to children from 5 to 12, and children below five must be accompanied by parents or an adult guardian.
It can be both exciting and intimidating for children flying alone, on their way to boarding school or to join relatives in the city. This anxiety is shared by their parents and guardians as well.
Travelling alone, however, can also be an enriching experience for children who learn to develop independence and confidence as well as broaden their exposure.
Buddha Air is Nepal’s largest domestic carrier, and has three categories for unaccompanied minors:
Children under 5 are not permitted to travel alone and they must be accompanied by a trusted adult or at least one parent. An accompanying adult must be of 18 years or older.
Children between 5-12 must be accompanied by a passenger who is of 18 years or older. However, if they are traveling alone, prior information must be provided to the airline and the procedures for unaccompanied minor travel must be fulfilled.
From 12 years and above the child is allowed to travel alone, but if they require assistance guardians will have to follow the same procedure as for unaccompanied minors.
Prior information must be provided at the time of booking that unaccompanied minor service is required. A child younger than 12 years of age will be considered an unaccompanied minor even if he or she is accompanied by a passenger who is 13 to 18 years of age.
Buddha Air’s procedures only apply to domestic flights, and the carrier will not handle the transfer of an unaccompanied minor from the domestic terminal to the international terminal in Kathmandu for connecting flights.
The parent or guardian is required to fill in three copies of the “Unaccompanied Minor Form”. If the minor is travelling to two destinations, two sets of forms need to be filled in.
On the aircraft, minors will not be allocated seats next to emergency exits. The child will be seated next to an adult who is 18 years or older. An unaccompanied minor is usually pre-boarded if possible and handed over to cabin crew who signs and returns a copy of the form.
Before disembarking, the crew hands over the minor along with the necessary travel documents to ground staff, who signs another copy of the form.
In case of diversion due to weather or other issues, a female staff of Buddha Air will stay with the unaccompanied minor in the hotel until the departure. Parents or guardians are required to be duly informed.
At the destination, a customer service agent hands over the child to the guardian or parent after thorough verification with photo ID. They will then sign the final copy of the form.
Airlines advise parents and guardians to brief minors before flights with basic tips on security check, on board behaviour, and staying in touch. Parents are also required to keep all identification and contact information in the person of the unaccompanied minor.