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We are sending our son to the east coast for part of winter break. My wife shopped for tickets using the flight aggregators we normally use, but they don't seem to allow searches for unaccompanied minors. Some prevent the search using the UI:

Google Flights Travelocity

KAYAK allows you to select a child alone, but then stops the search with this notice:

About unaccompanied minors

KAYAK does not currently support searches for unaccompanied minors. We recommend that you check the minimum age requirements as well as what other fees apply for the airline you plan to book with, before you book.

Some airlines offer a mandatory unaccompanied minor service for a charge. Visit our airline fees page www.kayak.com/airline-fees.

Most airlines charge a full fare as well as require a charge for unaccompanied minors. Therefore, you may perform your search for an adult.

Fortunately, we fly out of small airport with limited options, so my wife went to each airline's website, got a quote and kept track on a spreadsheet. If the airline charged an extra fee for unaccompanied minors, she just tracked that too.

But why don't fare aggregators allow passengers to compare prices for children flying alone? Is it some sort of liability issue? Or is it difficult to get an accurate quote including additional fees?

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    I only have an (informed) guess: the process may be hard to automate as Kayak may not be able to squeeze out the information for whether a fare can be used for unaccompanied minors (and whether all involved airlines and airports allow this) from its partner websites and databases. So the feature may be too difficult/costly to implement. – DCTLib Dec 15 '15 at 18:01
  • As this is a specialised service that not all airlines offer, and not all indirect routings support, I think you're going to have to just phone up the full service airlines in turn and ask them to price it manually – Gagravarr Dec 15 '15 at 18:09
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    Do not buy the unaccompanied minor service, unless your child is young enough that she requires it by airline policy, or you want your child closely chaperoned from start to finish. I don't recommend this service for teenagers. – Michael Hampton Dec 15 '15 at 18:56
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    Too many laws/rules - various airlines have policies on where the chaperoning must start/end, and many airlines don't even allow this. If it's not part of the public API that many airlines provide, aggregators likely don't do it. Also the costs vs rare use-case tradeoff :/ – Mark Mayo Dec 16 '15 at 8:30
  • it is probably needed too rarely to warrant the sort of additional work this would cause for the websites... – fifaltra Dec 21 '15 at 15:15
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My guess, because it varies from one airline to another, even for airlines in the same country. There is usually some sort of a nationwide limit, then the airlines can go more restrictive on defining "unaccompanied minor".

For the airline I work for, a passenger between 5 and 12 years old is considered UM, while another neighbor airlines set the limit to 5-11.

Now imagine a site that has to collect the information for most of the airlines around the world and then keep track of that in case of any change? including special fares and conditions for each airline, just too much work.

Also, most seats sold via agencies are consolidated tickets, I do not think airlines sell UM seats in bulk to be used by agencies (online or offline).

In addition to that there is a technical problem. Unaccompanied minors' reservations have special codes which are different from one reservation system to another, and since most agencies connect to airline's systems using GDS (think of the GDS as a webservice with limited types of transations allowed), I think handling this might be a techincal issue as well. Hence, many airlines offer the UM reservations by calling them directly, by visiting their office or via their own website.

Last but not least, and it's also a guess, airlines do not want to handle people's children via a third party seller.

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KAYAK and other online systems do not know exactly how old your child is and therefore can not determine which rules apply and can not ensure that a booking would meet those rules for any specific airline. So it is better to simply not quote those fares (plus many airlines require you to call direct to arrange UM services).

  • They don't know, but they could ask. Travelocity (which is the second screenshot in my question) does ask, but will not allow me to search without an adult passenger. – Jon Ericson Dec 16 '15 at 3:49
  • Travelocity does mention on their age details page to call the airline in regard to younger children traveling by themselves. And they also state they will book unaccompanied minors age 15 & up (you just choose adult fare since 15+ pay adult rates anyway). Their UI is confusing since it uses 17 instead of 12 like most child age selects. – user13044 Dec 16 '15 at 4:01

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