Thanksgiving Travel Expected to Rise

The American Automobile Association estimates that 38 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home this holiday weekend — 1 million more travelers than last year.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

With the holidays here, lots of people are flying around the country to spend the holidays with family. And in many cases, children are flying solo. This year on some airlines that isn't as easy as it used to be. There are new fees, new restrictions and new complications.

Here's Air Travel Industry watcher Seth Kaplin.

Mr. SETH KAPLIN (Airline Weekly Magazine): Perhaps the biggest change since U.S. Airways raised to 15 the minimum age where a child can travel on a connecting itinerary. So a child younger than 15 can no longer connect, for example, through Charlotte or Philadelphia on the way to another destination.

NORRIS: Now, we should clarify something. It seems that there's two sets of rules - the minimum age requirement for children on direct flights and a separate set of age requirements for children on connecting flights. Is that correct?

Mr. KAPLIN: That's right. Most any airline allows a child to at least 5 years old to travel alone on a non-stop or direct flight. The airlines have different rules when it comes to connecting itineraries that's because, of course, they have to make sure that the children can navigate this complicated hubs in Atlanta and Charlotte and Phoenix. And so some airlines allow a child as young as 8 years old to travel on a connecting itinerary. In the case of U.S. Airways you have to be 15 years old before you can travel alone on a connecting itinerary. So the rules are actually vary quite a bit.

NORRIS: Seth Kaplin is with Airline Weekly Magazine and he says this can also mean increased cost for families.

Mr. KAPLIN: Southwest doesn't charge for a non-accompanied minor and Continental Airlines, if you're connecting, you'll pay $95 each way or $180 on a roundtrip. Just in the fee and addition to the ticket price. So the rules really do vary quite a bit between airlines.

NORRIS: The experience of traveling alone is a lot for some children to deal with but many do to visit relatives, to visit divorced parents or attend a summer camp. And some, including 8-year-old Angus MacMillan(ph), take things in stride. He lives in Oklahoma City and he flies alone a couple of times a year on average. And I asked about his first solo trip.

Mr. ANGUS MaCMILLAN: I was kind of scared but not really because I knew that there was going to be flight attendant watching me. So I wasn't really scared.

NORRIS: Has anything ever gone wrong?

Mr. MaCMILLAN: Once, they got really late and I was just sitting and waiting behind the flight gate counter. That's the only time that something went wrong.

NORRIS: Angus, you are an old pro at this, having flown so many times by yourself, do you have any advice for other kids that fly solo or maybe for the parents who send them off on these journeys?

Ms. MaCMILLAN: Don't be scared to let your kids go on a flight by themselves. The odds are nothing bad will happen. So it's okay. And for the kids that go solo like me, just keep doing it and you'll get used to it.

NORRIS: That was frequent traveler Angus Macmillan. He's 8 years old. A footnote to all of this, watch those kid flyer rules closely. Our airline watchers tell us they are likely to continue to change.

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