Unaccompanied Minor are Cathay Pacific’s most precious cargo – so their parents would argue. In the year preceding the pandemic Cathay Pacific looked after more than 4,000 children flying solo.
Whether this is your first time booking the service, or you are seasoned with many other unaccompanied minor policies then to help with the confusion, here is a helpful guide for parents and guardians using Cathay Pacific.
Breaking Down Terminology
As a start, it is good to break down the key terminology that will be used as there is nothing more gut-wrenching that sending your children into the open world without fully understanding the ramifications of doing so.
What Is A ‘Unaccompanied Minor’?
An ‘unaccompanied minor’, commonly known as ‘UM’ is a child who is travelling alone without a parent, guardian or responsible adult.
For people who don’t use the service often or do not fly a lot, the definition of what constitutes being a “minor” is usually different between airlines as there is no real set industry standard.
The International Airline Transportation Association (IATA) has some guidance for carriers – and in it they define a minor as some who is under the age of 16. But this is just a guideline. Garuda only offers an Unaccompanied Minor service up to the age of 12, Qantas up until the age of 15, and Cathay Pacific offers their services up until the age of 18.
Some airlines (like Cathay Pacific) will break this down further and define a minor as either a child or a young adult. The purpose of this, in Cathays case, is to note that a child (someone aged 6 to 12 years of age) must use the unaccompanied minor policy when flying with the carrier; whereas the young adult (aged 12 to 18 years of age) is optional and at the parents discretion.
Understanding Passenger Type Codes
While not a massive point to drill down on, but one to be aware of.
By default, airfare systems assume that all passengers are Adults, but in this article, we know that this is not the case. The common type codes to look out for after you have made the booking are:
- ADT: adult
- CHD: child
- INF: infant without a seat
- INS: infant with a seat
- UNN: unaccompanied child
If you hold a ticket that does not say UNN then it is worth double checking with the carrier
If you are booking with a travel agent, some airlines (like British Airways) require the agent to enter keywords into the booking system (ie ‘YPTA’) to denote to the airline, and the airline can identify, that that person is a solo flyer, or a Young Person Travelling Alone.
What Is Cathay Pacific’s Unaccompanied Minor Policy?
Cathay Pacific’s Unaccompanied Minor policy is governed by Clause 6.8 of Cathays Conditions of Carriage – the policy document when you buy an airline ticket.
Anything that you read – such as on their own website – will always be referred back to this document.
6 to under 12 years old
If your child is aged six to under 12 years old, enrollment as an Unaccompanied minor is mandatory, unless they are accompanied by an adult passenger who is at least 18 years old.
12 to under 18 years old
You are not required to make any special arrangements for your children aged 12 to under 18 years old when they travel. However, you can still register them as Unaccompanied minors if you wish for added care and attention.
How To Make A Cathay Pacific Unaccompanied Minor Reservation
You can book a flight for a child travelling alone by calling Cathays reservations office or your travel agent. The Unaccompanied minor service cannot be requested online.
You will need:
- Adult’s full name at point of origin
- Adult’s full name at point of arrival
- Contact information (mobile number) for departure and arrival
Costs & Fees
Certain fare types are not eligible for Unaccompanied minor service, and additional ticket-related fees may apply.
Hong Kong to/from airports in:
Middle East & Africa
South West Pacific
Fee per sector
Fee per sector
All other sectors
Fee per sector
Fee per sector
^Charge is paid in HKD for any sector departing from Hong Kong SAR. For any sector departing from other destinations, the charge is paid in the local currency equivalent of the USD fee, by using the USD exchange rate at the point of sale on the date of purchase – the local currency fee is therefore subject to currency fluctuation. Bookings from certain points of sale, including India, may incur a sales tax.
There are 2 limitations to the Unaccompanied minor service
- If your booking with us includes flights operated by other airlines, not all airlines have (or will accept) an unaccompanied minor – therefore it is advisable that all flights are undertaken by a single airline
- If your booking involves a transfer exceeding five hours or the connecting flight does not leave from the same airport, then you will be unable to use the service.
Cathay Pacific Unaccompanied Minor Step-By-Step
Below you will find the step-by-step instructions for the journey of an unaccompanied minor.
Before The Flight
- Contact Cathay Pacific to confirm unaccompanied minor policy
- Review country-specific regulations and prepare all required documents ahead of time.
At The Departure Airport
Check-in for the flight as normal, 90 minutes prior to departure, Cathay staff will escort your child through security and immigration procedures and take them onto the departure gate.
Staying at the airport
It is a requirement for the guardian / parent to stay at the airport until the child’s flight has departed.
The Unaccompanied minor will be led to the appropriate seat number by our airport team member.
For connections involving a change of aircraft, the Unaccompanied minor will be escorted between flights. An airport team member will remain with the minor during the entire connection period.
The adult nominated to meet your child at the destination airport, as specified in the Unaccompanied minor form to be filled out, will need to provide proof of identification before we release your child to them.
Should the person at the airport attempting to collect the Unaccompanied minor be different to the person nominated on the form, we will contact the parent or guardian to verify the identification of the pickup person at the destination.
Certain countries have specific restrictions for children travelling as unaccompanied minors as part of the drive against people trafficking.
Extra documentation varies depending on the country you are travelling to, so please check with the relevant government authorities to make sure you have everything you need before you travel.
Countries that are known to have stringent requirements include:
- South Africa
- United Arab Emirates
- United Kingdom
Supplementary Services As An Alternative
But that is not to say there are no other supplementary services that could be used as a somewhat replacement if you didn’t want to spring for an Unaccompanied Minor Service.
For example, as it is the passenger’s responsibility to make it to the gate on time, you are entrusting a minor to be trusted enough to navigate an airport and make it onto the plane. While the carrier might not provide the service, a larger airport may have its own meet-and-greet team that can assist.
London Heathrow and Hong Kong International, for example, have their own meet-and-greet operation while other airports have turned to the free-market which has created its own mini-industry with companies like Allways (part of Plaza Premium Group) existing.
GENERAL GUIDANCE TO PARENTS
Here are some general good practice tips for parents and children
1. ENSURE THAT THE CHILD KNOWS BASIC AIRPORT LINGO
Make Sure The Child Knows That Gates Close Upto 40 Minutes Before Departure
One of the things children may not know is that the gates close sometime before the actual departure time.
As such it may be worth keeping them on the phone and ensuring they avoid any kids’ areas and go straight to the gate.
Airlines these days will send you gate information so it may be a good idea to have a map in front of you and pull up the information to guide them through the airport
Make Sure The Child Knows Their PNR
The PNR or the passenger Name Record is the 6 digits alphanumerical code that is usually called the booking reference.
If the child gets lost – the PNR should be an easy way to identify the child and get them on their way if they get lost.
2. VERIFY TRAVEL DOCUMENTS
You’ll want to make sure that the child has any necessary travel documents such as a valid passport, any visas, and proof of return travel in a safe folder in their bag.
If you think the minor might lose the passport or travel documents, consider attaching them to a minor’s neck lanyard or something similar.
3. TRY TO ALWAYS BOOK A NON-STOP FLIGHT
While it is not always possible if say you are not in a big city, however booking non-stop flights significantly reduced the stress placed on both the parent and child.
This is for two reasons.
First, dealing with connections can be stressful and difficult especially if there is a limited time window and the airport is particularly large or confusing to navigate.
Also, if there happens to be a delay and the child is forced to stay overnight they would have to check into a hotel which would almost be a new and foreign concept. Some children may not be aware of Airside hotels and therefore would have to go through immigration to get to a Landside hotel. This naturally dials up the risks involved.
You might also think about using something like Apple’s Airtags to monitor the child on their trip
4. MAKE SURE THEY HAVE EMERGENCY MONEY
In case of any unforeseen issues, it is good to give the child some emergency money in case anything does happen but also make them aware not to spend the money in the Airport Starbucks.
A prepaid Visa or Mastercard card can come in handy if there are unlikely to be bottlenecks in using it. For example, if they need to make a WhatsApp call/message using the onboard Wi-Fi system then cash wouldn’t be a good option.
5. PHONES AND POWER
Depending on the child’s age, they may not be glued to the phones just yet – it is good practice to make them aware of where the phone charger is in the bag.
Also, provide them with a power bank should they need it so their phone has a battery to make calls.
That said, it is important also to ensure international calling is set up on the phone plan and roaming is enabled on the phone itself.
6. DON’T LEAVE THE AIRPORT UNTIL THE PLANE TAKES OFF
While any multitude of issues can arise when the little one goes through the airport, should they miss their flight, it is good to still be at the airport to collect them and work out an alternative.