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June 18, 2014

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10,000 youngsters to fly solo this summer

MORE than 10,000 children living in Shanghai, most the offspring of migrant workers, are expected to take unaccompanied airline flights this summer, local carriers said yesterday.

During the school holidays lots of children have no one to look after them during the day so their parents send them to stay with grandparents.

The number of youngsters flying solo from Pudong and Hongqiao airports between June and August is likely to be more than 10 percent higher than last year, with the majority traveling on domestic flights.

China Eastern Airlines said it expects to carry more than 7,000 such children in the period, an increase of 13 percent from last year.

A lot of parents just don’t have the option to stay home with their children over the summer holiday, said Zhou Qing, who works for the company’s ground service department.

A woman surnamed Zhang, whose 10-year-old son took a four-hour flight from Shanghai to Hohhot alone on Friday, said she had no choice but to leave the boy in the care of the airline.

“I had no option,” she said. “I couldn’t spare the time to accompany my son on the flight.”

Most airlines do not impose any additional fees for caring for minors, though Air China does charge 200 yuan (US$32) when doing so on international flights.

Parents are advised to alert the carrier a week before departure, as most flights will take no more than five children traveling alone.

They should also be aware that they cannot leave the airport until the flight has taken off, Zhou said.

Once in the custody of airline, however, parents can rest assured their children are in safe hands, he said.

A staff member will accompany them through the security checks and escort them onto the plane. In most cases, the children are given seats at the front of the cabin and near the aisle so that flight crew can keep a close eye on them, he said.

For safety reasons, they are never given seats next to adult males, he said.

On arrival at their destination, the youngsters are escorted off the plane and handed over to whoever is there waiting for them, Zhou said.


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