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Recent episodes of temporarily misplaced children who were flying alone should prompt parents to take extra precautions before allowing youngsters to travel solo, according to AAA.

In general, airlines allow children ages 5 to 7 to fly alone on nonstop or direct flights and those 8 or older to make connections. Most airlines also charge a service fee of at least $30 one-way for an unaccompanied minor.

As the largest leisure travel organization in North America, AAA provides the following advice for parents of children who will be flying alone:

-- Discuss special needs with the travel agent or airlines ahead of time. Be sure the agent knows the child is flying alone. You will be asked who will be taking the child to the airport and who will be picking up at the other end.

-- Have your child carry all needed information in a safe place. Besides the name, address and phone number of a contact person, the child should have pickup instructions and all airline information.

-- Make sure your child has the ticket in a safe place. If it becomes lost, be sure the child knows to ask the flight attendant for help as soon as possible.

-- Provide your child with a pre-paid calling card and instructions on where to reach you if there are delays en route.

-- Check with airline to see if it will allow you to escort your child onto the plane before the flight. This will allow you to meet the people seated nearby, point to the lavatories and explain how and when to use the flight attendant call button.

-- If your child will be changing planes, try to avoid late afternoon or evening flights. The chance of a flight delay becomes greater as the day progresses.

-- Leave home early enough to arrive at the airport at least one hour before departure, and at least two hours before an international flight.

-- When checking in, you will need to complete the airline's "unaccompanied minor" form, show your ID and tell the attendant who will be picking up the child.

-- Check with the airline to determine how it will identify your child as a solo flyer, such as with a special pin.

-- Instruct younger children to stay seated after the plane lands and wait for a flight attendant to help.

-- Don't leave for home until the plane takes off in case the flight is delayed and passengers are asked to leave the plane.

-- Be sure the people responsible for picking up your child get to the gate before the plane arrives and have the proper ID. Notify them of any delays or change in plans.

As the nation's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides its nearly 44 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safety and security of all travelers.

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