Delta Diamond Passenger Uses Trick to Fly Business Class, Leave The Kids In Back – And Avoid Extra Fees

A Delta Diamond medallion booked his family on an international trip in premium economy. They were going to fly Delta’s Airbus A350 – but when the airline changed the aircraft they were planning to use to one of their ex-LATAM planes without that cabin the whole family was downgraded to extra legroom coach.

So he decided to upgrade himself and his wife, and leave their three kids in back.

Well the full story is we were booked on a350 in PS. Then equipment change to LATAM setup, so no PS, we were downgaded to C+. I then chatted and they divided the reservation up to apply two GUCs, which now that I look at it they applied to me and 15yr old. But it will be my wife and not the teenager up with me 🙂 So check in will be fine. Only potential problem is a FA saying “hey there is a 15, 14, 11 yrold without parents…”

There are really three different issues here:

  1. The classic ‘parents fly up front while the kids are alone in back’
  2. Swapping seats, so a passenger ticketed in coach (the mom) flies in business class
  3. Doing all this to circumvent unaccompanied minor fees

Delta isn’t going to allow a child under 15 on a reservation without an adult, without the child being listed as an unaccompanied minor. Delta charges $150 each way (for up to 4 children, not per child) for this service. So the parents appear to have circumvented Delta’s restrictions.

  • They plan for the parents to fly in business class, while the children fly in coach.

  • But since that requires being on two separate reservations (airline systems don’t allow people on the same reservation to be ticketed in different cabins), and doing this would trigger the unaccompanied minor fee, the parents actually upgraded the father and one of the children.

  • The mother and the other two kids are booked in coach.

  • They just plan to leave the kids by themselves in back. This saves them $150 each way, and the father is asking online whether it’s possible to have the unaccompanied minor fee waived since they’re actually traveling on the flight together.

In fact, there are no specific federal regulations regarding unaccompanied minor services. Each airline has their own policies, and airlines aren’t required to offer the service. Allegiant, for instance, does not offer unaccompanied minor services. Neither does Breeze or Avelo.

What was being addressed by upgrading one child and leaving an adult in back with the kids was a way of circumventing the automatic trigger to require an unaccompanied minor on the kids’ reservation. The correct thing here is to flag for the airline what’s happening and ask them to link the reservations. Children fly on different reservations than their parents all the time. I regularly booked Southwest Airlines tickets for myself, with my wife as a companion (companion pass), and redeemed points on a separate booking for my daughter. I just needed to cross-reference the bookings, and Southwest lets you do this online.

Here, no unaccompanied minor service is needed. Delta doesn’t have to watch the children at the gate or deliver them to authorized individuals at the other end of the trip. Flight attendants aren’t responsible for watching unaccompanied minors non-stop throughout their flight anyway.

The best thing here is to follow airline procedure. However, if not traveling as unaccompanied minors, then parents should certainly be supervising them during the flight. How necessary that is with an 11, 14 and 15 year old will vary by the 11, 14 and 15 year old. Abdicating responsibility is irresponsible to other passengers on board. Why not just leave one parent with the kids in back, in other words sit in their assigned seats?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’ve left my kids in coach, while mom and I sat up front. One of them was 15. I don’t see the issue here. That said, we didn’t “leave the kids” until the first reached 15.

  2. Seeing as how the source of the issue is the limitation of Delta’s reservation system for mixed cabin multi-passenger PNR’s and not an actual attempt to have minors fly unaccompanied without paying the fee, this doesn’t seem like much of a trick. plenty of airlines don’t guarantee that family’s can sit together anyway even when on the same reservation.

  3. There’s no issue, even if the kids are on a separate PNR. The two PNRs should be able to be linked, even with different classes of service.

    That said, if the gate agent doesn’t know how to do that, they can default to switching seats with the teen.

  4. It really comes down to the maturity of the kids. If they behave then there is no issue, if they act up then one of the parents can switch with one of the kids. I’ve been on international flights seated next to two unaccompanied kids and I thought the eldest was 16 or 17 – turned out she was 12 and had been flying alone for several years with no issues. She was more accomplished than many adults I’ve been next to.

  5. If there had been some sort of emergency, would you rely on an FA to get your children to safety? Me neither. I don’t think we’re looking at nominees for parent of the year here.

  6. Put them with me! Food fight! Just kidding. If the kids are well-behaved, the 15-year-old should be able to keep them in line. If not, one of the FAs will have to step in with mom and dad.

  7. I see no problem with the kids sitting together in coach for a problem Delta created. When advanced seat assignment hasn’t been made, airlines often split young children from adults looking after them. This is no different.

  8. I cannot see a problem with this. Perfectly reasonable approach. Kids are old enough, several states where the 15yo would be allowed to drive, so surely they can sit 50 feet away from their parents without all hell breaking loose

  9. We are flying AA FCO-JFK later this year. Wife and I are in F and kids in J. The issue is that it’s often difficult/impossible to book unaccompanied minor award tickets online – many airlines require you to call. When booking using partner miles, dealing with expiring inventory, that can be a hassle. So I’ve booked 1 parent + 1 kid on two PNRs and we will do the ‘switch’.

    Our kids have been traveling internationally (in F/J) their entire lives so I don’t expect any issues. And if they absolutely insisted we adhere to the 1+1 as booked obviously we’d do it.

  10. As others noted – the children are older and should be able to fly by themselves with no problem. Also, they are in C+ which is at the front of the coach cabin so the parent’s aren’t far away in business and I assume they would go back and check in periodically. Also, if an emergency or some issue came up I suspect the kids know where to find the parents (and doubt an FA would stop them from walking into business class to talk with their parents). From headline I was ready to shame the parents but sounds like it is reasonable and the Dad is even requesting how to link the reservations so they don’t pay the unaccompanied minor fee (I take it from him requesting that he would be willing to pay if Delta called him on it).

    No harm no foul IMHO.

  11. I am sorry but if I were these kids I put them in a home at 70. Let the kids fly first since this dad is only concerned is himself.
    Just remember this as your kids will to .

  12. I can’t blame them for wanting to experience the entirety of the world’s #1 PREMIUM airline, but did they have to bring their little brats along? They’re too young to experience everything Delta has to offer for the best PREMIUM experience they’ll ever get!

  13. Non-issue. Delta caused the situation by swapping aircraft so Delta should eat any charges resulting from that swap. They even got extra revenue from the poor schmuck for the upgrade.

  14. Most of us here fly enough that we know 30 should be old enough to fly on your own, but isn’t for some. If the threesome can be well behaved: why not? Plus, I assume they are in three adjoining seats in the 3-3-3 C+, nit sitting next to others, and can’t be far from parents.

  15. @Christian, No extra revenue for upgrades with a GUC. Delta would have (correctly) received less revenue, since the whole family was downgraded from PS to C+.

  16. This is a premium level travel hack by the most discerning fliers. One can only hope they had on noise canceling headphones to not hear their children in steerage.

  17. Minors on the same plane as parents or responsible adult 18+ who are in a separate cabins, do need the unaccompanied minor formality. However, there is NO fee being charged. Just letting Delta know the children are unaccompanied during the flight. Flight attendants will keep eye on minors and have responsible party info at hand, ensuring minors are not without guidance or extra TLC!

  18. I know that the parents didn’t do anything wrong, but my question is if there was an issue with the kids would the parents have gotten upset if Delta fa’s expected the parents to deal with the kids? Would the parents have told the Delta fa’s to deal with them?

  19. Parents are on the plane – and the kids are old enough. Hardly unaccompanied!

    In any event, the bigger problem is unruly kids that are actually sitting with their parents.

  20. Several issues come to mind here. First yes as a flight attendant we do watch the UM during the flight. Second I’ve seen kids left alone fighting the whole time distrusting the other passengers. Third and most importantly if there was an emergency the parents if they care at all about their Children, will be trying to come back to help them get out of the aircraft which would seriously hurt the deplaning evacuation. Don’t do this and risk your children’s lives and other passengers comfort.

  21. The adults are still on the plane, i dont see this as an issue.

    Gosh, I remember in my youth the age after which you didnt have to register as an unaccompanied minor was 12. I remember the day I turned 12 I told my parents NEVER AGAIN!!! So in 1992 on spring break I flew to see other family in LA from louisville (via the CVG hub!) and they asked if I would need help with my connections. “Certainly not!” I said. And that was that. Never looked back. 15?! Why are we coddling kids so much these days. Early independence toughens them up. Weaklings.

  22. I see no issue. 15 year old can monitor siblings

    Kids today when given any responsibility the media makes it sound like abuse

    I remember when latchkey kids used to come home from school at 14-15 and both parents worked. Friday night mom and dad went out and babysitter was 15-16

  23. Honestly, the kids often act better than the parents. The only problem I saw was a Mom getting upset because the flight attendant served the kids soda pop and other sugary snacks instead of juice and a healthy snack. She called over the flight attendant and started to rip her a new one about not being health conscious to children. The flight attendant asked if the children had any good allergies, which they did not. She asked Mom for her boarding pass, looked at her and straight up told her, “It is not my responsibility to ensure your children follow the dietary restrictions you impose upon them. This would not have happened had you been seated in your assigned seat. You can either move back to your assigned seat or consider disciplining your children once we get back on the ground.” Gave her back her boarding pass and walked away.

  24. Put the 15 and 14 year old in the front, the parents sit in the back with the youngest.

    There are more cabin crew in the front to assist, 15 year old is no longer a child officially, the youngest child in the back is shown parents care about him/her most to stay together.

    Granted I am in my 60s and have never had even a single child, let alone several children. But it’s my twopence and it still seems like the best option to me.

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