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Domestic flight check-in
Domestic flights with children are not as strictly regulated as international flights. You can book them on cheap flights to Johannesburg from Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and beyond. However, the child will require an abridged or unabridged birth certificate or passport for identification purposes. This must be produced together with the identification documents of the parent or guardian that is travelling with the child.
International flight check-in
In July 2015 the laws for travel with minors changed and regulations are strict. There is good reason, however. According to the Department of Home Affairs, around 30,000 minors under the age of 14 are trafficked across South African borders, annually.
What you need to know
All minors – that is children under the age of 18 - must produce an unabridged birth certificate and a valid passport. This certificate is important because unlike the abridged version, this one also has the details of both parents of the child.
It is a good idea to apply for an unabridged birth certificate from Home Affairs, well in advance of your intended travel, and wait for it to be in your possession before booking an international flight with your child.
Single parent travellers
If you are travelling alone with your child it is very important that you get a signed affidavit from the absent parent that gives permission for the child to leave the country with you. The document should contain both parents’ details including passport numbers, as well as the details of the person they are travelling with.
There should also be detailed information pertaining to departure and return dates of the trip as well as the countries being visited. If a child leaves the country without one or either of the other parent’s permission, this is considered kidnapping.
Flying without mom or dad
If a child is travelling with grandparents, school or friends then the affidavit needs to have permission of both parents, as well as copies of the identity document of the persons accompanying the child and the contact details of both parents.
If one or both parents have died, then a death certificate needs to be produced in place of the affidavit.
The rule for unaccompanied minors
Most discount airlines such as Kulula.com or Mango no longer allow unaccompanied minors under the age of 12 to fly alone. However, a minor who is aged 5 or older can fly with someone who is 16 or older within the borders of South Africa.
British Airways and SAA will allow children aged five and older to fly on their own and are provided special supervision and relevant documentation. The airline must be made aware of the booking, in advance. Reservations for unaccompanied minors cannot be made online.
The airline will provide the parent or legal guardian with documentation to fill out, which will include the details of the person collecting the child from their destination. The child will not be handed over if the identification of the person does not match the information in the documents.
The same procedure is used for international flights as it is for domestic flights, however, the child still needs an unabridged birth certificate and permission to travel from both parents and their contact details.
Know what you need before you book
Kids are unpredictable and travelling with them can be stressful. Make sure that you have all the correct travel documentation and certified copies at the time of booking and draw up a pre-check in list of all the necessary documents. In that way, what started out as a plan for a memorable trip with affordable and cheap flights to and from Johannesburg or anywhere else in South Africa, won’t end up as your worst nightmare!