Simon Calder's Holiday Helpdesk: How do we get our 14-year-old daughter, to fly unaccompanied, to see her pen-friend in northern Spain? 

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Q. How do we get our 14-year-old daughter, unaccompanied, to see her pen-friend in Santander in northern Spain?  She’s a savvy south Londoner, so we’re sure she’ll cope. But I have only just spotted (luckily, before I paid) that Ryanair doesn’t take unaccompanied under-16s.

Name withheld, London SE1

A. As you have discovered, Ryanair insists “Children under the age of 16 years must always be accompanied by a passenger over 16 years”. As Ryanair is the only airline that flies from London to Santander, this presents something of a problem.

Happily, the airports on either side of Santander on Spain’s north coast – Bilbao and Asturias – are served from Stansted by easyJet, which allows 14- and 15-year-olds to travel on their own; the rules are available here: Bilbao, which is closer and has better links to Santander, is also served from Heathrow daily by Vueling. This Spanish airline is even more liberal: children as young as 12 can travel unaccompanied. The quick, €1.35 bus ride from Bilbao airport into town terminates at the bus station, the “Termibus”, from where fast and frequent services to Santander take about an hour. But perhaps the pen-friend’s parents may collect her.

Santander is an excellent destination for both teenagers and normal people. It is an exciting, cultured city with plenty to see, as well as a long, sandy beach. Indeed, so attractive is Santander that I have a final suggestion. You could, after all, fly at least one way to or from Santander with Ryanair, and spend a couple of days in the city. Or each parent could make a short trip, one to deliver your daughter and one to collect her.

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