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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Simon Calder’s career in travel started at Gatwick Airport, where he cleaned aircraft for Laker Airways and later worked as a security officer. He became The Independent’s Travel Correspondent in 1994, and is known as “the Man Who Pays His Way” because he does not accept free travel facilities. He writes across the Independent titles, as well as for the Evening Standard.
Monday 21 January 2013
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: bit.ly/KidsAlone. 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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