The “UM” Experience – Part 1

Hello everyone! Today, I am going to talk about a travel experience that not many people experience as a child: traveling as an unaccompanied minor (UM). I’ve traveled as a UM several times over the years, on both long and short haul routes so, I can discuss some of the differences between the two. I took my first flight as a UM on Air Canada, when I was 8. I had been nagging my parents to go to Canada and visit my aunt, but I hated the fifteen-hour drive. My mom suggested that I fly. Up till this point, I had never even dreamt of taking a flight alone, and I was taken aback by the fact that people, whether adults or children, sometimes, people traveled alone. It seemed absurd! However, I quite enjoyed the thought of some freedom when flying, and soon the arrangements were made.

We got to the airport early and filled out all of the additional paperwork needed for the adventure. My parents had to specify that they were giving temporary custody of me to my aunt, who would be meeting me at Toronto Airport. To an eight year old, however, it just seemed like a lot of waiting around.

Finally, we were ready to go towards security, and the gates, but there was a problem. Only one of my parents could accompany me to the gate. I had to make the heartbreaking decision of which parent would accompany me. I ended up choosing my dad and gave my mom a big hug before disappearing from her view as I rode down the long escalator towards security. We made our way through security and reached our gate. The ground staff called my dad and me to the gate desk and told us that I would be the first to board and that my dad would have to wait at the gate till my plane took off.

Soon, It was time to board, and I was a mix of excited and nervous. I, however, downplayed it for my dad’s sake. I walked down the jetway which seemed to be miles long, with my roll-aboard suitcase in tow. Finally, the aircraft door came to view. From the gate, I could see that it was a tiny little thing. A CRJ-700 for my avgeeks out there. It would make the small hour-long hop from Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) to Toronto’s Lester B Pearson International Airport (YYZ).

I stepped through the small door of the plane, and the flight attendant showed me to my seat… which happened to be seat 1A, so she could keep an eye on me throughout the flight. She asked me if I was nervous, and I told her that I wasn’t. She talked to me a little while longer until the other passengers started to make their way down the jetway. They streamed in by ones and twos and sat down quickly. All of the passengers, probably about 100 of us, were boarded within 15 minutes. We pushed back, and before I knew it, we were hurtling down the runway. The flight lasted just over an hour, and seemed to “fly” by! When we pulled up to the gate in Toronto, I was told to wait till all of the other passengers got off, then someone would come to take me through the airport. I can’t quite remember exactly what happened next, but I do remember passing through Customs, and then through a set of double doors.

I saw my aunt before she saw me. And I ran and gave her a big hug. After a bit more paperwork, it was time to go to my aunt’s house. My parents drove up to Canada about a week after and stayed a few days before we all drove back together again.

This is it for part 1! I have two more stories about traveling as a UM which will hopefully come out soon. Until next time!

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