United Airlines loses a 10 year old girl

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123 Responses to “United Airlines loses a 10 year old girl”

  1. Conan Librarian says:

    Have they checked to see if there were any men on-board?

    • V10_Rob says:

      Because as we all know, every male is a child molester, right?

      Every couple of months, I come across a news story about a kid that wandered off or was otherwise in peril, and people just stood by and watched.  When the men are later asked why they didn’t Do Something, they blame fear of such accusations.  Talking to or touching a child, even one in clear and imminent danger (true example, a toddler that wandered onto the highway) is absolutely taboo.

      It’s not that people don’t care about a missing child, it’s that we can’t afford to care, or become involved in anyway.

  2. Mitchell Glaser says:

    How can people be so heartless?

  3. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    United is pleased to report that well under 1% of unaccompanied minors are unaccounted for.

  4. Sofia Ortiz says:

    When I was very little, about 7 or so, a bunch of my cousins and I were sent off to summer camp. It’s tradition in our family. Some of my older cousins had already been to this summer camp several times, and we were sent off in a group, so no one seemed to have qualms about us connecting in DFW (from Mexico) to St. Paul, Minnesota, where the camp was. This was on American.
    When we arrived in Dallas, no one was there to greet us – so my 12-year-old cousin, the oldest, (call her E), decided to be the leader and take us where we needed to go. She took us to the bathroom, to buy some chewing gum, and even to call our parents. When we called home and our parents learned it was E (and not an airline representative) who was leading us around, they all had a collective heart attack and proceeded to bombard American Airlines with complaints.
    When we got to our gate, a very frazzled-looking representative was there to ask, “Are you the Ortiz family?” and when we said “yes”, she said, “Oh, thank God”, and that was that.

    But yes, airlines are terrible about unaccompanied minors. On the way back home (I was too little to stay as long as my cousins) I went through DFW alone, and got stuck there overnight because of a thunderstorm. My parents weren’t even allowed to speak to me. Finally they bullied the airline into letting me stay with an aunt who lived in the area; but I was sitting on my own in some weird “children’s room” in the airport for several hours without any idea what was going on. It was pretty terrifying.

    • Dolphin says:

      With separated parents across the country, I made quite a few flights as an unaccompanied minor. The only time I had a problem was due to a storm which shut down the airport for the night. The airline employees were pretty nice, but I basically spent the night sleeping on the couch in the employee lounge and eating from a vending machine (which I think an employee paid for out of her pocket). The worst part though was that I was 15 at the time and they told me that if I was 16 they could put me up in a hotel. Seems strange that unsupervised behind closed doors in an employee lounge was better than at a hotel. They didn’t seem to have any policy for that situation, they were just winging it. 

    • tavie says:

       The last part sounds like the premise of a film I saw once… http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0488658/

      Art imitates life. Or… well, mediocre holiday film imitates life.

  5. shutz says:

    Empathy: it seems to me that every problem in the world right now has, at its root, a lack of empathy on one or both sides of the issue.

    It’s a pity that empathy can’t be legislated for, that it can’t be enforced (since enforced empathy is not empathy at all.)

    • Marc Mielke says:

      It would seem to be good business practices to at least appear to care about the MISSING CHILD OMG!, given that if you don’t find him/her your damn airline is going to be headline fodder for a week or so. 

  6. First that musician’s guitar, now a human child? What’s next?

  7. Boundegar says:

    Corporations are people too, my friend.

  8. Nylund says:

    I really hope this doesn’t inspire a bunch of people to attack a parent for sending their kid off on a flight alone.  I did that quite a lot at a young age (probably starting around 8) and I loved it.  It gave me a great sense of independence and really helped my confidence and self-esteem.  I did it a couple times a year and never had any problems.  I actually barely remember any assistance from the airlines.  I remember them checking on me during the flight, asking if I needed anything, but then again, they do that for everyone.  I forget if they helped during connections…they probably did, and it probably annoyed me because I thought of myself as a “big boy” who didn’t need any help.  But yes, airlines should keep tabs on such kids.  I just hope that’s the solution, not banning the practice altogether.

    • Christopher says:

      I’m not a parent, so I may not have the best perspective, but I can imagine situations where parents have no choice but to put their child on an airplane alone.

      In other words I’m not going to have a knee-jerk reaction of judging the parents because I don’t know their circumstances and/or reasons for putting their child, unaccompanied, on a plane. Most parents I know would only do so if they had a damned good reason.

      And I’m not going to suggest banning the practice because that could put a lot of parents in a very difficult position.

      What I am going to have a knee-jerk reaction about is that, as long as airplanes allow unaccompanied minors, and as long as they offer a guarantee of protection for those minors, they have a responsibility to disregard any concerns about spending a fraction of their profits and focus solely on keeping unaccompanied minors safe.

      • gadgetphile says:

        According to the update, the airline charges an unaccompanied minor fee, so I don’t think keeping an eye on the kids is part of the operational expense, but rather possibly another revenue center, depending on the size of the fee.

        • foobar says:

          +1 Informative.

          That changes it from “irresponsible parents offloading their larvae onto everyone else” to “irresponsible corporation not fulfilling its contractual obligations.”

        • ocker3 says:

          You’d think that a company that charges for a specific service would provide that service, wouldn’t you? Surely that money goes for the extra time and effort required by company staff to undertake the service, not to simply increase the bottom line, I can’t believe that would happen.

        • chgoliz says:

          It’s not cheap.  I’ve never done it myself, but friends who have were quite shocked at the charge.  The last child I know about personally, it cost $150 extra.

    • Warren_Terra says:

      I don’t want to “attack” the parents, but I am confused and troubled by this. Not all eight or ten-year-old children are the same, and my personal experience is very limited, but it really doesn’t seem appropriate to send a child that young among strangers unaccompanied. Yes, thorough intervention to assist unaccompanied minors will mean irritating some mature teenagers with excessive coddling; it will also make sure less competent minors reach their destination.

      With sufficient oversight, unaccompanied minors should probably be OK – if the air crew are fully informed and are monitoring the door to make sure the child doesn’t get off until a responsible adult (including airline employees charged with the responsibility) picks them up, for example. But just to launch these children into transit with a note pinned to their chest seems excessively optimistic.I guess I just wish I knew two things: 1) How detailed are the procedures the airlines have for unaccompanied minors? How much responsibility do the airlines offer to assume? 2) When sending an unaccompanied minor, do you make special arrangements and pay for the services necessary? Or do you just hope for the best?

      • Bodhipaksa says:

        It’s a service that the airline companies sell. Just like daycare centers sell a service of taking care of children all day when you can’t, airlines sell the service of taking care of children while they’re traveling and you can’t. If it’s irresponsible for parents to entrust children to an airline, is it also irresponsible for them to entrust their children to a daycare center? 

        • Martijn says:

          If this is something they paid for, then this is indeed a terrible screw-up by the airline. I’d never heard of such service, but then again, I don’t live in a country where you need a plane to get around.

          I was actually somewhat glad to hear about parents who let their kids travel on their own. Though of course the kid should have a cell phone and instructions to call home regularly.

      • Ramone says:

        What’s ther to be confused about. Kids aren’t dummies. They may get scared easier than adults, but a capable kid can travel by her or himself without problems. My parents were divorced and sent me across country several times via plane as a minor from the age of 8 on. Never had a problem.

        Usually it works well. In this case, the airline fucked up. At least they’ve publically acknowledged their error and are trying to make amends.

        • Warren_Terra says:

          Maybe you were especially good, but eight does seem awfully young. I can see it working OK gate-to-gate (with a parent basically meeting the kid at the plane door at each end of the trip), but if a plane change is required special arrangements really do need to be made.

          • Chandler Lewis says:

            Warren, did you read the story, or any of the comments?  “Special arrangements”?  These weren’t special arrangements, they are a regular service offered by the airline in exchange for money.  Nothing special about it.  At all.

            Your passive voice construction confuses me:  “Need to be made” be whom?  The parents certainly made very special arrangements by dropping some coin; the airline certainly made no special arrangements at all, and that seems the end of the argument.

            As Ramone said, they fucked up, and a kid is a really bad thing to fuck up upon.

    • blueelm says:

      I flew a lot as a child, but usually no stops. Navigating the changed flights, possibilities of delay, changing gates, etc. can be pretty harrying. You’d want to make sure younger kids have some kind of guidance from the airline for that. It strikes me as strange they are more concerned with whether a man sits next to a child than whether the child gets lost completely (and therefore becomes much more vulnerable than a kid in an airplane seat).

      • EH says:

        You’d want to make sure younger kids have some kind of guidance from the airline for that.

        Right. That’s why they charge an unaccompanied-minor fee.

  9. Davy Jones says:

    Man, I freaking hate United these days. I’m stuck with them as a 1k flyer out of SFO and they were always a big impersonal company, but since the Continental merger they have ratcheted up the FAIL rate on flight delays, lost seat reservations, lost luggage … and evidently lost unaccompanied minors. 

    We were flying overnight cross country this spring and after booking six weeks in advance and reserving a row of three seats for my wife and two-year-old, we checked in to find we were booked in separate middle seats all over the aircraft. United just fails as a service organization. 

    • millie fink says:

      Ditto, pretty much. I’ll never use that airline again. They never even bothered to respond to my online written complaint.

    • mcarlson says:

       You’ve obviously never flown Spirit Airlines before.

      • wysinwyg says:

        Spirit is the perfect capitalist enterprise.  They have complimentary drinks and peanuts, and to get them you just need to pay a completely reasonable cabin portage fee.  The bathrooms are always in good condition and the bathroom fee is also reasonable — although the two aisle traversal fees for the trip there and back can be a little pricy.  And they almost never misplace your luggage as long as you’ve paid your baggage retrieval fee.

        Next up: quarter slots on the overhead bins.  It’s not gouging, it’s giving consumers the chance to optimize their completely modular flight experience.

        (Some of this may be satire.)

        • mcarlson says:

           I think you nailed it right on the head. You did forget the complimentary Airport Delay so you can greater enjoy the lack of seating and amenities in their Fort Lauderdale terminal.

          Standing burns more calories, right? That’s just Spirit looking out for our health.

  10. It’s horror stories like this that make me leery of airlines allowing unaccompanied minors at all.   I realize there are financial barriers to traveling with your child to see him or her safely to a destination but what parent would allow this except in an emergency?

    • dawdler says:

       not sure i’d characterize this as a “horror” story, but yeah, it does make you have second thoughts about leaving your kid to these companies.  corporations seem to be more and more dehumanizing as time goes on.

      • wysinwyg says:

        I don’t have any children, but I can still at least start to imagine what it would be like to have a child, to find out that child is not where she is supposed to be, to not be able to get in touch with my child, and to have my frantic efforts just to get the child on the phone for some reassurance she’s OK met with bureaucratic callousness.  I’m not sure “horror story” even does it justice.

        • dawdler says:

           no, you’re right – i take it back.  it’s a horror story.  i hadn’t had my morning cup of empathy yet.

          • wysinwyg says:

             To be fair to you, the content of today’s mainstream media probably would have knocked the empathy out of Doris Day.

    • OtherMichael says:

      ….  and those short skirts, the parents were just ASKING for it!

      Granted, one was a utilikilt, but still.

    • chgoliz says:

      - divorced parents with shared custody;
      - illness in the immediate family and child has to go stay with a relative;
      - camp;
      - visiting BFF who moved cross-country;
      - extra plane fare for adult chaperone can cost a week (or two) of salary.

      There’s a short list to get you started.

  11. pocoTOTO says:

    I can’t count the number of times my sister and I flew unaccompanied in the 70s and 80s between divorced parents with no problems whatsoever. We were aged 6 and 4 the first time we did it. And I might be misrembering this given the lack of mishaps, but I am pretty sure that a few times we managed to convince the flight attendants that we could find the connecting flight on our own and were allowed to do so. Simpler times, I guess.

    • Terazilla says:

       Keep in mind back then they allowed non-fliers to go up to the gate.  So your parents could watch you get on the plane, and whoever you were meeting could be right there on the other end to pick you up.  This is much less risky and involves a lot less decisionmaking on the part of the child.

  12. CLamb says:

    I’ll bet an Amber alert on a missing 10 year old girl last seen in the custody of United Airlines would’ve gotten action quite quickly.

    • nixiebunny says:

      And it might have had a bit of impact on their desire to do something about it. In addition the action I think you’re talking about, which would be that of the police and the other passengers sitting in the bars in the Chicago terminal, watching the TV news.

    • cjporkchop says:

      Technically, AMBER alerts are only issued for confirmed child abductions, not for just any missing child.

      But yes, media attention might have been useful…

  13. dawdler says:

    Bob Sutton really says it best in his blog post: 

    This is the key moment in the story, note that in her role as a United employee, this woman would not help Perry and Annie. It was only when Perry asked her if she was a mother and how she would feel that she was able to shed her deeply ingrained United indifference — the lack of felt accountability that pervades the system. Yes, there are design problems, there are operations problems, but the to me the core lesson is this is a system packed with people who don’t feel responsible for doing the right thing.  We can argue over who is to blame and how much — management is at the top of the list in my book, but I won’t let any of individual employees off the hook.

  14. lavardera says:

    I would have called the Police, and the FAA, the moment they told me they did not know where my daughter was. 

  15. I won’t fly United again.  Flew with them last year, cramped plane, poor AV and, despite it being a transatlantic flight, no complementary drinks.  Nothing on the same planet as losing your kid, but symptomatic of  an airline that cares more about grubbing for a few dollars rather than happy repeat customers.

    • Daneel says:

      So who will you fly with instead? Which US-based international airline isn’t exactly as you’ve just described (give or take a free half-can of coke)?

      • Mark Stephan says:

        jet blue, virgin america… though they definitely aren’t as big

        • Daneel says:

           Oh, I like Jet Blue. Not an international option, mind.

          My favourite international airline has to be SAS. Consistently excellent. Sadly, the route I used to fly no longer exists.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      United used to be the good airline, but that was a few decades ago.

  16. I flew alot between divorced parents in the early ’80s. That was back in the days where the staff and flight attendants were helpful, courteous, and friendly. I flew to Germany by myself at the age of 10. Kids aren’t stupid, or retarded. Give them an overview, maybe make some notes for them to keep with.

    • mccrum says:

       This is entirely true, the real problem with this sounds like it was in the transfer.  I shudder to imagine what would have happened with inclement weather and a cancelled flight, given the amount of hassle I need to put up with to get any service as an adult who knows my rights…

  17. awjt says:

    If you think United and DFW are bad, try Delta and Newark.  Holy shit, never never NEVER again.  I’d rather pour molten cat shit down my throat.

    • Sofia Ortiz says:

      Flew Delta for many years after not flying American. I like them much better than United (which I fly now due to location), and much much better than American. Newark could be worse. Detroit and Atlanta are pretty nice, actually.
      The worst airports for me are DFW and Houston…

      • jandrese says:

        Worst airports for me is a tossup between Boston Logan and LAX.  I’ve only done LAX a couple of times though, but both times the security line was an utter nightmare where the TSA seemed outright determined to go as slowly as possible and delay as much as they can.  Stopping ALL lines for several minutes anytime any single xray checker noticed anything at all unusual.  It’s the only time I’ve arrived two and a half hours early for a domestic flight with no checked bags and still almost missed my flight. 

        Logan was bad because changing planes in there always seems to involve going all the way out the parking lot to walk between buildings with no shelter.  They also lost my bags 3 out of 4 times.  I’ve never flown through DFW or Houston though, so they may be worse. 

        • penguinchris says:

          LAX is a mixed bag; it can be bad (like you describe) but typically is fine depending on what terminal you’re in and other factors I’m sure. 

          I’ve been through there a lot and counter to your experience they always seem to be rushing people through – to the point of being much, much ruder than TSA people normally are, somewhat amazingly.

    • CLamb says:

       How hot does is have to get to melt?  Don’t worry.  I’m not planning anything–just curious.

  18. Cleo says:

    Does anyone think the parents might share some responsibility for this? After all, the child is only 10 years old. It seems a bit young to me to be put on a plane by oneself.

    • ChicagoD says:

      But of course, the airlines offer this shipping service. That you would not avail yourself of it is evident, but it is hardly caveat emptor when people do.

    • wysinwyg says:

       You wouldn’t happen to be a United Airlines employee by any chance?

    • Daneel says:

       I hear Progressive offer good insurance for unaccompanied minors.

    • Shay Guy says:

      Phoebe Klebahn is not a thing. She is a person.

    • Mitchell Glaser says:

      Well, some asshat had to say it.

    • Brad Shur says:

      Flying unaccompanied minors is a service this airline offered. It’s a service that airlines have been offering for a long long time and one that many airlines have performed for decades, mostly without losing kids.

      Parents routinely trust the safety of their children to others, daycares, schools, bus drivers,  babbysitters, amusement park ride operators.

      They trust restaurants to makes food that won’t harm their children and toy manufacturers that their toys won’t explode.

      You seem to be suggesting that a ten year old needs to be hovered over constantly, and that purchasing a service from United is equivalent to packing a child into a wooden crate.

    • Steve Miller says:

      Yeah, I call parenting fail, too. Can you image? They were gonna let that poor kid be in the company of strangers at camp for simply weeks! And paying for it, too. Gosh!

    • Steve Taylor says:

       Ummm…. no. Nothing wrong with kids flying alone if they’re supervised properly.

    • Shay Guy says:

      So this is what, twice you’ve edited this comment to completely rewrite its meaning? Or did I miss any?

  19. Gyrofrog says:

    I thought unaccompanied children could only make non-stop, or at least direct, flights.  I guess it depends on the airline.

  20. Daemonworks says:

    Every single person who they talked to who did nothing to help should be fired immediately.

  21. RedMonkey says:

    This is a sad story, but in my experience not characteristic of what I’ve seen from United employees – whenever I’ve had a problem they managed to solve it with a minimum amount of time, and hardly ever any attitude.  The same can’t be said for American or Air Canada.  

    United has problems related to their fleets (i.e. lack of modern AV) and schedule management (often delayed).  But I’ve always liked their employees.

  22. ChicagoD says:

    United fails the failing of fails here.

    As for what the rest of us are supposed to do, I guess it depends on your kid. At minimum I would expect my 10-year old to have a charged cell phone on his person. Of course, he has to turn it on, etc. but hey, parenting is all about trying to get those things into their heads. In any case, I have to think this gets resolved more quickly if I can talk to my kid directly, and tell him to walk up to a cop, for instance, and hand the cop the phone. Just a thought.

    • Shay Guy says:

      United fails the failing of fails here.

      > Don’t be a terrible airline.

      You fail to not be a terrible airline.

      > Fail to not be a terrible airline.

      You successfully fail to not be a terrible airline.

  23. Jonathan Carpenter says:

    I flew as an unaccompanied minor in 1974 when I was 11, on Delta Airlines, and missed my connection in Chicago, where I had to stay overnight.  I was taken care of by a Delta representative the minute I got off the plane.  They paid for a hotel room, bought me dinner, made sure I got up the next morning, bought me breakfast, and even gave me spending money for some comic books.  They also kept my parents updated, and don’t remember them being too worried.   I thought it was a great adventure. 

    That’s the kind of customer service that all the airlines have forgotten how to do.

    • awjt says:

      Things were a little different in 1974… for one, that flight likely cost about 3x to 5x equivalent airfares today.  Plus, fewer people flew and customers were king.  I’m so glad you were taken care of!  I remember when the pilot had me fly the plane in 1982.  He was like, hey kids, wanna fly the plane?  The little girl who was next to me sat in the copilot’s seat, and I sat in the captain’s seat, while the copilot took a bathroom break and the captain stood right behind us telling us what to do.  Talk about fucken AWESOME!  We didn’t lurch the plane or anything, just a little rolling left and right, slowly.  The captain was like a big policeman.  There was no way we were gonna be punks.  After it was over, we felt like the best kids on earth.  Ahhh, flying used to be so super awesome.  Now it’s usually barely a step above taking a Greyhound bus, unless I fly business or first class, which is hardly worth the cash.

  24. gadgetphile says:

    I saw the comment about Sutton’s blog post. I wonder about the opinion from the free range kids point of view.

    edit: erm- Lenore Skenazy, to the white courtesy keyboard, please.

  25. IanM_66 says:

    Something about the way this story is told strikes me as a little weird – it seems to imply that most of the employees they reached were childless and therefore callous, and that the key to finding the kid was that they finally got ahold of a fellow mother, as though mothers are rare. Given that, rather overwhelmingly, most adults over 30 or so do have kids, it seems likely that most people they spoke to were parents, the Klebahns just probably didn’t think of using the guilt-trip tactic until they got this woman.

    On the other hand, the idea that you have to be a parent yourself to care about finding a lost kid is also pretty screwy. Anyway.. I know it’s a bit besides the point, but just pointing out that the narrative seems to be based on some weird precepts about parents.

  26. steve849 says:

    What kind of family has its kids flying around unaccompanied? Parents, tear yourself apart from your other social networks and accompany your own children. Choose to raise your offspring. 

    • smath95 says:

      My son flies to see his grandmother (my ex mother-in-law) every summer. Even if I wanted to fly with him, then fly back for a month, then fly back to get him and fly back home with him, 2 round-trip cross-country airline tickets for me, plus his ticket, and at least 4 days off work is not in my budget. That doesn’t make me a bad parent, and I resent your implication.

    • ChicagoD says:

      You mean choose to hover over your offspring. There will be a day for every kid when flying alone is good for them. I agree that their FIRST flight (particularly with connections) ought to be accompanied, but your suggestion is otherwise too broad.

    • jandrese says:

      Meanwhile, back in the real world sometimes parents can’t always fly with the kids for a variety of reasons.  It’s not like the parents are just too lazy to fly, they may very well have some commitment that prevents them from going with the children.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      What kind of family has its kids flying around unaccompanied?

      My friend whose eleven year-old is spending the summer with his grandmother in Germany. Should they fork over half a month’s salary to fly with him and drop him off, or should they just forgo the opportunity for him to visit his grandmother and experience another culture?

      • awjt says:

        They should just eat him, like all good German families do.

      • Martijn says:

        I little experience with airplanes, and no experience at all with American ones, so I have no idea what the challenges are for a kid to travel alone by airplane, but when I was 12, I traveled across Netherland alone by train for 4 days. I did have a booklet with all the train schedules on me, so I could plan my trip, and I probably spent a significant part of my travels reading that thing.

        I visited museums, stayed with distant and not-so-distant relatives. It was a great experience that I’d love to recommend to anyone, but I’m aware that not every child is the same, so check first whether they can actually deal with this sort of thing.

    • AwesomeRobot says:

      Who needs to let kids fly unaccompanied when you’re a helicopter parent!?

      • Antinous / Moderator says:

        So is an airplane parent the opposite of a helicopter parent?

        And more importantly, do well-educated school teachers surreptitiously refer to hovering parents as Mr. and Mrs. Sikorsky?

  27. Don Sandwell says:

    The crux of the matter is “DO THE RIGHT THING!”. What difference does “Corporate Policy” make? What difference does “What time you get off work” make? What difference does ‘Not my problem” make? Haven’t we learned anything from the Penn State coverup? Do the right thing! A Child Is Missing! Do the right thing! Solve the problem. Do what it takes, whatever it takes, FIRST. Then worry about the fallout. Find the child. Put out the fire. Call the police. Speak up, Act up. Do the right thing FIRST. We can worry about secondary matters later. Priorities People.

    • ChicagoD says:

      Be the person who realizes the kid is “misplaced” and stays with the kid until they are “placed.” Doesn’t seem that hard.

  28. angusm says:

    Dave Carroll and the Sons of Maxwell will shortly be releasing a catchy follow-up to their earlier hit, this one to be called “United Loses Kids”.

  29. robotmistake says:

    My son (10 yrs old) got lost ridding his bike home in DC. Someone saw him in distress at a street corner and asked if he needed help. My son used the strangers phone and I picked him up. People are good… corporations are not people :(

  30. Mitch_M says:

    So as a humble taxi driver I’m doing a better job of transporting kids than a huge airline. I’ll even call to follow up and let the parents or other concerned parties know that the passenger was delivered safely.

  31. dmc10 says:

    Those not specific to this situation, you USED to be able to see people (and your kids) off at the gate, so you could be sure they actually made it onto the plane. Not so now, thanks to our generally useless airport ‘security’ policies. The idea of a kid being in a terminal alone gives me chills, ’cause there’s some real effed up people in the world.

  32. jclor says:

    Based on past experience, I’d rather have a lubeless colonoscopy than fly United.  And stuff like this makes me wonder how they keep their planes in the air, much less keep from losing passengers.

  33. gellfex says:

    Upsetting story, my kids fly every summer to their grandmother on the other coast, always with a transfer. We had one near miss, and it was incredibly frustrating talking to some CS drone in Mumbai about what will happen to my kid if he misses the connection.

    But what I don’t understand is why the parents didn’t send the kid with a phone? I bought a VirginMobile prepay burner that cost  $10 and activate it each summer for $20 to send with them. Small price to pay for knowing you can reach them if something melts down in the system as it did for this kid, and a tiny fraction of the cost of airfare plus the unaccompanied minor fee.

  34. billstewart says:

    Technology’s no substitute for the airline having sensible policies and competent people, but it can certainly help.  I’m surprised that the airlines themselves don’t provide smartphones with GPS tracker software that unaccompanied minors can carry around with them and return when they arrive, so they can find the kids wherever they are.

  35. Susan Weiner says:

    When I was 10 (in the early 90s), I flew cross-country alone for the first time, although I had flown many, many times before. My plane was nearly an hour late getting into O’Hare, and I had 15 minutes to make my connection. I knew how these things worked, I ran the whole way, and made my plane, although my luggage didn’t.

    I got to Seattle, where my parents were supposed to pick me up. My parents weren’t there. Now, my family actually lived about an hour and a half away from Seattle, and this was before anyone involved had a cell-phone. I tried calling my parents, I had them paged in the airport, I couldn’t find them. I started to worry that they had gotten in a car accident on the way to pick me up, or something like that, because why else would they possibly not be there half an hour after I arrived?

    Finally, I was able to reach my father at work. Apparently, when my plane was late, he had called the airline. and explained the situation. He said that if there was any chance at all I might have made the flight he would happily drive down and wait in Seattle. They reassured him, repeatedly, that I wasn’t on the plane, couldn’t possibly be on the plane, would be put on the next plane.

    Now, honestly, I don’t know whether anyone was tracking me. I’ve always been fiercely independent, and already knew my way around airports pretty well by that point. If someone was supposed to meet me at the gate, I might have brushed past them and run to my gate because I knew it was what I was supposed to do. 

    The main point is, this problem has been going on for quite some time and the problem can go both ways on lost children, either ones who don’t know where their supposed to be and get lost in the system, or ones who know exactly what they’re doing and are capable of handling it, but get lost by the system anyway.

  36. Antinous / Moderator says:

    How could you not? Most businesses that rely on customer confidence need to give the impression that they care about their clients. It’s a lot easier to do that if they actually do care about them.

  37. Paul Waldron says:

    When Airlines charge an “unaccompanied minor fee”  don’t they become legally responsible for the minor?  This includes stewardesses watching minors to prevent them from being molested by Males who are all Creepy Pedo’s?

    The airlines are just trying to do as little as possible and denying any responsibility for their shortcomings.

  38. Antinous / Moderator says:

    You hire a consultant who comes into your company and teaches people how not to be assholes. It’s actually quite common. When I worked at the hospital, we had a massive, year-long customer service drive to reorient some classes of employees to the fact that patients are human beings, not cattle.

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