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Did the parents do enough to ensure her safety? 10-Year-Old Girl Goes Missing After Flying Alone on United Airlines

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At what age is it appropriate to let a child fly alone on an airplane? This is the newest debate after Annie and Perry Klebahn’s 10-year-old daughter, Phoebe, missed her United Airlines plane connection because the third-party unaccompanied minor service representative had “simply forgotten to show up.”

Phoebe’s parents “only knew their daughter did not make it when her summer camp in Michigan called to say she hadn’t arrived.”

Once she was discovered “missing,” it took an additional hour to find her!

“Apparently when the flight landed, she asked the flight attendants for help, but they told her they were busy and she needed to wait. She also asked thrice for access to a phone to call her parents, but was allegedly also told to wait.”

This is not the first time an airline has failed to provide sufficient care of an unaccompanied minor, and it probably won’t be the last. Her parents could have purchased a direct flight, or provided her with a cell phone for this trip; regardless, the main point is that this unaccompanied minor was, well, unaccompanied!

At what age would you allow your child to fly on a plane unaccompanied? 

 

*Note from the Author: This blog's intention is not to defame any specific airline. I would've written the same blog if it had been Delta, Airtran, or any other airline. This blog is just my opinion, as a mother who is terrified to place her child on ANY airline alone, especially after reading this news story.*


http://www.everydayfamily.com/blog/10-year-old-girl-goes-missing-after-flying-alone-on-united-airlines/?utm_medium=rss&utm_source=outbrain&utm_campaign=articles&tc=120043&subid=articles&utm_term=US
by on Jan. 18, 2013 at 10:04 PM
Replies (41-50):
katy_kay08
by on Jan. 19, 2013 at 10:12 AM

The airlines missed the boat.  Parents pay an extra fee for the service and should have the assurance and reasonable expectation that the airline is going to provide the service they have paid to have performed.  

There are situations that arise where putting a child on a plane unaccompanied is a necessary evil.   As a parent, I had to trust the airline each and every month to deliver my son safely between here and Las Vegas.  Flying down to get him and return with him was just not something we could afford to do.  Alaska airlines was the worst about providing the service they charged $50 each way to provide.  

Euphoric
by Bazinga! on Jan. 19, 2013 at 10:50 AM

 I think that's too young.

greenie63
by Silver Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 11:36 AM
1 mom liked this

That's not how the unaccompanied minor program works. I'm an ex airline employee who had extensive training with booking reservations for minors, and assisted parents during the process while they are in flight. 

The parents/guardian at the originating flight, let's say mom takes the child to the airport and obtains a gate pass to go back to the plane. Mom's information will already be in the reservation, so only mom can get the gate pass. Mom MUST stay with her child until the flight has left the ground, she cannot leave the gate when the child boards or is preparing for take off, she MUST stay until the plane is in the air, an airline rep will make sure of this, and I would hope any parent would feel the need to stay. 

Now the child while on the plane will be seated in the back of the plane in the care of the flight attendants, specifically one. The passenger manifest will specifically have the child listed as an unaccompanied minor who be the last to leave the plane upon arrival in the connecting city. The flight attendant then hands the child over to the airline rep who is specifically there to "babysit" the child until they get on the next plane, then the child is in the care of the next flight attendant. If the child has a lengthy layover, they are taken to the unaccompanied minor room, which is loaded with tons of fun stuff, like xbox's, tv's, books, crafts, juice, water, healthy snacks and they can use the phone there to call mom and dad. 

The person meeting them at the final destination will already have their name in the reservation and must arrive at least an hour prior to the flight's arrival. They will receive a gate pass and must be at the gate where the flight attendant will check that person's photo id before handing off the child. 

There are many checks in place because the airlines do not want to be sued and they want to protect the most precious cargo (a term we used all the time). 

The parents did not fail at all, the airline did and this upsets me knowing how careful we were with minors. I hated when people turned down the option after a child reached the optional age. I've gotten too many calls to find the child and you go into panic mode. I've always found the child within minutes, but during that time, if I'm upset, can you imagine how upset the parent feels, and how terrified the child is? 

Quoting AMBG825:

Both parties share blame in this. When your minor child flies unaccompanied, they are supposed to get an attendant. that attendant is there for them alone. They get them on the plane. They sit with them. They take them to any connection flights and they stay with them until they are picked up. That is their job. The parents paid for that service.

 

If the attendant didn't show up, the parents should have been at the front desk complaining and finding out what was going on. They shouldn't have just put the child on the plane alone.


yourspecialkid
by Platinum Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 11:42 AM

 Oh wow!  Unaccompanied minors are supposed to have an attendant assigned to them...the article does say her attendant failed to show up.  Another attendant should have been assigned to her immediately.  I think reprimands are in order for the attendants too "busy" to help make sure she made her next flight.  That is inexcusable.

I don't see how this could be the parents fault.........do we blame the parent when a school leaves a kid on a field trip?  Or a day care leaves a kid on a van?  Of course not.

AMBG825
by on Jan. 19, 2013 at 11:58 AM

Wasn't how it worked the numerous times my kids flew unaccompanied. And I would not have allowed them to fly in that manner. It's no wonder the airline lost the child. That's the most irresponsible process I've ever heard and I'm glad the airlines we've used didn't follow this procedure.

Quoting greenie63:

That's not how the unaccompanied minor program works. I'm an ex airline employee who had extensive training with booking reservations for minors, and assisted parents during the process while they are in flight. 

The parents/guardian at the originating flight, let's say mom takes the child to the airport and obtains a gate pass to go back to the plane. Mom's information will already be in the reservation, so only mom can get the gate pass. Mom MUST stay with her child until the flight has left the ground, she cannot leave the gate when the child boards or is preparing for take off, she MUST stay until the plane is in the air, an airline rep will make sure of this, and I would hope any parent would feel the need to stay. 

Now the child while on the plane will be seated in the back of the plane in the care of the flight attendants, specifically one. The passenger manifest will specifically have the child listed as an unaccompanied minor who be the last to leave the plane upon arrival in the connecting city. The flight attendant then hands the child over to the airline rep who is specifically there to "babysit" the child until they get on the next plane, then the child is in the care of the next flight attendant. If the child has a lengthy layover, they are taken to the unaccompanied minor room, which is loaded with tons of fun stuff, like xbox's, tv's, books, crafts, juice, water, healthy snacks and they can use the phone there to call mom and dad. 

The person meeting them at the final destination will already have their name in the reservation and must arrive at least an hour prior to the flight's arrival. They will receive a gate pass and must be at the gate where the flight attendant will check that person's photo id before handing off the child. 

There are many checks in place because the airlines do not want to be sued and they want to protect the most precious cargo (a term we used all the time). 

The parents did not fail at all, the airline did and this upsets me knowing how careful we were with minors. I hated when people turned down the option after a child reached the optional age. I've gotten too many calls to find the child and you go into panic mode. I've always found the child within minutes, but during that time, if I'm upset, can you imagine how upset the parent feels, and how terrified the child is? 

Quoting AMBG825:

Both parties share blame in this. When your minor child flies unaccompanied, they are supposed to get an attendant. that attendant is there for them alone. They get them on the plane. They sit with them. They take them to any connection flights and they stay with them until they are picked up. That is their job. The parents paid for that service.

 

If the attendant didn't show up, the parents should have been at the front desk complaining and finding out what was going on. They shouldn't have just put the child on the plane alone.


 






 

TruthSeeker.
by Milami on Jan. 19, 2013 at 11:58 AM

 For connecting flights and no cell phone, I think 10 is too young. For direct flights, it depends on the child.

Lottie925
by Bronze Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 12:09 PM

You know what? I think SHE proved she could handle it. She contacted authorities several times, she asked for a phone several times, and she didn't just up and leave the airport. If it were my child, I'm not sure I would allow a connecting flight. I also might provide her with a temporary cell phone for safety.

Seems odd that this many staff at United Airlines didn't make sure a CHILD was taken care of. Bizarre.

stormcris
by Christy on Jan. 19, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Could have happened if the parents were there too as a child can get separated from them....missing a connecting flight happens to adults as well. 

However after reading the link this is entirely on the airline for their actions. The girl handled the situation and the airline has issues. I do not feel the child was "too young" because numerical age is a poor determination of maturity.

Tara922c
by on Jan. 19, 2013 at 12:32 PM

I started flying unaccompanied when I was 4, yes I said 4 my mom lied and said I was 5. My dad lived in a different state so I grew up flying all by myself. Most of the time, I had to switch planes twice to get to my dad's house. At 12, I had to start navigating the airports alone as my dad was too cheap to pay the unaccompanied minor fare. I remember walking through the Atlanta airport looking for my connecting flight, and I am sure people were wondering why I was alone considering I was the size of an 8 year old at 12!

My dd is 5 and there is NO WAY IN HELL she will be flying alone anytime soon! If she were to ever fly without me, it would have to be a direct flight and I would make sure she had a cell phone. Even if she was 14, I would still pay the unaccompanied minor fee. Ultimately, United is responsible for making sure the little girl made her flight, but I do think the parents should have provided her with a cell phone. Being said, I never flew with a cell phone when I was a minor, so I can understand thinking your 10 year old doesn't need one. 

greenie63
by Silver Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 1:21 PM

Interesting since all airlines follow the same guidelines. 

Quoting AMBG825:

Wasn't how it worked the numerous times my kids flew unaccompanied. And I would not have allowed them to fly in that manner. It's no wonder the airline lost the child. That's the most irresponsible process I've ever heard and I'm glad the airlines we've used didn't follow this procedure.

Quoting greenie63:

That's not how the unaccompanied minor program works. I'm an ex airline employee who had extensive training with booking reservations for minors, and assisted parents during the process while they are in flight. 

The parents/guardian at the originating flight, let's say mom takes the child to the airport and obtains a gate pass to go back to the plane. Mom's information will already be in the reservation, so only mom can get the gate pass. Mom MUST stay with her child until the flight has left the ground, she cannot leave the gate when the child boards or is preparing for take off, she MUST stay until the plane is in the air, an airline rep will make sure of this, and I would hope any parent would feel the need to stay. 

Now the child while on the plane will be seated in the back of the plane in the care of the flight attendants, specifically one. The passenger manifest will specifically have the child listed as an unaccompanied minor who be the last to leave the plane upon arrival in the connecting city. The flight attendant then hands the child over to the airline rep who is specifically there to "babysit" the child until they get on the next plane, then the child is in the care of the next flight attendant. If the child has a lengthy layover, they are taken to the unaccompanied minor room, which is loaded with tons of fun stuff, like xbox's, tv's, books, crafts, juice, water, healthy snacks and they can use the phone there to call mom and dad. 

The person meeting them at the final destination will already have their name in the reservation and must arrive at least an hour prior to the flight's arrival. They will receive a gate pass and must be at the gate where the flight attendant will check that person's photo id before handing off the child. 

There are many checks in place because the airlines do not want to be sued and they want to protect the most precious cargo (a term we used all the time). 

The parents did not fail at all, the airline did and this upsets me knowing how careful we were with minors. I hated when people turned down the option after a child reached the optional age. I've gotten too many calls to find the child and you go into panic mode. I've always found the child within minutes, but during that time, if I'm upset, can you imagine how upset the parent feels, and how terrified the child is? 

Quoting AMBG825:

Both parties share blame in this. When your minor child flies unaccompanied, they are supposed to get an attendant. that attendant is there for them alone. They get them on the plane. They sit with them. They take them to any connection flights and they stay with them until they are picked up. That is their job. The parents paid for that service.

 

If the attendant didn't show up, the parents should have been at the front desk complaining and finding out what was going on. They shouldn't have just put the child on the plane alone.


 


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