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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 (51-60):
illinoismommy83
by Bronze Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 1:25 PM

The only way I'd let my kids fly alone is on a direct flight and... with a time machine so they could fly in the 90's and I could walk them to their gate and a relative could pick them up on the other end.

I think it is silly that people really expect the $100 or so fee they pay to be used for anything more than some grumpy lady to yell at the kid to sit at the gate and be good. However, since the airline does charge for this service, they need to actually provide it.

wymama610
by Bronze Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 1:52 PM
1 mom liked this
Agreed. I flew as a flight attendant for a major airline for years. My dad was a pilot for another one, and my mom was a flight attendant for a third. Between the three of us we had the "big three" covered. The process at all three is exactly as you laid it out greenie. At mine, the child had a folder around their neck that each person would sign off when the child was transferred. Gate agent to flight attendant, to gate agent to flight attendant, to pickup person at destination.

One time in all those years I had an issue. We were diverted due to weather and the child had to spend the night with the flight crew at a hotel. I drew the short straw and took the boy (age 10) in my room since the other F/As were gay men, and the pilots didn't want the responsibility. He used my phone to call his mom, and the next morning an airline rep picked him up and took him to the airport.


Quoting greenie63:

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.




 


Posted on CafeMom Mobile
mamalusbear
by Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 1:54 PM

Too young.  I think Southwest requires that minors be at least 12 to fly alone.  Poor little girl.  Glad she was okay and safe.

greenie63
by Silver Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 2:03 PM
1 mom liked this

Awww that's awesome you did that! I've heard of that happening from some of my past co-workers, but not too often. Airline employees do care, and they do make minors a top priority. If I had ever made a mistake, which I always made sure I didn't, when making the reservation I would be fired. 

I miss working for the airlines, especially my flight benefits, but my best friend still works for Delta and I'm good with buddy passes lol. It was like family when I worked there, I still have many friends still in the industry and I envy their travel opportunities :-( 

Quoting wymama610:

Agreed. I flew as a flight attendant for a major airline for years. My dad was a pilot for another one, and my mom was a flight attendant for a third. Between the three of us we had the "big three" covered. The process at all three is exactly as you laid it out greenie. At mine, the child had a folder around their neck that each person would sign off when the child was transferred. Gate agent to flight attendant, to gate agent to flight attendant, to pickup person at destination.

One time in all those years I had an issue. We were diverted due to weather and the child had to spend the night with the flight crew at a hotel. I drew the short straw and took the boy (age 10) in my room since the other F/As were gay men, and the pilots didn't want the responsibility. He used my phone to call his mom, and the next morning an airline rep picked him up and took him to the airport.


Quoting greenie63:

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.




 



WesternNYmom
by Silver Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 2:06 PM

There is no way I would let my kids fly alone unless I could find a direct flight where they didn't have a layover. I would be scared to death of my kids getting lost in the airport and missing their connection or someone snatching them.  I remember when I was 14, my brother (11 at the time and I) were returning from a trip to visit relatives out West.  Our connecting flight from Ohare to Buffalo was overbooked and we had to wait until seats became available, or until the airline could book us on another flight.  We had boarding passes, but due to an error the plane was full, and they gave our seats to someone else.  Thankfully  a few passengers oppted to take a later flight and we were allowed to board the plane. It scared the daylights out of me thinking that we would be stuck at  a strange airport for hours with no money.  My parents were pissed when they found out what almost happened. They never let us fly alone again.

JTE11
by Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 2:23 PM

I would never allow my child to fly unaccompanied. There are too many people out there, too many things that can go wrong, too many ways for her to get lost, hurt, abducted. This is actually a happy story because she was found and was alive and OK. She could have easily have disappeared without a trace. I think it's ludicrous that she wasn't even going anywhere important-it was just summer camp. I don't know, but IMO if the parents feel the summer camp is that important and there aren't any others close by that will do and  she has to take a plane to get there, then a parent needs to accompany her to and from it on the plane. And if they can't afford that then she doesn't go.

Madammeke
by Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 3:29 PM
I did when I was a child and now my 12 year old flew alone since the age of 8. It all depends on the child. Give your child always enough money to use a pay phone or even better give it a cell even when it is just for the trip. Book direct flights.

We never had a problem.

Posted on the NEW CafeMom Mobile
AMBG825
by on Jan. 19, 2013 at 3:31 PM

 That isn't  how it worked when my kids flew. They got their own personal flight attendant. The same flight attendant that they were dropped off stayed with them from start to finish. None of this stuff of parents putting them on the plane and HOPING that one of the flight attendants keeps tabs on them and HOPING that someone shows up at the connection point and HOPING someone helps them get off the plane. When my kids flew you handed them off to one flight attendant. S/he stayed with them on the flight, the same flight attendant helped them get to any connection flights and stayed with them until the designated person picked them up.

 

There would be no way in hell I would pay the price of an extra ticket, which is what we were charged for the unaccompanied minor based on HOPE.

Quoting greenie63:

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.


 


 






 

owl0210
by Bronze Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 3:34 PM
I flew alone when I was 14 and was given an escort. 10 is a bit young.
Posted on CafeMom Mobile
wymama610
by Bronze Member on Jan. 19, 2013 at 3:37 PM
Just curious........ What airline?

Quoting AMBG825:

 That isn't  how it worked when my kids flew. They got their own personal flight attendant. The same flight attendant that they were dropped off stayed with them from start to finish. None of this stuff of parents putting them on the plane and HOPING that one of the flight attendants keeps tabs on them and HOPING that someone shows up at the connection point and HOPING someone helps them get off the plane. When my kids flew you handed them off to one flight attendant. S/he stayed with them on the flight, the same flight attendant helped them get to any connection flights and stayed with them until the designated person picked them up.


 


There would be no way in hell I would pay the price of an extra ticket, which is what we were charged for the unaccompanied minor based on HOPE.


Quoting greenie63:


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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