Airline Sends 10-Year-Old to Wrong State

Filed under: In The News

airplane on tarmac

Continental sends two kids to wrong destinations. Image: cylonka Bsg/

If your young child has ever flown the friendly skies alone, then you know how stressful that can be for a parent. Putting your kid in the hands of strangers while you go home and wait anxiously for the phone call that confirms she made it safely to her destination is an uncomfortable and nerve-wracking experience. But we do it because we have faith in a system that assures us they have it covered and they know what they are doing.

Most times, they do get it right. But as Jonathan Kamens can attest, when they get it wrong they do it in a big way. Last weekend, his 10-year-old daughter was booked to fly as an unaccompanied minor on Continental Airlines from Boston to visit her grandparents in Cleveland. But instead of being greeted by hugs and kisses by her Ohio grandparents at the end of her trip, she ended up alone in Newark, New Jersey.

When kids fly alone like this, there's special paperwork and fees involved that are supposed to guarantee that a responsible adult airline employee will shepherd the child from departure to destination. In this case, things went wrong at the departure.

With the Cleveland and New Jersey-bound planes parked next to each other on the tarmac and departing from the same gate, it is easy to see how a confused traveler might end up on the wrong one. But an airline employee responsible for a young child is not a confused traveler and therefore should know better. This one didn't. Karmens' daughter was placed on the New Jersey flight and nobody -- not the flight attendants on the New Jersey flight or those on the Cleveland flight where she was supposed to be -- noticed anything was amiss.

It wasn't until Kamens got a call from his in-laws in Cleveland wondering where their granddaughter was that anyone realized something had gone wrong. For forty-five minutes, nobody seemed to know where the little girl was. In the end, it was Kamens himself who unraveled the mystery. Having noticed the Newark plane parked next to the Cleveland plane back in Boston, he suggested that perhaps she had been placed on the wrong flight.

Kamens is understandably upset. As he points out, it took more than one person screwing up to allow this to happen. And while this may seem like an isolated incident that is being blown out of proportion, consider this: The day before Kamens' daughter was flown to the wrong city, another unaccompanied minor flying Continental out of Houston had the exact same experience.

Continental blames both incidents on "miscommunication among staff members" and stresses that both children were supervised throughout the entire process of being flown to the wrong cities. Both families were offered some sort of compensation, but are considering legal action nonetheless.

After reading this, would you have second thoughts about letting your child fly alone?

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.