Nervous about letting my kids fly unaccompanied

Discussion in 'Community Board' started by descovy, Oct 6, 2012.

  1. mhsjax

    mhsjax DIS Veteran

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    Or we can just let a kid on a plane and their parents have no idea what flight or time the plane will land. I bet most instances, the family isn't flying also, as in the child is going to visit a grand parent. AGain, my kid won't be flying at that age alone, so no worries on my part. You all feel free to do with your kids as you wish, I won't be doing this with mine.
     
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  3. mhsjax

    mhsjax DIS Veteran

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    And what would they have done if you were on a flight that came in 3 hours later than scheduled? Even more reason to get in contact with the parents. And in these days of cell phones, I don't believe that you can't get ahold of someone. I mean there are times when you can't fly out until the next day, I guess your poor old parents would have had to wait at the airport until the next day for you to arrive. Too bad, if they had been called they would have known.
     
  4. DopeyDame

    DopeyDame DIS Veteran

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    That's definitely a good thing, as your expectations for the airline are way outside the realm of reality. Even if the kids are officially flying as UMs, the airline will most likely rebook them first, and contact the parents later. That's because they want to make sure the kids actually get a seat (which are probably harder to come by if flights are being cancelled). When you pay the UM fee, you're paying for someone to worry about things like that for your kid.

    If you didn't pay the UM fee (as many, many 13 year olds don't do when they fly alone) than your kid will be treated exactly like any other passenger on the plane, and the parents won't be remotely involved in the process. I'm not even sure what you expect that to look like: Plane gets cancelled. 250 people are trying to rebook. 13 year old approaches harried, close to minimum wage customer service agent and says "my flight was cancelled. I'm trying to get to [Timbuktu]." Then you expect hte customer service agent to say tell the other 249 passengers to just hang on a second while she tries to track down the parents of this one passenger to make sure that the parents do, in fact, want her to get rebooked on the next available flight to Timuktu. Not gonna happen. Not in a million years.

    I'm pretty confident that the vast majority of 13 year olds can handle getting rebooked and then calling their parents with the new flight information as needed.
     
  5. mhsjax

    mhsjax DIS Veteran

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    And that is why my kid won't fly alone. Too many flights get canceled, too many flights get delayed and they miss the connections, too many flights overbook. Minimum wage employees not caring about kids, and even it you do pay UM I have examples of airlines pretty much forgetting the child. We will just leave it at that. Airline travel isn't what it used to be. AGain, my kids won't be doing this.
     
  6. DopeyDame

    DopeyDame DIS Veteran

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    I don't know her parents, but I'm guessing that they would have hung out at the airport until her flight landed, or maybe found a nearby Applebees where they could eat wings and watch some football to kill the time.

    I'm still confused as to why you think it's the airline's responsibility. Can't your teenager pick up the phone and make a phone call to update you on their plans if they change? Cant' you check the online flight status and monitor the flight and notice that the flight is delayed or cancelled?

    My sisters and I did actually get stuck in an airport overnight. After we had gotten rebooked and realized what had happened, we called my parents (WE did, not the airline) who called the airport hotel with a credit card number (none of us were old enough for credit cards). We then checked into the hotel, spent the night, ordered room service (whcih was AWESOME as we were never allowed to do that when our parents were around), got up the next morning, and made it home all in one piece.
     
  7. mhsjax

    mhsjax DIS Veteran

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    again, my kids in a strange city in a hotel alone. My kids won't be doing this. Oh and if no one is available, as everyone seems to have an example of, how in the world is a parent supposed to see if a plane is delayed, they won't know which one you are on? Again, my kids won't be doing this at 13.
     
  8. Hannathy

    Hannathy <font color=darkorchid>When I stop laughing I will

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    And where is the airline ticket counter person supposed to get the phone number of the passengers parent to call? It isn't on your ticket? Do you give your parents phone number when you buy a ticket?

    they are just another passenger like everyone else.
     
  9. morgan98

    morgan98 Mouseketeer

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    I would also think that kids at this age could handle a flight with a connection. Between the 13 year old, and the more responsible 11 year old, I would think they could follow some directions. This is something that can be practiced before they leave the house.

    Hopefully, most of the time, the unaccompanied minor system would work just as it was intended and was paid for. If there were some hiccups, I would make sure the kids had a cell phone and a couple of printed copies of the itenerary. Make sure the kids know what airline the are flying and tell them if no one is there to specifically meet them that they are to find an employee of the said airline and show them the itenerary. I would think they could also approach a friendly looking mother with children or other "normal" person. Most people are helpful and there are plenty of employees at the gate, etc. to ask if there are questions. With the cell phone, they would also be able to call and give updates as frequently as requested. Kids are oftern willing to step up and take additional responsibility for something that is a special situation.

    Airports really are a controlled environment and I think for the most part any problems would be minimal. I am sure there are exceptions, but in my opinion you cannot always be worried about the worst case scenario.
     
  10. sam_gordon

    sam_gordon DIS Veteran

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    Can we please remember, this whole episode that's being discussed with a 13yo rebooking their own flight was 40 YEARS ago...

    This was before cell phones. It's VERY possible the airline COULDN'T contact anyone.
     
  11. jujube

    jujube DIS Veteran

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    The Delta airline procedure for our kids was:
    Check-in at the counter
    1 parent allowed to go to the gate and wait.
    Flight attendant takes child onto flight with preboarding group.
    At layover airport, the child is escorted to private waiting room with other kids waiting for flights.
    There are airline attendants in the room as well as snacks, activities, and bathrooms.
    When the plane arrives, child is escorted to the gate area where flight attendant then escorts the child onto the plane.
     
  12. DopeyDame

    DopeyDame DIS Veteran

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    I am 100% confident (as the daughter of a 30+ year customer service agent, and having worked for an airline dealing with UMs while in college) that oday, the vast, enormous majority of customer service agents would make no effort at all to contact the parents of a teenager travelling alone, assuming that they were not travelling as official UMs.
    A 12 year old UM is a completely different story, but on most airlines, a 13 year old does not have to pay the UM fee, and is not treated any differently from the other passengers. If the kid needs to be rebooked, the airline will rebook them without consulting anyone other than the passenger standing in front of them.

    I dont' think people are encouraging teenagers to run around rebooking on random flights and never telling anyone. The point is that it's the teenager's responsibility to contact her parents, just as it's the responsibility of every other passenger on the airplane to contact those waiting for them or expecting them to arrive. I don't think that's an unreasonable expectation of a teenager, who almost certainly has her cellphone glued to her 24 hours a day anyway.
     
  13. DopeyDame

    DopeyDame DIS Veteran

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    That sounds very standard for children travelling as officially registered and paid for unaccompanied minors. It's really a pretty good, but not perfect, system.
     
  14. disykat

    disykat DIS Veteran

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    Again, my flight WAS later - by like 10 hours. There was NO ONE for them to call! I already explained how we finally managed to get in contact - it took some doing. Yes, they spent a lot of time at the airport being told only that the flight had never taken off. They knew I was in Denver. I'm sure they WERE worried, but they knew it hadn't crashed or anything like that. There were no cell phones. This happened MANY years ago, as I have said repeatedly. I handled it because I had no choice. They handled it because they had no choice. Things were just different before cell phones, sometimes you just waited.

    While it may have been a bit hair-raising for my parents, I remember it as a GOOD experience. I was proud of myself. I was given meal vouchers for two meals and used them. I was happy I didn't have to spend the night in the airport, but was preparing myself for that possibility. I knew to stay in populated areas, etc. I remind myself of that day when I'm freaked out about my kids.

    My parents got a few grey hairs. I got an adventure, plus 6 weeks in the Mid-West visiting with various relatives and gaining some confidence at a really tough time of my adolesence. I think my parents would agree it was worth it.

    My parents understood that they had agreed for me to take care of myself like an adult would when they agreed for me to go and bought my ticket.
     
  15. rentayenta

    rentayenta <img src=http://photopost.wdwinfo.com/data/500/dm.

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    My oldest and youngest have flown together, twice, unattended. They were 13 and 9 the first time. Southwest considered them unaccompanied. It was a non stop from SLC to Denver. They did great. They went for a 2 week Jewish summer camp. I walked them to the gates, they boarded together, found their seats, and one of the counselors met them at the gate.
    They had no flight attendant involvement at all other than a hello and a snack.


    Best thing I've done for them and me. As a self admitted helicopter parent, it was a positive growth experience for all of us. :)
     
  16. jujube

    jujube DIS Veteran

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    Delta takes kids aged 17 and younger. It's optional for ages 15-17.
     
  17. DopeyDame

    DopeyDame DIS Veteran

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    Yup - that's why I said 'most' 13 year olds aren't UMs.
     
  18. cornflake

    cornflake DIS Veteran

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    I won't even with the silliness of expecting the airline to try to find the parents and 'discuss' with them what the kid should or shouldn't do. It's an airline, not a babysitting service.

    We're talking about kids flying as adults, how would the airline workers even know how old the kid is?

    I took the shuttle a couple of times at 13. I went to the airport, bought a ticket, got on the plane, no issues - except that they used to have a special fare for under-16 and I asked for it and the worker was all 'what?' because they'd assumed I was over. They're not checking ages, they don't care unless it's a lap kid issue.

    It'd be bizarre for an airline worker, had a flight been cancelled, and everyone was in line trying to rebook, be all 'now, you're here, alone, trying, completely reasonably, to rebook a cancelled flight but how old are you because if you're under... what? 18? I'm going to have to call your parents and discuss with them what you're allowed to do.'

    The only response would be 'but... I'm here, alone, with my own ticket in my own name, that I want to rebook. Buh?'

    If you don't trust your kids to be able to navigate that kind of thing on their own, that's fine - that's why you presumably won't send them to do it. However, thinking the airline should overrule the parents who felt their kids capable seems odd.

    As to the subway and airline being different - yeah, the airport is filled with security guards, cameras, workers, and the subway is filled with people who act oddly and rats.
     
  19. NHdisneylover

    NHdisneylover DIS Veteran

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    And it is fine that your child will not be flying--good actually since you seem to expect far more from an airline than they should be doing for a teen who is not flying as an unaccompanied minor.

    People who send a teen to fly on their own SHOULD and mostly do trust that teen to make the right decisions. In this day and age most of the teens would also have cell phones--THEY (the teen) can call the parents and either speak to them or leave them a message telling them what flight they have been rebooked on, just like anyone else would do if they needed to tell the people on the other end of a change in plans.

    In our scenario--you are suggesting that my 15 year old should have been forced to stay at the airport (overnight probably, there are only a few flights a day to Frankfurt from any one city) if there had been a change in flight---since we could not be gotten a hold of to "allow" the rebooking :confused3 MY teen, who I had prepared with credit cards, cash, cell phone, keys to the house (she could take the train home if we got delayed--we had that all figured out) would have been stranded. In such a situation I would be LIVID if the airlines took it upon themselves to detain my teenager who had done nothing wrong.

    We EXPECT problems to crop up when we fly. And I allow mykids to fly alone knowing THEY can handle those issues.

    Actually, ironically enough, the ONLY time there was an issue at all when one of mine flew alone was when my summer came home from summer camp in London when he was 12. At that time he looked much younger than his age (people guessed him at 9 or 10) and even after showing ID and explaining that he flew in alone, etc the ground agent at Heathrow insisted on treated him like an unaccompanied Minor and escorting him to a locked waiting area with other UMs. There were no snacks and he had not eaten yet--he had money and had planned on eating lunch in the airport while he waited for his flight. They refused to allow him to leave the area to get food and he was pretty miserable.
    I was angry that he was treated that way. He did try to standup for himself and say no to the UM thing but he also (wisely probably) did not want to make a big fuss at an airport over a non essential issue. But, he was upset and hungry and not keen on flying without his sister (who looks older than her age) until his big growth spurt this past spring which now makes him look old enough to not be questioned.
    I actually wrote Lufthansa a letter expressing my displeasure that their own policy was not followed in this case and they were very apologetic and confirmed that he should not have been told to go with the agent.

    Sadly, in the US I do not think a parent calling would get a kid into a hotel these days. If one of our kids gets stranded we will try--they know that--but they also know odds are the hotels will not take anyone under 18 for liability reasons and that they may get stuck staying in the terminal all night. I am more comfortable with them flying/connecting in Europe for that very reason (even when those connections are in countries where they do not speak the language).

    (BTW--I spent a night alone, waiting for a rescheduled flight, in a hotel in Madrid when I was 16--it was a non issue for me).

    :thumbsup2
     
  20. leebee

    leebee DIS Veteran

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    Kind of :offtopic: ... Actually, my DD (who will be 20 at the time of travel) is having issues making a hotel reservation in NYC. She has a credit card in her own name, and needs to be in NYC for three nights for auditions/job interviews. MANY of the hotels are now saying you need to be 21 or older to make a reservation. THe question really is, does she take the chance? She doesn't look "young" but she certainly doesn't look older than she is. This is a ridiculous situation- she is a legal adult- but what if they ask her for ID at check-in? Would they honestly refuse her lodging in NYC??

    To the OP- I am glad to hear you are sticking to your guns about sending your kids alone to FIL's. You know your kids, their experience, their behavior. If you think they cannot handle it, that's all the info needed. Besides, for every "my child flew unaccompanied with multiple flight changes at age 5" poster here, I know someone (real people, not online posters) whose kids had issues traveling as unaccompanied minors.
     
  21. DebbieB

    DebbieB DIS Veteran

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    Note that this thread is almost a year old.
     

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