The Short of It
Two separate incidents of sexual assault on minors traveling alone on planes this week deeply concern parents.
In the past week, two kids traveling alone on planes were the targets of sexual assaults. Both incidents happened on flights either in or out of Portland, Ore.
First, on Wednesday, June 15, 26-year-old Chad Camp was accused of groping a 13-year-old girl during an American Airlines flight from Dallas to Portland. According to the Washington Post, Camp seemed to be preying upon the teen, as the flight was half-empty, yet he chose to sit next to her.
When a flight attendant returned for drink service after leaving the pair alone for a half hour, she saw Camp's hand on the teenager's crotch. He was immediately separated from the girl for the rest of the voyage and was arrested when the plane landed.
Then just this Tuesday, June 21, KGW.com reports that a 23-year-old man tried to kiss a 16-year-old girl who was sleeping next to him on an Alaska Airlines flight out of Portland. That flight had to be diverted to Seattle as a result of the man's highly inappropriate advances on the teen, according to ABC News.
"It is shocking. It's hard to believe that people in general can make those kinds of moves. I don't know what can be done about it. But it is a little bit scary," Trenton Lebaron, a dad of six, told KGW.
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Because of these incidents, parents who talked to KGW are divided on whether they'd allow their kids to travel alone.
"Both my wife and I traveled as unaccompanied minors as kids, and we had the conversation on the way here, and we struggle. We don't know the answer to that because of the stories we're hearing," dad Kenneth Fisher said.
Mom Julie Helzer said, "As long as there's somebody with them, an attendant of some sort constantly with them. Keep them in front of the plane to keep an eye on them, then possibly you know I would consider it. But I wouldn't just shoot them off alone."
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Most airlines designate kids between the ages of 5 and 12 years old who travel alone as "unaccompanied minors," which requires an additional fee for flight attendants to monitor them. For instance, Southwest Airlines requires kids ages 5–11 to travel as unaccompanied minors with a $50 charge for each leg of the trip. But children ages 12–17 can fly without supervision.
And on American Airlines flights, the Washington Post reports that as of August 2014, parents are required to pay $150 extra each way for unaccompanied minors ages 12–14. Before, only children ages 4–11 were required to do so.
Incidentally, the 13-year-old who was assaulted on the American Airlines flight had been registered as an unaccompanied minor, and her mom paid the associated fee. She plans to sue for what happened to her daughter.
"This was 30 minutes of hell for this young lady," Brent Goodfellow, a lawyer representing the girl, told the Post.
At this time, there's no official estimate on how often incidents like these happen in-flight, but it might happen up to once a week, according to ABC News! Obviously, if you've decided to let your child travel alone, have a discussion with him or her about alerting a flight attendant if something inappropriate happens. Also, ask that your child be seated near the front of the aircraft so it's easier for flight attendants, who are not required to stay with an unaccompanied minor at all times, can keep tabs on him or her. And here are more safety tips for kids who are traveling by themselves.
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On a personal note, I probably won't allow my kids to travel alone any time soon. I didn't fly on a plane by myself until I was 18, so I'll likely follow that guideline for my girls. How about you? Let us know in the comments section below.