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United Airlines Loses Unaccompanied Minor


When a child travels by plane as an unaccompanied minor, his or her safety is in the hands of the airline. But, according to author, blogger, and management expert Bob Sutton, United Airlines lost his friend’s tween daughter, who was en route to sleepaway camp. Even worse, her parents were put on hold and treated with mostly indifference by United employees when they realized she hadn’t made it to her destination.

On June 30th, 10-year-old Phoebe flew as an unaccompanied minor from San Francisco to Chicago without incident, her parents Annie and Perry tracking the flight online to make sure it arrived. The airline was then responsible for escorting Phoebe to her connecting flight from Chicago to Traverse City, Michigan, where she would be met by camp staff, and her parents notified she was safe. When the outsourced service that was supposed to escort Phoebe to her connecting flight failed to show, and her repeated requests for help were ignored, Phoebe’s travel nightmare began. Annie and Perry received an urgent call from the camp notifying them that Phoebe had not arrived, and United Airlines staff in Traverse City did not know where she was.

When Annie called the airline, she was put on hold for 20 minutes, then misinformed that her daughter had in fact made the flight, and then finally told her daughter was still sitting in Chicago. Perry also called the airline on another number and asked if someone could find his daughter so he could speak to her, the UA employee replied she was going off her shift and couldn’t help. She relented only after Perry asked if she too was a mother, and wondered how she would feel if her child were missing.

Phoebe arrived in Traverse City four hours after she was supposed to; however, her luggage did not. She spent three days at camp without bedding, clothing, or a bathing suit to take part in camp activities.

When Perry and Annie called to file a complaint and get their unaccompanied minor fees back, they were told they could only relay a complaint via an employee, not file one themselves. They wrote United anyway, including a full account of what happened, which Sutton has posted on his blog.

Have you even had your child fly as an unaccompanied minor? Did it go smoothly or were there bumps? Leave a comment.