Plane lands but kid goes missing

What's The Deal

August 31, 2008|By MICHELLE DEAL-ZIMMERMAN | MICHELLE DEAL-ZIMMERMAN,michelle.deal@baltsun.com

This week on the What's the Deal travel blog (baltimoresun.com/travelblog), we're talking about kids flying solo. Airlines typically charge a fee to ensure these minors get where they're going.

But what happens when the parent shows up at the gate but the child doesn't? Panic. That's what one Virginia family says occurred when their 10-year-old flew United Airlines from Boston to Dulles after a visit with her grandmother. Jeffrey and Judy Boyer of Reston were obviously upset at what happened to their daughter, Jenna. And they should be.

According to the policy stated on United's Web site, parents must pay a $99 fee each way for unaccompanied minors. The service is mandatory for all kids younger than 12. The service is supposed to make sure the kid gets on the plane, off the plane and into the hands of the right person. But it looks as if United missed a step in this case.

The girl ended up making her way to the baggage area by herself, but then she burst into tears, drawing the attention of another passenger, who took her to the information desk. The family was reunited within an hour or so, but imagine Jenna's mother's panic. (A United representative said the airline is investigating the mishap.)

Experts say parents should give the child written instructions on what to do in case of flight delays or cancellations, as well as emergency phone numbers, a telephone calling card and a recent photo of the adult who will meet him or her.

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