This morning I learned the shocking story of a United Airlines unaccompanied minor being put on a flight to Germany instead of Sweden.
Though an adult put him on the plane — a flight he didn’t have a boarding pass for — he realized he was heading to Germany and let his mother know. That began an odyssey during which she desperately tried to get United’s help to stop the plane from taking off with her son on it. She tweeted, she called, she sat on hold for over an hour and tried to get supervisors to do something.
- She had booked United from Raleigh to Newark (United) to Stockholm (SAS).
- At Raleigh she learned that United would require the teen to travel as an unaccompanied minor. They charged her a $150 fee for the service.
- United doesn’t usually accept unaccompanied minors on connecting itineraries, let alone international partner itineraries, but they made an exception — and things went very wrong.
I was in touch with the boy’s mother early this morning. His sister shared in the comments that when her brother was brought over to the wrong Eurowings flights by the unaccompanied minor team, he was handed a boarding pass belonging to a different passenger.
That passenger boarded, too, and found the boy in his seat so “he quietly sat next to him instead thinking it was weird.” She insists they never scanned her brother’s boarding pass. A source confirms this.
She and her brother who “have flown to Sweden every single year (if not twice a year) to Sweden since we were born” are veterans at this, though her brother thought something amiss and “message[d] my dad asking where Düsseldorf was and was confused why they were sending him to GERMANY!”
United for its part shares,
The safety and well-being of all of our customers is our top priority, and we have been in frequent contact with the young man’s family to confirm his safety and to apologize for this issue. Once Eurowings recognized that he had boarded the wrong aircraft in Newark, the plane returned to the gate – before taking off. Our staff then assisted the young customer to ensure that he boarded the correct rebooked flight later that evening. We have confirmed that this young customer safely reached his destination.
United Airlines has a vendor which handles unaccompanied minors. The employee escorting this boy was supposed to bring him to the SAS gate, but sources say he heard an announcement for a passenger with a similar-sounding name at the Eurowings gate. The employee assumed it was the same person, and handed the boy to a colleague at the gate for the Dusseldorf flight. No one checked the boy’s identification against the passenger list.