A woman is suing American Airlines saying that the Dallas-based carrier “misplaced” her 10 and 12 year old children. When American cancelled their connecting flight, she says that the airline put them up “in a cold, jail-cell-like room overnight without food, water, blankets, or pillows.”
The unaccompanied minors flew through Charlotte enroute to Syracuse, New York last summer. When the kids were stranded in Charlotte, American called the person set to pick them up at their destination. The family was given conflicting information about which flight they’d be on the next day, but were promised they’d be given a “nice room for unaccompanied minors where there were beds and their own bathroom.”
One of the sons told Vencill that they “had not had anything to eat or drink since the night before, not even a pretzel or snacks that are usually given out by the airline,” according to the suit.
[A kind] airport employee, the lawsuit alleges, wound up giving the children some food and drinks.
The lawsuit alleges that the kids were placed in a “freezing” apparent “lost children’s room” at the airport that was “akin to a jail cell” and spent the night on a sofa with the lights on before they boarded the flight the next day to Syracuse.
The airline refunded the accompanied minor fees the mother had paid. However she’s suing for recklessness and failure to follow the airline’s own procedures.
Here’s apparently what the room American Airlines has for unaccompanied minors stuck overnight in Miami looks like:
@AmericanAir My son 14 years old is alone at the @MIA_Airport Miami international airport since yesterday morning. The crew member gave him this for sleeping at the airport, just snacks for food. The attention of this airline @aaair is the worst. pic.twitter.com/iid0qhhUkw
— Dora Ángela Hoyos Ayala (@dorangelah) July 28, 2022
Children 5-14 years old flying solo have to be registered as unaccompanied minors, where airline staff escort them to the plane and meet the guardian picking them up on the other side. (The escort service is optional for children 15-17).
For $150 each way (no matter how many siblings are traveling together) unaccompanied minors get:
- early boarding
- a kids-only room in hub airports to wait for connections (children under 8 must fly non-stop)
- escort to the gate and to meet the designated adult at their destination
Unaccompanied minors also receive a “Kid Kit” containing an activity book, snacks, puzzle, crayons, and a kids face mask. The box is actually given to the parent or guardian at check-in to give to the child at their discretion, so some aviation geek parents might take it home and keep it for themselves.
Credit: American Airlines
I traveled alone often as a young kid, though one of my early flight memories was of my father flying from Los Angeles to pick me up in New York and flying back with me to LA the same day. Sadly this was before modern frequent flyer programs.
When a kid needs to go from one place to another, sometimes the parent can’t take them (or can’t afford two tickets). Later flying solo I’d often travel on People Express out of Newark, and I loved buying their snack baskets and a soda on board. I was expected to dress in a shirt and tie, even flying out of Newark and even with what that terminal was like back then.
However I never had to connect. American will allow connections for children 8 years and older, however they won’t allow it on the last flight of the day from the final connection city unless that’s the only flight the airline operates on the route. Schedules were thinner in summer 2022 than they are today.
Airlines offer the unaccompanied minor service but I bet they wish they didn’t – it’s a service to customers more than a revenue-generator for the airline given the staff time, paperwork, and risk involved (including reputational risk). Unaccompanied minor service entails some risk because though the airline incurs some responsibility, it’s still a service being offered by a U.S. airline. Keep that in mind when you sign up.
At least if your child is flying unaccompanied on a non-stop you can go back to the airport and collect them if their flight is cancelled and they will not be traveling same day. As a connecting passenger, in a far-away city, there’s a lot less that you can do.
Back in May 2020 American Airlines was warning parents that due to the global pandemic there wouldn’t be much food available in coach, so pack a lunch. There’s still not.