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Would You Let Your Kid Fly Alone?

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Our office was divided over the issue.

Continental Airlines recently put a 10-year-old unaccompanied minor on the wrong airplane. Instead of landing in Newark, she ended up in Cleveland. Her grandparents called her dad, who dropped her off in Boston, wondering why she wasn't on the plane when it arrived!

This is what Continental had to say about the incident: "The child was supervised throughout the entire process and was rebooked and routed to the proper destination on the same day." STILL! OMG!

young boy at the airport

Imagine receiving a phone call telling you that your kid isn't on the plane? Not only are you paying up to $100 to have your kid supervised by a flight attendant -- in this case, many people failed to do their jobs. Both staff on the flight to Newark and Cleveland failed to make note, not to mention the attendant that put her on the flight!

Our office was divided over the issue.

One mom says yes, she would let her kid fly alone: "I don't want myself or my daughter to live in fear. I would of course check with the airline to find out their particular procedure for kids flying alone. If I felt confident in the company, I would definitely let my kid fly to a destination. Sure, I can be scared of pedophiles and kidnappers and God knows what. But I'd like to believe that humanity is basically good."

One mom says no way! "I would not let them fly alone because I am just too paranoid! I would be worried they would be seated next to a creep, or that the plane would crash and that they would be alone. I would never forgive myself. No way!"

What would you do?

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19 comments so far | Post a comment now
Spookygirl June 17, 2009, 2:03 PM

My son has racked up hundreds of miles of unaccompanied flight time, and never has had an issue. I think this one was one time error, and not something likely to be repeated.

Anonymous June 17, 2009, 2:21 PM

There were actually two cases with Continental during the same weekend where unaccompanied minors were put on incorrect flights (the one mentioned and an 8 yr old)…they claim “miscommunication between employees” as the reason it happened. I am betting that it won’t happen again with this airline for a LONG time!!

Sarah-Jane June 17, 2009, 2:30 PM

My son flew alone to England, both when he was eight, and then the following year when he was nine. Everything went fine, and he was accompanied from beginning to end and back again. Sounds like the employee walking the girl to the gate in the story above got it wrong, and the boarding crew never thought to check the ticket. People are human, the airline industry is what it is, (imperfect and better at fixing problems than preventing them), and the kid was simply rerouted just like millions of adult travellers are rerouted every day. End of story, not worth hyperventilating about, and I would still send my kid on an accompanied flight to visit his grandparents every chance I get, because it’s more important that he gets to spend time with them than it is for him to wait years for my hubby and I to afford for all of us to go.

naila June 17, 2009, 2:33 PM

My daughter has flown alone since she was 7…for many families, it’s a fact of life..I have to commend the flight attendants that my daughter has been with, they not only watch over her, but ensure that all kids travelling alone sit together and in their view and not near anyone that looks creepy.
It stinks that this happened…and while my daughter has never flown Continental, I am sure it’s not the norm…

v June 17, 2009, 2:33 PM

My son just flew alone from Texas to California to visit his grandparents last week. I don’t understand how this mixup happened. He flew on Continental and I was required to take him to the gate and stay there until the flight was in the air. He is 6 and this is the second year he has made the trip.

Not for my kid June 17, 2009, 5:31 PM

I think it is GREAT that they allow children to fly unsupervised. However I myself just could not let my child fly alone. I don’t care what the occassion is. Anything under 13 is to young for me personally. I just would be a nervous wreck the whole time. And with all the crazy people in this world? Call me paranoid but I would rather be safe than sorry.

Beth June 17, 2009, 10:09 PM

At his current age? Absolutely not. (He’s 3 1/2 yo).

In a few more years, if he was going to someone I trust and if I had confidence in the unaccompanied minors program, then yes.

Selfish Mom June 17, 2009, 10:23 PM

Yeah, I’d let my almost-eight-year-old fly alone. Not sure I’d let his five-year-old sister go with him yet though, and that’s the problem: we’d probably want both of them to go visit Grandma or Grandpa.

Honestly, I’d be more worried about them misbehaving together on the plane (they can get each other pretty riled up) than about something going wrong.

Catherine June 17, 2009, 10:27 PM

If I had had a choice, I would probably NOT have put my son on a plane alone when he was young. But my husband left when our son was 3. We were living in Iowa and my ex moved back to New York. My son did not travel alone until he was 5 or 6. Even then, I would drive 5 hours to Chicago to make sure he had a direct flight until I finally moved back to New York myself. After my husband moved to Arkansas, our son had to travel alone again and sometimes there just weren’t any direct flights. Thank God my son was okay during those times, but I never felt comfortable. There are so many things that could happen, even for an adult traveling. I just moved to Arkansas so my son doesn’t have to travel alone again until he chooses to.

Rachelle June 17, 2009, 11:46 PM

I’ll put it very simply. Hell no!!! Never would I put my son on a plane alone.

Sara June 18, 2009, 9:59 AM

I grew up in two states, Kentucky and Arizona, my parents had joint custody. I flew 6-8 times a year (christmas, spring break and summer) starting at 7 years old. I can only remember a handful of things going wrong, and 95% of the time it was a delayed flight. The only really bad one was Delta selling my seat out from under me, I was 10 or 12. Within a few hours I was on another flight, both parents had been called and I had a voucher for a free flight. I have even had flight attendants walk me through Atlanta airport just to get a slice a pizza. I used to love flying so much, and I’m glad my parents did it. I wouldn’t trade those times or the time they afforded me with my family for anything.

mrs.E June 18, 2009, 12:34 PM

My 9 year old daughter has been flying by herself since she was 7. Her dad lives in Seattle so she flies from Boston to Seattle or now, since we moved, South Carolina to Seattle. It is pretty expensive having to pay the $100 each way. What I do is I send a prepaid cell phone with her and she remembers to turn it on and off. I call her when I see the plane has landed at the connection flight’s airport. I also have her call me when she is on the plane. Also, i would recommend to other parents, because I know I am the biggest worry wart, is to call the airline directly to ensure the child was checked in on that flight. The very last time my daughter flew on Delta and her connection plane landed in Atlanta and had only 50 minutes before her final flight left, not to mention she had to change terminals and it was the last flight of the day (usually not allowed but they accidentally booked her on that flight). Anyhow, since my daughter didn’t realize I wanted her to call me when she was on her final flight and I couldn’t reach her on the cell phone, I called the airline directly to ask if she had checked in. It avoids the unnecessary fear that they may have gotten on the wrong plane. Now I know after reading this article not to use Continental airlines. I wouldn’t keep a child from flying though - it is a great experience for them. My daughter does it at least 3-4x a year. What I don’t get about this situation is how when they scanned the ticket, they didn’t catch that she wasn’t supposed to be on that flight. Makes me wonder why people aren’t doing their jobs. I would sue the airline without question for their irresponsible actions.

Anonymous June 18, 2009, 2:26 PM

As a kid I flew from Texas to Canada all of the time. I changed planes 3 or 4 times each way, and I never landed on a wrong plane. I felt that it was my responsibility to make sure I was on the right plane. I could read, and I would double and triple check the flight numbers and destinations, but I was that kind of kid. I loved my experiences, and I loved my time with my extended family.

My girls are still too young 2 and 4, but I would definitely want them to have that same experience. We live across the world from our family, so it will probably be a necessity at some point.

I also support the idea of Free Range kids. We need to allow our kids to be independent in situations, so they will grow into independent, self-sufficient adults. I also want my kids to be risk-takers and try new things (that are not dangerous).

gretchen White June 18, 2009, 3:17 PM

Our daughter flew by herself at age 10, about a year ago. She travelled almost 500 miles to see her grandparents in another state. At the time, it was cheaper to buy a plane ticket than to drive her. It probably still is!

My husband was allowed to go all the way to the gate with her, through security with a special pass. She wore an Unaccompanied Minor tag. He watched her get on the plane. She was seated in the front row where flight attendants could keep an eye on her. My in-laws were able to meet her at the gate. They were waiting for her.

We had to fill out paperwork ahead of time stating who would pick her up. The airline checked my in-laws IDs before they released our daughter to them.

It went smoothly. She had the time of her life flying alone, ordering Cokes, being treated like a capable, responsible kid.

I’d do it again. As for crashing, all of us are FAR more likely to die in a car accident than a plane crash.

Anonymous June 18, 2009, 7:59 PM

I flew unaccompanied when I was four years old. I had a great time, except during one layover in an airport that actually had a playroom… instead of having fun all around the airport with an employee (like on my other layover), I was stuck in a room with a bored attendant and a box of broken toys (I’m willing to bet that they were scavenged from lost & found). My mom actually wrote my flight numbers and name on my undershirt, and told me that if I got lost I should go to a person in a uniform and lift up my shirt… this is advice I still kid her about giving her daughter, 22 years later.

K August 6, 2009, 6:27 PM

Be aware- airports, hotels and other places associated with travel harbor an unsavory element, people who prey on others- pickpockets and worse.
Everything is fine as long as things go as planned. But mix ups and mistakes are so common when traveling that you can just about count on them.
It seems dumb to me to blindly trust a paid service to take care of your child when he or she is so far away. Ideally, someone you have personally and thoroughly investigated travels with the child. At least, locate someone of good character traveling to the same place and could take the same plane. Ask them to quietly keep an eye on your child, in addition to the airline attendants. Then the child would have an adult to speak for them if problems occur, since society tends to treat minors as non-persons.
It would make sense to form clubs or circles of people who can volunteer to do this, so that parents can coordinate the child’s trip with the travel plans of one of these club members.
It doesn’t seem like parents make enough effort to fail safe the trip for the child. Some parents treat this kind of traveling very lightly. I don’t agree.

Anonymous June 17, 2010, 12:21 PM

I am thinking of sending my 11 year old on a airplane by herself to Phoenix Arizona to visit my sister but I’m more nervous about sending her to the number 2 capital kidnapping place in the world next to Mexico. My sister claims it’s safe but I have never been there. I would appreciate any insite regarding this matter.

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