WestJet Is Taking Child Endangerment Seriously

WHO: WestJet
WHAT: Parents pay extra fee to airline so their five-year-old child traveling alone would be checked in and taken care of and escorted off the plane by airline personnel. Instead, she was ignored and the guy who sat next her on the flight helped her off, seeing as nobody from the airline was doing anything.
WHERE: WestJet allows stranger to walk five-year-old girl off flight [CBC]
THE QUOTE: “The situation is of utmost concern for WestJet and we are taking this matter very seriously. We have apologized to the parents of the child and are doing all that we can to ensure that this does not happen in the future.”

(Thanks to James and Kevin!)

Comments

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  1. warf0x0r says:

    Sounds like they just flat out stole their money. Sue away brave centurions.

  2. homerjay says:

    C’mon! Give them a break. They’re so super-serious about this.

  3. Freedomboy says:

    Let’s all just breathe a quick one in relief that the man was a caring person and not evil. Sounds like a t-shirt or a ball cap over/in addition to the kid’s regular duds that clearly indentifies this child as one needing PROFESSIONAL assistance. Then the flight people can react to the markings on shirt or cap or whatever. This would also make the child feel special and would make it hard to explain why you have this kid in this shirt that don’t match up with your story as to why you are taking him/her ANYWHERE AT ALL.

  4. jonnypage says:

    I <3 westjet. If I had a choice to fly any airline it would be them. I think this incident was just a one off fluke, the staff always seem so attentive and nice.

    Plus, they are just way better than air canada :p

  5. BillyShears says:

    I was sitting next to an unaccompanied minor on my way to Dallas to connect with a flight to SF. He was about five steps down the jetway when the pilot noticed, called the kid back, and read the riot act to the stewardess by the door.

    Good on him.

  6. ssaoi says:

    What the hell? Why put a 5 year old alone on a plane?

  7. warf0x0r says:

    @ssaoi: Cause they don’t allow you to put them in with luggage .

    ZING!!!

  8. SadSam says:

    I can’t imagine allowing a 5 year old to fly on an airplane by themselves. The first time I flew without my parents I was 8 and was with my older brother who was 12.

  9. Tracy Ham and Eggs says:

    @SadSam: I think we see more of it these days thanks to divorced families spreading out. There was an article in the WaPo about this, how it used to be that divorced families stayed close, but now they are more willing to move away for work. That means if a kid spends summers/winters or so with one parent they wind up flying across the country. Obviously the cost of an extra round trip so mom or dad can fly with them is a big burden, so they fly solo.

  10. Fujikopez says:

    @SadSam: Second.

  11. br549xt93 says:

    What kind a responsible parent puts their 5 yo kid on a plane alone!? Some people should not reproduce. Would it have hurt to travel with their kid? Dumbasses.

  12. SkyeBlue says:

    Now that the kid has been traumatized someone needs to sic Nancy Grace on those parents! She could do a whole show on them and turn them into the biggest pariahs in America!

  13. bohemian says:

    “The situation is of utmost concern for WestJet and we are taking this matter very seriously.”

    But they are taking it very seriously. Don’t you all know that means everything is fine?????

    I would never send a kid on a plane. I have to wonder if the people doing so are divorced and live in separate cities and do this to comply with shared custody agreements.

  14. meballard says:

    Before rehashing the whole children flying alone discussion, you might want to read this thread first:
    [consumerist.com]

  15. ElizabethD says:

    @SkyeBlue:

    …Except they live in Canada. 8-P

  16. LilKoko says:

    @bohemian: Yep. It’s in the linked article. (I don’t know about the “comply” part. In many cases both parents may want to see their child.)

    I’m glad the family publicized this. Maybe it’s a wake-up call to more parents that they really can’t trust (paid) strangers to watch their child — even for a fee.

  17. UpsetPanda says:

    I looked it up…from Edmonton to Montreal it’s about a 4 and a half to 5 hour flight. Long time for no one to check on a child. I think it’s possible that the flight attendants thought the child belonged to the stranger who was very nice and helpful to her, keeping her company. Though, I wonder, in 4 to 5 hours, he never inquired as to why she was flying alone and why no one was checking on her? The article said he had 4 kids of his own, would he not want flight attendants to check on any of them if they were young and traveling alone?

  18. ampersand says:

    I wouldn’t even put a pet on a plane with paid strangers and expect him to arrive safely, let alone a child under 10.

  19. MrsMicah says:

    Before we jump on the parents for this, I expect that the parents considered the service similar to daycare…where you leave your child for long long periods of time (longer than many flights, anyway) with strangers who are paid to make sure nothing bad happens to the child.

    Not all daycare providers are trustworthy either, but whether the child was on the plane or not makes less of a difference here.

    That said, I wouldn’t let a 5-year-old fly alone even if I was sure the airline would be keeping an eye on him/her.

  20. AgPal says:

    This seems very unusual for Westjet; the majority of the inflight staff seem very attentive and helpful.

    As for forgetting the kid was solo & the suggestion for them to have special hats or shirts, Westjet has all unaccompanied minors wear these huge signs around their necks so that everyone can plainly see that the kid is solo & that the staff are supposed to keep an eye on them.

  21. hills says:

    5 years old & flying alone is way too young! Doesn’t matter how much extra you pay – unless you buy a babysitter a ticket to go along, I would not expect a 5 year old child to be well looked after.

    I can understand why the parents are upset, but their expectations were not realistic. The only thing they are entitled to is the extra fee they paid. Sounds like the girl had a fun flight & it was much more traumatic for the parents!

  22. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    I’ve flown on Southwest where there was an unnacompanied minor sitting next to me. He had a hat on and a badge around his neck showing some info that I never got more than a glimpse at. The flight attendants seemed good with him before the flight, and he fell asleep on my shoulder during the flight and we just had a laugh about it. A minor annoyance yes but cute none the less.

    I don’t know what happened after the plane landed. I asked him if he needed anything and he said no that someone was going to help him. Must just be the difference in airlines and training for their flight attendants.

  23. paco says:

    I wasn’t much older than that when my parents sent me on a plane from Chicago to Grand Rapids, but it wasn’t a long flight. And I think things were different thirty years ago.

    That said, I wouldn’t put my five-and-a-half year old daughter on a plane by herself.

    Times change.

  24. North of 49 says:

    unnescorted minors are supposed to be in a different waiting area and flagged before boarding. West Jet dropped the ball. Badly.

  25. bigdaddyvalckx says:

    I like how the good folks at the CBC glossed over the fact that this guy essentially abducted a child from the aircraft…good times.

  26. coren says:

    @bigdaddyvalckx: As opposed to abandoning a defenseless child in a strange environment, right?

  27. MercuryPDX says:

    @coren: Like say… the tarmac at Phoenix airport?

  28. SkyeBlue says:

    I guess the thought of maybe living within driving distance of each other until their daughter came of age never occured to these “caring” parents? God forbid they should plan their lives around what is convienent, safe and best for their child.

  29. marsneedsrabbits says:

    My oldest two have flown this way and I’ve been on both sides (picking up & dropping off).
    For the airline to mess it up so badly is pretty amazing, because all of the airliners my kids were on actually did, in fact, take the situation very seriously. They were all in the US, though.
    The kids are checked at the gate and are escorted by the stewardess. We were required to be there early and be at the gate long before other people. The kids board first & deplane with the stewardess. After 9/11, they began requiring parents to show ID and get special passes to go through security to walk to the gate to deliver the child.
    You don’t just leave them at the gate, though. You have to show ID there, too. And the flight can’t have any stops, plus the airlines frown on kids flying unaccompanied on the last flight of the day. Additionally, you have to provide full names, addresses, and phone numbers of the person picking your child up. The person picking up will have to show picture ID as well.
    Oh, and the parent who drops off is required to stay in the airport on the terminal until the flight is in the air and underway.
    Once in the air, the children sit near the stewardess’ seats on the plane and are monitored throughout the flight. I always got a “report” from the stewardess, too about how they did.
    It isn’t whatever-goes in my experience.

  30. gmark2000 says:

    This is just a fluke occurence that the parents are making hay about. Westjet is a great airline.

  31. comopuedeser says:

    Isn’t this called fraud. Westjet needs to give the family a free vacation to Disney World or something. Note to self: never fly Westjet.

  32. jeremycarr says:

    Finally Consumerist is talking about this;

    I sent an e-mail a long time ago about this and yet it got no traction.

    The first person this happened to has his story here http://www.casemp.com

    [www.edmontonsun.com]

    It took Westjet the loss of another child before they decided to do anything, and sadly another child before national media got a hold of this. I know myself and other people who know Greg contacted Consumerist only to get “thanks, we’ll look into this”.

  33. frequentflyer77 says:

    The person who was put in charge of taking care of that kid dropped the ball. What’s worse is that WestJet didn’t even have anyone to talk to the news media after the incident made the national news.

    What’s even worse? This has happened to nearly every airline that accepts unaccompanied minors. Air Canada included.

    Having recently become a new parent (and remembering what it was like not being a parent) it seems to me that the flight attendant was not a parent and didn’t understand what kind of attention a child travelling alone needed.

    But if that same Flight Attendant was asked to take care of a bag of gold bars for a 4 or 5 hour flight you can be damn well sure they’d watch it like a hawk, and make sure that whomever was there to collect it at the destination was the right person, and was willing to sign for the gold.

    To their parents, and other family, children are that bag of gold and deserve to be treated with the same attention, caution and respect.

    When I was younger I had to fly on a number of occasions as a minor under 12 (to visit one of my divorced parents who lived far away – plus airfares in Canada weren’t cheap at all back then) and the experience was always very positive. I can’t imagine that it is that much different today, just that one person had an incredible lack of judgment.

  34. coren says:

    @Mercurypdx: Nah, kids should just go out on the runway and play with the big metal things.

    @SkyeBlue: And maybe making far more money so you can send the kid to college and provide better for them is the concern that caused them to move to begin with.

    @comopuedeser: Well, not if you need a stewardess to hold your hand…;)

  35. SadSam says:

    I don’t think putting a 5 year old on a plane is at all similar to dropping a 5 year old off at daycare. One would assume that a daycare provider is licensed to care for children and that caring for children is the one and only goal. I don’t think airlines have the same or similar goals.

    I understand the need for parents to send kids back and forth after divorce and that it would be expensive to fly with the child. I still would not put a 5 year old on a plane with out an adult going along for the ride.

  36. erica.blog says:

    Putting aside the issue of whether or not 5-year-olds should fly without their parents –

    If I paid somebody to take care of my child and they let her go off with a stranger instead, I wouldn’t sue them; I would beat the responsible person senseless. An apology doesn’t make up for endangering a child. I hope the flight attendant had a damn heart attack when (if?) (s)he finally realized the kid wasn’t on the plane.

  37. FatLynn says:

    Wait, isn’t the kid supposed to wait until everyone else gets off the plane, and then deplane with the flight attendant? If the FA says “wait there, and I will come get you when everyone else is gone” and then the kid gets off the plane with a stranger, what could the FA have done differently?

  38. Shadowman615 says:

    I used to fly alone when I was younger, maybe even as young as 5-years old. My parents were divorced and I flew to visit the other one a few times a year. This was more than 20 years ago now, but even then there were the same policies.

    First of all, it’s not like the child had to drive herself to the airport, check her own bags, find the right gate, etc. Back when I did this, one parent would be with me until I boarded the plane, and another would be waiting for me at the arrival. The ONLY time a minor is unaccompanied by a parent is during the actual flight itself.

    This is not anything unusual, and is why the airlines offer such a service.

  39. Craig says:

    @bigdaddyvalckx: The guy didn’t abduct the child, he escorted her off the plane and made sure she found her dad at the gate. A risky move for the way it might look? Maybe, but I say good for him for taking the risk and helping to ensure the child’s safety.

  40. meballard says:

    @FatLynn: At a minimum, when they are standing by the door saying goodbye/etc to people getting off the plane, they should have been watching for the unaccompanied minor and made sure they didn’t get off the plane until they are being done so by a flight attendant.

  41. magus_melchior says:

    “The situation is of utmost concern for WestJet and we are taking this matter very seriously. We have apologized to the parents of the child and are doing all that we can to ensure that this does not happen in the future.”
    Translation: We begged the parents not to sue the pants off us and report us to the AG for fraud, and we’re begging the media to keep this under wraps.

  42. Propaniac says:

    @frequentflyer77: I don’t know about that; I don’t have a hard time at all picturing a news article along the lines of “Airline staff let someone walk off plane with stolen bag of gold bars.” It would be an anomaly, but by all accounts, so is this incident. Somebody screwed up, and should probably be punished, and procedures should be tightened to guard against such a screw-up in the future that could have much worse results than this did. But I’m sure airlines are aware that if a child was abducted or harmed while in their care, they’d be facing damages of a much higher value than those gold bars. I do think they take it seriously.

    That being said, I flew across the country by myself to visit my aunt and uncle when I was about eight or nine, a couple of times, and I don’t think my parents were bad or irresponsible for doing that.

  43. coren says:

    @FatLynn: Probably, but they usually are stationed somewhere where you must pass them to get off the plane..expecting that kid to stay put probably isn’t their only step, they’re likely also supposed to watch for the kid trying to sneak off/wandering around the plane/etc.