United Airlines has a simple enough policy regarding children flying alone (unaccompanied minors, as airlines call them.) They cannot travel on the last flight of the day. This makes sense: no one wants an unaccompanied minor to become a stranded unaccompanied minor if their flight is canceled. But when Hannah booked a flight for her 12-year-old son to travel unaccompanied, no one mentioned this rule, and United phone agents placed him on the last flight of the day. This meant that he was turned away at the airport, and his departure delayed until the next day. Hannah thinks that the family deserves some kind of compensation for this inconvenience due to United’s screwup.
She writes to Consumerist:
I booked a flight for my son as an unaccompanied minor, but not one of the five different phone representatives I spoke with over a six week period informed me that he was booked on the last flight of the day. When we arrived for his flight, the ticket agent informed us that he would have to fly the next day. This was a huge inconvenience. My son missed his cousin’s the birthday party, one of the purposes of the trip.
But we arrived the next morning to fly. The ticketing agent was rude and did not have any of our unaccompanied minor information, even though I had spent an hour on the phone the day prior making sure that all the drop off and pick up information was correct. And that was the second phone call to United to arrange the UM information. So I filled out yet another form.
The ticketing agent scolded me for not having an ID for my son and informed me that in second grade all children are given an ID. I informed him that my son does not attend public school.
Anyway, the point is that no one was kind, empathetic, listened and/or apologized. I feel incredibly frustrated. Even when I tried, three times, to fill out the form on united.com/appreciation, I got error messages.
The whole experience with United has felt like an HMO — a big corporation more concerned with its profits than its patients (customers). I could not be more displeased. I reach over 1,000 per week with my social media network. I will share this experience if I continue to feel ignored, unimportant, and disrespected by United.
I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident with United, but it is not. I haven’t filled out one of these forms before, but I have come close. This experience just pushed me over the top. I would like an apology and to know that their phone representatives are being trained to triple check whether or not the UM that they’re filling out the form for, is booked on the last flight of the day or not. That would help resolve this, as would some kind of compensation.
I’m grateful to consumerist.com for at least providing a place where I can share my story. My tip to other parents is: ask them to check whether or not this is their last flight of the day before booking.
Good to know. This information is available on United’s unaccompanied minor page, but are parents or guardians expected to know which flight is the last of the day? Shouldn’t people whose job it is to book customers’ tickets know the rules, or at least have a computer system set up to keep unaccompanied kids off the last flight of the day?
While it’s a good idea to make sure that a child gets on a plane carrying some kind of ID, United’s own policies state that it isn’t required until kids turn 14. But until Hannah’s son turns 18, a copy of his birth certificate or even a library card would suffice, and those are both documents that most school-age children should have no matter where they’re educated.
Before storming social media, though, Hannah should carefully consider what kind of “compensation” she would like for her trouble. A travel voucher? A refund? It should be a fair request, but a reasonable one.