US Airways Misplaces Two Teenagers

US Airways somehow misplaced two teenagers (14 and 16) who were flying alone from San Diego to Raleigh. Despite promises that the airline would make sure the kids made their connection and that someone would meet them at the gate, US Airways stranded them overnight in Cincinnati, where they had to sleep on cots in the control tower. What happened? US Airways changed their connection while the boys were in the air, then didn’t bother to tell them. From the Raleigh News & Observer (emphasis ours):

When mom took the teens to the airport July 28, there was already trouble. Flight delays made the connection schedule tight.

They hatched plan B: The kids would fly direct from Phoenix to Raleigh on US Airways. The plan was confirmed while the boys were on the first leg of their journey, and an agent was to redirect them in Phoenix.

Tucker tracked their progress online. About 20 minutes after the US Airways flight departed Phoenix for Raleigh, he called the airline and was told that Calvin and Joel were on the flight list.

Two hours later, the phone rang. It was Joel.

” ‘Aren’t you on a plane?’ ” asked an alarmed Tucker. Nobody met the boys in Phoenix and as experienced flyers — they’ve flown cross-country twice a year for about eight years — the teens went to the Delta gate.

They missed their final connection in Cincinnati, and no other flights were headed for Raleigh that night. Joel was on a pay phone, with Calvin running to McDonald’s for change to keep the connection.

“There was a tremendous amount of panic,” Tucker said. “There’s nobody in Cincinnati that I know. It’s definitely panic, alarm and outrage.”

It took Tucker 40 minutes to wind his way through the phone tree at US Airways, which dispatched a representative to find the boys. They were given vouchers for food and taken to the control tower to sleep on cots.

US Airways says “parents request the airline escort when they book tickets, not later as Tucker did.” They received two $250 vouchers for their trouble. (Their flight cost $400.)

US Airways loses track of 2 teens
[News & Observer]


Edit Your Comment

  1. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    OK That definitely sucks but the kid is 16. It’s not like it was a 3 and 5 year old. And nowadays who could possibly “trust” an airline? That’s like asking a pedophile to babysit your children.

  2. ScramDiggyBooBoo says:

    I hear that. The airlines have enough on their minds right now, you know, dealing with drunk pilots and flight attendants. Not to mention they can’t even get pilots to fly the damn planes. There a flight service, not a daycare center.

  3. maddypilar says:

    @stanfrombrooklyn: 16 might be old enough to stay home alone but it’s not old enough to be stranded with your 14 year old brother and not be scared.
    All the airline was asked to do was meet them, not babysit them.

  4. nightshadowon says:

    Back in the day (well about 30 years ago), my 2 brothers and I flew several times alone (our ages ranged between 4 and 12). I guess times were different. No worries of missing our flight and they even held a flight because our connection was a couple minutes late. BTW, these were international flights between USA and India and USA and Australia.

    @stanfrombrooklyn: Yes times have changed. You can’t trust anyone with your kids. I see 6 and 8 year olds playing outside all by themselves with no parents insight. I would never let my 8 and 5 year old daughters do that.

  5. CaptainSemantics says:

    @stanfrombrooklyn: Heck, depending on what state you’re in, the 16 year-old is almost legal.

    My question (and I know there’s going to be all sorts of people yelling at me for it): why didn’t the kids have cell phones? Especially if they routinely make cross-country flights unattended.

  6. deeness says:

    What’s unclear is if they were flying under “unaccompanied minor” status. There’s an additional fee for this, but that would ensure the airline was responsible for keeping track of the teens. Otherwise, you’re just taking someone’s word they’ll keep an eye out for your kids. As previous commenters indicated, that’s not the best idea. Especially if it was obvious before they started the trip there were delays and tight connections.

  7. Killfile says:

    When I was a teenager (14) I few from New Mexico back to Virginia with a connecting flight in the Pittsburgh Airport.

    I had a 30 minute connection to make and, when I “deplaned” (a stupid word if I’ve ever heard one) I was confronted with a representitive from the airline who wanted me to fill out what appeared to be small phone book.

    By my watch, I had now 25 minutes to get to the gate.

    So I ditched him. I told him that, thanks very much but there was no way I could fill out all that and make my flight at the same time, and since when is a contract with a 14 year old valid anyway.

    A good 10 minute sprint through the airport (and a quick stop for a burger) and I’m in-line, at the gate, with some time to spare. No worries. No problems.

    Still though — I can’t help but wonder if it was good idea for them to let me out of their sight. Contract or no, my parents had charged the airline with my well-being.

  8. megsie says:

    Who sends two teenagers across the country without a cell phone? It’s 2007.

    I make my kids call me when they get off the plane and call me again while they’re boarding the connection.

  9. MonkeySwitch says:

    When I was a kid, I flew back and forth between my parents twice a year. I had escorts up until I was twelve. After that, I was on my own, but by then, I had it down pat.

  10. Hoss says:

    I can’t bring toothpaste on a plane, but two dumbass boys are allowed in the control tower?

  11. vanilla-fro says:

    “Nobody met the boys in Phoenix and as experienced flyers — they’ve flown cross-country twice a year for about eight years — the teens went to the Delta gate.”

    It says that right? I mean I really did read that they’ve been doing this twice a year for eight years right?

    How is this the airline’s fault, sure they were supposed to meet them but these kids do this twice a year. one of them is 16 right? this little dolt can legally drive and he can’t navigate an airport that he has to have been in several times before?

  12. 2Legit2Quit says:

    Wait, 16, and this kid fuckups at the airport – then blames it on US Airways. Now US Airways sucks for many reasons, but your 16! You don’t need an escort to find your way around transportation.

    Least they gave you a food voucher and a cot, sounds nice to me.

  13. missdona says:

    I flew by myself several times a year starting from 5 years old.

    I never had a connecting flight. Mom & Dad drop me on one end, and Grandma picked me up on the other.

    If there are no direct flights, it would be worth the drive to the next major city and extra money to get one.

    Simple times.

  14. Pelagius says:

    Has anyone checked the baggage area at Philadelphia’s airport?

  15. SnickerDoodle says:


    The point is that the airlines assured that the boys would be met at the gate and escorted to their connection. That is the problem…PERIOD!

    I would have complained too.

  16. VG10 says:

    The kids are dumb, why is this news? Boohoo, a 14 and 16 yr old dont know what to do….

  17. LionelEHutz says:

    The teens are clearly the ones at fault. They should have just known in their gut that nobody would meet them at the gate and that the connection for their flight was changed. If gut feelings are good enough for Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff then they should be good enough for these two teens.

  18. skinny2 says:

    Why is this newsworthy? And why such a dramatic headline?? C’mon, US Air was supposed to catch them at the gate to reroute them, but for whatever reason they missed them. Stuff happens. It wasn’t like they were actually being escorted by the airline and left for dead.

    If anything the parent(s) should be dope-slapped for not at least making sure the kids had a calling card. Even with a cell on your hip, you should have a calling card on you for backup.

    Hey, I’m sure US Air didn’t intentionally miss them at the gate, poop happens.

  19. jamar0303 says:

    I’ve never flown alone and I’m 16, so I don’t know about how it works, but if they’re flying at that age alone, don’t they get some special status that means that the airline has to make sure the whole flight, connections and all, works out for them? At least that’s what happens on most airlines’ international routes. Oh well, one more reason to dislike US Airways.

    Interesting that they were allowed into the control tower, though- can we say “security issue”?

  20. Hoss says:

    The news article reads like an SAT question. Two boys going from San Diego to Raleigh, ok got that part. Plan A is San Diego-Phoenix-Cinci-Raleigh. Mom sees that this might not work so aborts Plan A, takes Plan B instead. Plan B is San Deigo-Phoenix-Raleigh. Good. Now boys call dad from cinci. Cripes, this is why I never when to Haavid.

  21. Sleeping in the control tower? Are you kidding me? There has got to be some sort of FAA regulation about letting random people into an office that controls the lives of thousands of people simultaneously.

    Was there no VIP lounge they could have put them in? A nearby hotel? A security/first aid office? Airport police station? Nothing?

  22. protest says:

    US Airways changed their connection while the boys were in the air, then didn’t bother to tell them.

    because flights were running late and dear old mom didn’t think they’d make their connection in time, she changed their schedule with the airline and the airline told her they would meet the kids and inform them of the change. i think this is the part of poor planning on the airline and parent’s fault, not the kids. they probably went to the proper gate on their ticket, only to find out they were no longer booked on the flight and had missed their new connection.

    on a side note, why are so many people in these comments thinking they have enough knowledge to call these kids idiots? if mom doesn’t want to get them cell phones, and the airlines fuck up, don’t b*tch at the kids.

  23. Lunanina says:

    Stuff happens, yes, but if we’re going to use that argument here, then shouldn’t we use it always? Oops. The item you bought worked for a week and then broke. Oh well. Stuff happens, why complain? Somebody promises they are going to send a repair man to your house but never shows up. No big deal. Stuff happens! Just take another day off work. Stop the whining. Etc.

    The fact that the boys have flown before has no bearing on the matter I think. As someone already pointed out, the fact is that the family was told that the airline would provide accurate information and provide some help. The airline did not. Therefore, it’s within the family’s right to complain. Resorting to calling the young boys, whom none of us knows, idiots is out of line.

  24. Benny Gesserit says:

    @jamar0303: “Interesting that they were allowed into the control tower, though- can we say “security issue”?”

    Unfortunately, that was likely a sad comment on our times. It was probably the ONLY place the airline could let them stay where they’d officially (legally?) be “safe”.

    I remember reading, many, many years ago about an unaccompanied minor (5/6 yr old, if memory serves) who missed the last connection and one of the flight attendants had him stay with here in her hotel overnight. Back then, it was no big deal. Can you imagine even considering that option these days?

    I can see the staff in this story debating how to keep the kids safe for the night without people thinking they’re predatory monsters.

    If airlines started a “no non-adult single fliers” policy tomorrow, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

  25. Smackdown says:

    Yeah, I can’t blame the kids, and I flew unaccompanied (not even as an unaccompanied minor, just by myself) from 14 from the Middle East, with a long layover in Europe, to the US at least 6 times a year.

    I navigated the Dutch train system and foreign airports at that age, and I probably would have still fucked up, if I checked my boarding pass against the departures monitor and my boarding pass said the Delta flight. Totally the airline’s fault. Their tickets were wrong – were the kids supposed to be psychic and just know they were taking the direct flight now?

  26. randalotto says:

    Yeah, it sucks that the agents promised help and failed to deliver, but I don’t understand why the mom thinks it’s reasonable to switch plans while the kids are in the air (to a direct, presumably more expensive flight,) and have the airline straighten everything out for them.

    Personal responsibility matters. Side note: at 16, I could drive myself to the airport and figure out flights and connections. And these kids have already been doing this for 8 years???

  27. timmus says:

    The airline has a duty to fix this, because in most places in the United States the teens can’t rent a car and/or get a hotel room (thanks to America’s corporate nanny/insurance/whatever policies). This would be a recipe for disaster if they don’t have any street smarts, if they’ve got valuables, and if they have to sleep. Hell, at 16 I would have been fine, but it’s probably not fair to expect a minor to be able to fully take care of themselves.

  28. tvh2k says:

    I flew cross-country alone every summer (often twice a summer) from age 14 to 20. Yes, the airline let them down and yes, they should have the unaccompanied minor fee refunded + food, but seriously they’re 14 and 16! I’ve seen 14-years-olds do so very “adult” things, I think they can handle making a connection.

    I bet they would have been more careful if the minors were, say, 6 and 8.

  29. majortom1981 says:

    From what I understand the flight was supposed to be direct. While the flight was in the air U.S. airways changed the flight to make it a conecting flight. The boys where not told this and then missed the conenctinbg flight.

    Combine this with the fact that the boys where udner 18 and then US airways is in big trouble.

    US airways is at fault they completely changed the flight around while it was in the air and did not tell the boys. How can you change the flight while its flying and not tell everyone? that is really screwed up.

  30. alex6500 says:

    Years ago i and my wife booked a flight to Tulsa,OK
    from Norfolk,Va. The time of departure ,etc, was doublechecked. Before getting on board the airplane
    We were informed that the airline computer only showed me
    as a passenger.A “miracle”happened,because all of a sudden there was
    room for my wife.My wife had only flown twice in
    her life and was totally perplexed.I had earlier,jokingly mentioned ,”well i guess i will have to go by myself.Wow, was that a wrong thing on my part to say.My wife is now deceased and i look back and fondly remember m wife’s last airplane flight.We enjoyed our vacation.

  31. Amelie says:

    “on a side note, why are so many people in these comments thinking they have enough knowledge to call these kids idiots?”

    Because when you don’t like your job, life, etc., it’s easier to lash out at random people – sort of like road rage. It’s also easier to skim an article and fill in the blanks according to what one wants to believe.

  32. Framling says:

    Just a couple of days after this incident, my wife and I were on a US Airways flight from San Diego to Las Vegas that was delayed by about an hour and a half. The entire time, the airline reps were assuring everyone that it would be a forty minute delay, and that no one would miss their connecting flights.

    I was in line to talk to one of the reps to make sure my connecting flight on Alaska from Vegas to Seattle would be okay, too (the guy all but laughed in my face, even though that flight was to depart five minutes after the US Airways flight they were reassuring everyone about).

    Anyway, the lady in line ahead of me was there dropping off her two teenage sons and wanted to know if they’d miss their connection (which was departing an hour after ours), and she was told, and this is a quote, “Definitely.”

    Naturally, we landed about twenty minutes after their connection.

  33. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    Wait, this makes little sense to me.

    Initial plan was:

    US Air: San Diego –> Phoenix
    Delta: Phoenix –> Cin
    Delta: Cin –> Raleigh/Durham

    While the kids were en route to Phoenix, the “Plan B” became:

    US Air: San Diego –> Phoenix
    US Air: Phoenix –> Raleigh

    Here’s the thing – US Airways wasn’t the one who eliminated an entire leg of their journey. The parent (or purchaser of the ticket) was the one who made that call. While kids were in the air, without their knowledge. They then left it up to the airline to inform their children of this change in the flight path, which is a reasonable expectation. Or is it?

    If it were me, I’d want to PERSONALLY alert my children that their flight plans had changed. I wouldn’t blindly leave it up to an airline to do so. Which echoes another poster’s question – what the hell are these kids doing flying x-country without a cell phone? It’s not necessary, but you’d think that if you knew going into a flight that timing would be tight, you’d provide your teenagers with a way for them to contact you easily, (and vice versa).

    These parents are lucky they got the 2 vouchers. US Airways provides this “babysitting” as a service, not as an obligation (after the child has reached a certain age), I’d have to think.

  34. Buran says:

    @Juice Box Hero: There’s more to a control tower than the actual control room. Perhaps there are sleeping quarters there for the controllers. Or perhaps there’s a breakroom or some other space that can be turned into a sleeping area in a pinch.

  35. rixatrix says:

    Nearly 15 years ago, when I was only 9, I few unaccompanied to see my grandparents in Florida. I believe I flew Northwest, and they had an agent take me from my parents through security to my flight. We had a stopover in Memphis, where a different agent was instructed to take me to the flight going to Florida and instead put me on a flight to Colorado. Before we took off, I realized from the pilot’s little speech that I was on the wrong flight, told the adult next to me, who got a flight attendant to take me off the flight, but by then, I’d missed the connection to Florida.

    I spent the day in Memphis hanging out with airline workers, eating McDonalds and watching bad TV. Which would’ve been ok, except I’d been up the night before sick every hour, on the hour. When my flight finally came, hours later, I was upgraded to first class and slept through the whole thing.

    My mom got vouchers, I don’t know how much. This sort of thing appears to happen regularly enough through the airlines. I remember hearing about another kid who was stranded/misdirected when flying unaccompanied once on Oprah a few years back.

    If airlines are going to provide this service, just like meeting someone at the gate with a wheelchair, it would help if they actually had designated people to do it, and not just busy jerks who forget what they’re doing.

  36. queen_elvis says:

    I’d be more annoyed about this if the kids were 4 and 6. Unaccompanied teenage boys might try to sneak into head shops, but they can probably deal with hostile strangers. But the larger point here is that regardless of the age of the passenger, US Airways should do a better job of informing people of changes to their flights. If it happened to adults, it would be just as bad, but there wouldn’t be the thin veneer of “OMG for the CHILDREN!” that we’re seeing here.

    BTW, I flew alone on US Airways at 16 and ran into weather-related delays. They told me I was an adult at that age, according to their rules, and thus not entitled to any accommodations. That was in the mid-90s.

  37. beyond says:

    I flew when I was that age and never had an airline meet, but the stewardesses were always extra attentive to you while you were on the plane.

    These kids sound like the product of helicopter parents. Helpless, dependent, and devoid of common sense.

    Get off plane, no US Airways person there when you were told there would be, walk up to nearest booth (there is only one at EVERY GATE) with a body and ask them to help you find your gate.

    The parents should feel ashamed for raising such helpless kids. That 16 year old probably won’t be much more self sufficient by the time he reaches 18.

  38. dohtem says:

    When I was 17 I flew alone on a transatlantic flight that made a stop in London. My mom got a similar service for me where someone would check on me regularly (she worries quite a bit :) and they went above and beyond.

    There was always someone popping in to see if I was ok (even on the plane, like I could have left). At my layover in London, I got to hangout with a bunch of stewardesses at their BA lounge, got free food, drinks, a decent place to pass out, got a free shuttle ride from Gatwick Airport to Heathrow Airport.

    The entire time, I was always with an adult by my side. They made sure I had all my things, and when I finally met with my Uncle at my destination, they made damn sure this was the person I was supposed to be meeting with.

    Now how US Airways could botch this up is just sad. If British Airways could make sure I made it ok to another airport during my layover in a country I had never been to before, then US Air just sucks.

  39. ingridc says:

    @Lunanina: Hear hear.

    @beyond: The boys followed their itinerary they were given, got to the gates by themselves and boarded the plane they were told to be on when they first started their trip. Yep, TOTALLY helpless, dependent and devoid of common sense. Never mind the fact that they weren’t the ones who changed their flight, and no one informed them of the change. Shame on their parents for raising kids who do what they are told.

  40. cockerham says:

    Man! Spending the night in the control tower! That is awesome. They probably got a kickass tour as well.

    Think they aren’t going to be bragging about that for the rest of their lives?

  41. Trai_Dep says:

    Shame they weren’t flying to Louisiana. I’m sure if they waited a bit in the Men’s Room, a loitering Republican would have been happy to “take care” of them.

  42. gruffydd says:

    This happened to me when I was a kid (about 10) back in the 70’s.
    I was supposed to stay on the plane during a connection, but no one told me.
    So I got off in Dallas instead of Miami.
    I wandered around the Dallas airport for about an hour looking for my dad (who was waiting for me in Miami).
    Finally, I went to the desk and said I couldn’t find my dad.
    When the agents realized what had happened, I was basically put in protective custody until I reached Miami!

  43. stevekal says:

    Put your children with 100 strangers, and a stranger (someone you don’t know, and will never know) employee to care for them? If you want to gamble, stick to Vegas.

  44. Cap'n Jack says:

    Airlines giving out VOUCHERS does not equate to an apology and/or refund of any kind. Why would I want to give those assholes another $ if they already ruined my week? It’s assinine.

  45. azsunshine says:

    The 2 teens who wound up sleeping in the tower were booked on “cheap tickets” and the routing was not known to US Airways until the boys were in the air. At the point the mother realized they would miss their connection she told US Airways they were UM’s but she did not pay a fee nor would they have been allowed to make this trip had the airline known. US Airways does not accept UM’s on connecting flights and the mother knew this. She put these children in this situation. The airline normally would send these children back to their origin but the mother had taken off to somewhere else and there would not have been anyone to meet them. The “cheap ticket” company rerouted them through Cinicinati and then their destination. They had the time of their lives. The airline should refuse to fly them anywhere with a connection until they are 21 and can take care of themselves. Their mother sure didn’t seem to care and tried to blame the airline? Get real. She tried to send them across country the cheapest way she could and knew they would be refused if they were UM’s on this airline. When you try to beat the system sometimes it beats you. I think the airline went out of their way to make sure these children were safe and taken care of at least for the time they were with them. By the way, they probably won’t be flying home on US Airways.

  46. Yet another US Airways screw-up.

  47. SBR249 says:

    Sounds like a parental screw up which left US Air holding the bag(s), the boys, and the blame.

    Why did the parent send the kids off without any way to get in contact? Prepaid phones are $50 + $10 = $60 at any best buy these days. Wouldn’t hurt to run down and get one.