Parents Tell United It Lost Their 10-Year-Old Daughter, Airline Shows Remarkable Lack Of Interest

Back in June, the parents of a 10-year-old girl say they put their child in the hands of United Airlines staff for the kid’s first solo trip to summer camp, only to soon find out that the airline had somehow misplaced the young girl — and that the airline didn’t really seem to think this was a big deal.

The girl was supposed to fly on United from San Francisco to Chicago and then on to Traverse City, Michigan. The parents accompanied their daughter to the airport and waited until her plane had taken off before heading home, where they then tracked the flight to Chicago and then to Michigan.

“We then waited and waited for the call from camp that she arrived safely,” the parents write in a letter to United. “That call did not come. Instead we received a frantic call from the camp that Phoebe was not on the flight, nor did the United person in Traverse City know why she was not on the flight.

The parents then tried to contact United, only to be put on hold for 20 minutes. When someone from the airline did get on the line, they claimed that the girl did indeed land in Traverse City.

After the parents, admittedly panicking, insisted that the daughter had not been on that second flight, the United rep put them on hold for another 10 minutes before coming back to give them the news that their daughter hadn’t made the connecting flight in Chicago.

“When I asked how she could have missed it given everything was 100% on time she said, ‘it does not matter’ she is still in Chicago and ‘I am sure she is fine,'” write the parents. “When I asked her to please confirm where [the daughter] was in Chicago and who she was with she could not tell me. When I asked to speak with her to be sure she was fine she said that was not possible. When I asked frantically to talk to her supervisor she put me on hold for 40 minutes.”

At the same time as the mother was on hold, the girl’s father called United’s Premier hotline and was able to get a human being on the phone. It still required a transfer before anyone could confirm that the daughter had not made her connecting flight.

“When he asked why she could not say but put him on hold,” the parents recall. “When she came back she told him that in fact the unaccompanied minor service in Chicago simply ‘forgot to show up’ to transfer her to the next flight.”

The father asked this United rep if she could help put them in contact with their daughter. He was put on hold and he says that when she returned to the line, she gave him the bad news that it was the end of her shift and she would not be able to assist.

He appealed to the rep as a fellow parent to put herself in his position and — after another 15 minutes on hold — she was finally able to put the parents in touch with their lost daughter.

From the letter to United:

She landed and no one came to get her. The attendants where busy and could not help her she told us. She told them she had a flight to catch to camp and they told her to wait. She asked three times to use a phone to call us and they told her to wait. When she missed the flight she asked if someone had called camp to make sure they knew and they told her “yes—we will take care of it”. No one did. She was sad and scared and no one helped.

The daughter ultimately landed in Traverse City, but her luggage did not. Multiple calls to United proved fruitless. Even the Premier line, which had (eventually) been helpful in finding their daughter couldn’t help because it no longer handled luggage-related issues… That is until they once again pulled the parental sympathy card and found someone who helped them locate the missing bag.

The bag was supposedly put on a plane and the parents arranged to have someone from the camp pick it up at the airport. Except it did not arrive as planned.

They then repeated the process again, once more with assurance from United that the bag would be on the next flight. Nope. Not true.

The bag finally arrived on the third try, two days after it was supposed to have made the trip with their daughter.

The final insult came when the parents tried to lodge a formal complaint with United:

“[We] were blown away to learn that when you file a complaint with United you cannot file it yourself. You have to tell someone on the phone what you are filing for, let him or her write your story down and then THEY file it. We asked to have them read it back to us to verify the facts, we also asked to read it ourselves and both requests were denied. We asked for them to focus on the fact that they ‘forgot’ a 10-year old in the airport and never called camp or us to let us know. We also asked that they focus on the fact that we were not informed in any way that United uses a third party service for this. They said they would “do their best” to file the complaint per our situation. We asked if we would be credited the $99 unaccompanied minor fee (given she was clearly not accompanied). They said they weren’t sure.”

According to this blog post written by a friend of the parents, once a local TV news reporter began sniffing around the case, suddenly United execs gave a hoot about their lost daughter, allegedly calling the parents at home the other night in an attempt to smooth things over.

We’ve sent this story to United reps for comment. We’ll let you know if anyone responds — unfortunately, the “from one parent to another” thing doesn’t work in these situations (especially if you don’t have kids).

UPDATE: United has responded to our request with the following statement…

We reached out directly to the [parents] to apologize and we are reviewing this matter. What the [parents] describe is not the service we aim to deliver to our customers. We are redepositing the miles used to purchase the ticket back into [the father’s] account in addition to refunding the unaccompanied minor charge. We certainly appreciate their business and would like the opportunity to provide them a better travel experience in the future.

United Airlines Lost My Friend’s 10 Year Old Daughter And Didn’t Care [Bob Sutton]


Edit Your Comment

  1. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Personally I’d be suing United for child abandonment, or something along those lines…and every single person involved needs to be punched in the face.

    $10 million punitive award to the parents please. And full-page ads in major city newspapers paid for by United admitting what they did and apologizing for it.

    • Coffee says:

      Yes…there may be a need for some punitive damages in a story like this, especially after the airline made so little effort to rectify the situation. Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again, mkay?

      • Golfer Bob says:

        Except it didn’t really happen. She was safe and sound and still in Chicago, according the United rep. They are going to use the much ado about nothing defense.

        • sorta savvy consumer says:

          Safe and sound my ass. Imagine yourself at 10 years old, abandoned in Chicago f***ing O’Hare airport. Nobody will let you call, you know you missed your flight. You know you are not making to camp.

          The trauma was totally unnecessary and the absolutely negligent on United part.

          If this happens to anyone else, call the airport where you THINK she is. File a missing persons report, make a huge stink, get police involved, amber alert you name it. That will get the airlines attention and your daughter on the phone.

          As for missing luggage MEH, pack a bigger carry on.

          • Golfer Bob says:

            Back off with your crap. I was sarcastically paraphrasing the United Rep as I clearly said in my reply. Go take your meds.

          • bluline says:

            When my son was around 10 we put him on a flight to his summer camp. Due to an in-flight emergency, the plane landed at a different airport and everyone had to get off. The flight was canceled and everyone was re-booked. My son called to let us know what was going on. This was in the days before widespread use of cell phones and we had taught him how to use a pay phone. The bottom line was that my son was non-plussed over the incident. He bought an exotic car magazine at the news stand and patiently waited for his re-booked flight. He didn’t panic, and he certainly wasn’t traumatized.

            I’m not excusing United’s behavior and lack of action in this incident, but my point is that 10-year-olds can handle a situation like this if properly educated ahead of time.

            • VintageLydia says:

              Same thing happened to my brother when he was about 11 or 12. But he’d been flying for 5 or 6 years at that point so he was an old hand at it.

            • shufflemoomin says:

              Yeah, all 10 year olds are identical and each one would handle the same situation identically. No, wait…

            • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

              Did you miss the part where the daughter asked to call her parents? Three times? When she asked if the camp had been notified of the problem? And lied to?

              This is completely inexcusable. United took responsibility for that child’s safety. They even charged *extra* to do it. Their actions were callous and irresponsible at best, and criminal at worst.

              For you to try to place blame for the situation on the 10 fucking year old daughter is disgusting. There were ADULTS that were in charge, ADULTS that allowed the situation to deteriorate to the point where you could argue that the 10 year old is being held against her will and denied contact with her parents.

              What the fuck is wrong with you?

              If it were my daughter, I’d have that fucking airport SHUT THE FUCK DOWN until my daughter was located. I’d have put my wife on manning the phones at home (screaming bloody murder at anyone on the other end of the line) and gone to Chicago MYSELF. And beaten the living shit out of anyone working for United that didn’t cooperate 100% with my efforts to find my daughter.

              • GreatZimkogway says:

                Yes, yes, because violence will help the situation at all, your wife giving them a hard time, distracting them by yelling, will do anything good at all. All you would’ve done is gotten yourself arrested. Think with your head, not your fists.

          • Oh_No84 says:

            I remember being in 5th grade and I would have been just fine in this situation.
            All it would have took was the 5th grader either A walking to their connecting gate by themselves or B bugging the gate agents until they helped them.

            • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

              Did you miss the part where the daughter did all of that? What is a ten-year-old supposed to do, tackle someone?

          • Jevia says:

            Calling the police would have been a great idea. Someone at United would have gotten a well-deserved dressing down.

    • mikedt says:

      After reading about their lack of interest, I got to admit suing their asses was my first thought too – and suing is generally my last thought. Generate as much bad press for them as you possibly can. Call up CBS/ABC/NBC and get on their morning news shows. Make them pay.

    • Oh_No84 says:

      You do know this is a 5th grader right?
      If their parents told them how airports work instead of leaving it up to the airline to teach them this never would of happened and the 5th grader would have made their connecting flight.
      If your child is this remedial they should of had a parent fly with them to get them there or it should of been a direct flight.

      • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

        “How airports work”. Generally, if you’re a minor, and you ask an airline employee for help, they’re supposed to give it to you. Especially when they’ve specifically agreed to look out for your well-being. Generally, if you’re a minor, and you ask to call your parents… three times… they should let you call your fucking parents.

        She could also have spoken with the nearest uniformed law enforcement officer (or military personnel, since you’ll see those walking up and down the terminals with machine guns a lot), but if you’re ten, and an adult tells you to just wait.. well, we’re taught to obey our elders, right? Especially when you’ve been told to listen to them and follow their instructions?

    • GrandizerGo says:

      Ha, the only thing that matters is that she was not seated next to a man on the flight.
      Oh the horrors.

      But really, I would have a lawyer and another lawyer asking questions of UA, and more to the point, this third party service that did not BOTHER to show up.
      UA should have already cancelled any contract with this 3rd party and been on / in the newspapers stating this.

  2. larrymac thinks testing should have occurred says:

    United shouldn’t have seated the kid next to a man, obviously.

  3. GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

    If I was being given that much of a run around, I would have had someone call from a 2nd phone to the airport in Chicago and try with a different operator. I’m just finding it hard to believe that these parents endured this operator for over an hour and just simply waited on hold.

    • Coffee says:

      They did: At the same time as the mother was on hold, the girl’s father called United’s Premier hotline and was able to get a human being on the phone.

      • Milquetoast says:

        The way I read his comment is that they should have called the airport directly, rather than call United a second time, which I agree with 100%. Talk to someone in the same physical location as the child. Calling the United Premier hotline isn’t any different than calling their standard 1-800 number in this situation; the end result is you have 2 people placed on hold with operators at call centers most likely several hundred miles away from where the problem is.

        • Golfer Bob says:

          Except how do you call the airport directly? Can you even reach an airport by phone? Not criticizing, just wondering if that’s even possible these days.

          • cactus jack says:

            O’Hare International Airport
            Bessie Coleman Drive Illinois 60666
            (773) 686-2200

            Just called it and it works.

            • Golfer Bob says:

              I just googled it as well. What would they do? Talk to security? Have her paged? I guess that could be another option. I just keep thinking about the Airplane! parody movie and the red phone, the white phone…

              • bbb111 says:

                “… Talk to security? Have her paged? … ”


                You tell security that there is a missing child in the airport. [which is true] Airports have procedures for this and would probably be more responsive than corporate lines at the airline. The people at the 800 numbers (even the premier line) don’t know what to do and have to call/ask around to find out how to contact the correct people and then get through the phone maze and messaging system to get through.

    • El_Fez says:

      My first thought: call the cops. Get some kind of authorities on the line – the feds, Child protective services, someone who can throw some weight around!

    • Bob A Dobalina says:

      i would have just called the cops and reported that my daughter had been kidnapped. let Untied (intentional) Airlines explain it to them

  4. Mr_Magoo says:

    I’m in no way trying to blame the parents, but if I were sending my 10 year old on an adventure like this, I’d get her a prepaid cell phone before sending her off in the care of United. It’s just extra insurance.

    • Murph1908 says:

      I agree. I was thinking the same thing. No blaming, but that would have been a good thing to do.

      Tell her you can call when the plan lands, and can call until the flight attendants tell you to shut off all electronics. Then have her call when she lands, and call when she gets on the next plane. Hell. Get her 100 minutes for $20 and have her stay on the phone for the entire switch.

    • Applekid says:

      Anyone that reads this and still decides to send their kids on United is absolutely to blame, IMHO. I don’t see why they deserve another chance when multiple apathic employees lied, dismissed, and ignored their jobs and their fucking humanity.

  5. crispyduck13 says:

    Jesus Christ.

    Honestly if it were me, I’d have one parent on the phone with the airline and the other on with the police in whatever city it turned out she’d been left in. This story is just awful at every turn, thank god the kid is ok.

  6. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I’m not blaming the OP, I promise…but their kid is old enough that she could have taken care of herself with a little training. It was her first trip, but 10 years is old enough to have a cell phone and basic instructions on how to figure out where gates and terminals are, and how to ask an airline rep about layovers. Parents should have given her a cell phone. I think that would have helped. Just instructions, like “call me when you get to Chicago” and then the parents could have helped their kid to the next leg of the trip.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      But the kid did ask the airline reps for help, those assholes apparently brushed her off while denying her request for use of a phone. You simply can’t blame a 10 year old kid for not knowing what to do beyond that. By the way, when you have a minor going along with a chaperone the kid isn’t usually carrying their connecting flight boarding pass. The chaperone gives it to the stewardess on the plane, and they then give it to the chaperone who picks the kid up at the landing gate. At least that’s how it worked when I flew unaccompanied (many times) some 15-20 years ago.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        That’s a situation where your very own cell phone would have been helpful.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          I’m not giving my kid a cellphone at age ten. Not gonna happen.

          I might give them a prepaid for just this trip, but I assure you my 10-year-old will not “own” a cellphone.

          • pecan 3.14159265 says:

            I meant having a cell phone in the context that you were flying alone and needed to reach someone… I don’t think anyone was saying one way or the other that parents need to give their kids their own cell phone. I thought I was being pretty clear.

            In any case, yes, giving a kid a cell phone (regardless of what kind) would have been a great idea.

            • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

              I wonder if the summer camp she was attending specifically prohibited possession of cell phones by campers.

              Which leads me to wonder.. What kind of summer camp is so special that you have to send your child from California to Michigan on two flights just so that they could attend? I’m certain there are plent of fine summer camp programs closer to home. Maybe not within San Francisco city limits, but assuredly in Marin county, Monterey, or near Yosemite.

      • Not Given says:

        But no one was with her so who had the boarding pass?

    • Coffee says:

      I know what you’re saying, but travelling can still be daunting when you’re young and don’t know how to deal with adversity. I traveled quite a bit as a kid. The first time I traveled alone, I was 15 years old, meeting my mother at the Marriott Marquis hotel in New York. Wait…there’s more than one Marriott in New York City? I did not know this! Not when I was a kid and not thinking about details like that. I finally ended up having to call my father in a panic from a pay phone (thank god kids have cells these days) to figure out where I was staying. If he hadn’t been home, I would have been stranded.

      • nbs2 says:

        Not saying that I would expect it out of every kid – but it isn’t that hard to figure things out. When I was 11, I spent Christmas Eve in STL with my sister (who was 8). We got stuck because of a blizzard that cancelled all flights. I had enough wherewithall to deal with tied up lines, sort things out with CS and figure out what to do. Of course, that was on TWA when they had great service (they had a kids room and a chaperone that stayed with us at the airport that night – Christmas freaking Eve). While I made initial contact with my folks, TWA staff let us call home once we got to the room.

        Anyway, point being, sure, the girl could have figured things out, but United displayed an absolute reckless disregard for her welfare. Frankly, I’d like to see Smisek publicly caned.

        • Tenacity says:

          I’m glad you could handle all that. My 75-year-old mother couldn’t. (And she never could of–it’s not just because she’s getting up there. She’s just of a generation of sheltered women who let the men in their lives do all that sort of thing.) I wouldn’t expect every 10-year-old to be able to navigate this trip or any airport, for that matter. Some yes, but not all. In any case, United really screwed up.

          • nbs2 says:

            It was awesome (once we got things figured out). The staff was really helpful, they had a Nintendo for us to play, they gave us vouchers for personal Pizza Hut pan pizzas that we had for dinner, and they had boxes of M&Ms, Snickers, and cans of Coke. It was like a giant sleep over, since there were 8-10 kids that got stuck.

            The only thing that sucked was I ate too much crap and felt sick all day Christmas – and puked that night.

            It makes me sad to think nothing like that could/would ever happen today.

    • Golfer Bob says:

      Agreed. Cell phone or calling card should have been part of the supplies.

    • Oh_No84 says:

      Yep, this is a 5th grader. The kid could have gotten to the gate by themselves if the parents explained to them how airports work.

  7. mh83 says:

    Hmm, why wouldn’t the parents think to call law enforcement? I’d think that would be a good idea if they put you on hold for 40 minutes. Getting the police involved should draw the airline’s attention.

    And, of course, if your kid is traveling alone, give them their own cell phone.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I think the police would have (pretty rightfully) told them to get a straight answer from the airline reps first. They’re the ones who can actually get the kid on the plane, not the police. The parents could have asked the airport police to call the kid’s name over the PA system, and once she showed up, they could escort her to the plane.

      But I suspect airport police get a lot of OMGSALLYSNOWFLAKEISLOST/KIDNAPPED//MAULEDBYBEARS calls.

  8. PragmaticGuy says:

    I’m certainly not blaming the OP but….if you can afford to FLY your kid to sleepaway camp for the summer the least you can do is accompany her and make sure all goes well. That being said….just reverse two letters in the United name and you get UNTIED. And this is certainly the way this airline is acting lately. They’re just getting worse and worse by the day. I see a golden poo in their future.

    • GitEmSteveDaveHatesChange says:

      Maybe they were on probation and not allowed to leave the state?

    • SirWired says:

      I’m not sure I follow this thought process: “If you have enough money to do X, you surely have enough money to do X + Y!”

      I don’t think math works that way.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Not at all. There’s a built in assumption that is pretty stupid. I can afford to fly to Europe – but I can’t afford to vacation there, no.

        • PragmaticGuy says:

          I don’t think it’s stupid. If you can’t afford to vacation there you certainly wouldn’t fly there. Using that reasoning it’s doubtful you would fly there in the first place.

          • PragmaticGuy says:

            By the way…if they were so strapped for money as you ASSUME then it’s doubtful they would have sent kid to that camp to begin with.

            • SirWired says:

              Maybe they REALLY wanted their kid to go to this camp and scraped up their last dollar to do it. Maybe they got a scholarship from the camp. Maybe Grandma gave them a certain amount of money to send the kid to camp, and they didn’t have an extra $400 or so for another ticket.

              And yes, you did blame the OP.

      • Murph1908 says:

        I don’t necessarily agree with what he’s saying, but I can SEE what he is saying.

        If your budget allows you to be able to fly your kid to a summer camp, without causing undue hardship, you can probably afford to take a round trip with her. If it dodoes cause undue hardship, you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.

        This argument falls apart (more) when it involves a flight of more necessity, like to the other joint custody parent. But the summer camp aspect makes it more…frivolous? optional? discretionary?

        • Coleoptera Girl says:

          They would have to be able to afford two round trips. One to drop the kid off and one to pick them up. The parent could take time off of work, but not everyone has enough PTO for that… If United is going to offer unaccompanied minor services, they better do it right.

        • SirWired says:

          I can SEE he’s being an a$$. There are a bazillion perfectly good reasons they might have enough money for camp, but not enough for two additional round-trip plane tickets. (One for drop-off, one for pick-up.) Maybe grandma gave a fixed amount of money to the family so the kid could go to camp, maybe they had a scholarship… it’s rather insulting to assume the family is being financially irresponsible and/or cheap without any evidence whatsoever.

          In any case, even if they DID have the money, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to trust United to do their damn job.

    • nicoleintrovert says:

      Because there aren’t camps where the kids can earn scholarships to attend?

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      Some camps have scholarships too, so it’s not 100% certain that they are rolling in dough. They may have only had to pay for airfare.

  9. RedOryx says:

    Chicago, huh? Isn’t that where Kevin McCallister is from?

  10. valkyrievf2x says:

    1)I think the moment my child was missing and the operator put me on hold, I’d be dialing the local police to get on it. Maybe they would have more of an incentive to look for a missing child. And yes, missing, since no one seemed to know where she went.

    2)It is downright sad that this is what “customer service” passes for, nowadays.

    3)This seems kinda drastic…. but these stories of children flying alone are getting more common than they used to be. I’m sure I’m in the minority, but maybe it is time the airlines discontinued the unaccompanied child flights. A few years ago, it seemed to work. Airlines had humans working for them. Look at it now: They can barely even give a crap. They are saying that males shouldn’t sit next to unaccompanied children since they might hulk out and rape them or something. Seems to me that the age where children flew alone in an airplane is over. And make it a law, not something airlines will volunteer to do, since you know how well that works… While it may be convenient, it doesn’t seem to be worth it given we are talking about the life and well being of a child…

    • JF says:

      I wonder if they allow male staff members to escort these unaccompanied minors between gates……

      I’m only half-sarc/ asking that. I think the policy about men sitting next to kids is stupid, but I wonder how far they take this policy.

  11. Hi_Hello says:

    the little girl should be able to fly for free for the rest of her life…

    although, I wouldn’t want to fly with united if I was her.

  12. SirWired says:

    It’s absolutely a good idea to file a formal complaint with the FAA. The FAA receives surprisingly few formal complaints, so any that do get sent in receive more attention than you might think, especially when it comes to issues of passenger safety like this.

  13. frodolives35 says:

    I wonder if when the united rep told them they did not know where she was if the mention of I’m calling the police and the word’s Amber alert would have gotten a little more attention?

    • Ace says:

      Not sure Amber Alert would be applicable here, but certainly telling the rep you are calling the police to report the child missing would be a good move.
      It should at the very least force the airline’s hand so they don’t look negligent to airport law enforcement.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      Amber Alerts don’t work that way and would never be issued with the facts given.

      • mianne prays her parents outlive the TSA says:

        Your 10-year old daughter is out of state, and those charged with chaperoning her dropped the ball and no one knows exactly where she is? I think that is *precisely* what Amber alerts are for!

        Imagine if a pedophile came across the girl at the airport, alone and looking dismayed and offered to “help” her get to her destination. “Oh my! The last flight to Traverse City has already left. But you can spend the night at my place and we’ll get you on the first flight in the morning, okay?”

  14. Overman says:

    As a child I used to fly between both coasts by myself to visit my Grandparents.
    My Mom would walk me to the gate, and my Grandfather would be waiting for me at the
    gate when I arrived.
    Now this was in the 70s when layovers (no commuter hubs) and terrorism didn’t exist.
    (cough-Black September-cough).
    But its safer now without free peanuts, playing cards, and cool plastic wing pins.

    • Golfer Bob says:

      I ran away from “home” in 1977, from Sarasota, FL to Pittsburgh, PA. I was 11. Walked right up to the ticket counter with cash from my paper route and bought a one way ticket connecting through Atlanta. Had my clothes in a paper grocery bag. I used a fake name, had no ID. No one batted an eye. I ended up buying an Eastern Airlines backpack when the bag ripped. All I had to do was pull the “Kevin Mcallister” and convince them I did this all the time, going to visit my grandparents. Those were the days.

      • Brave Little Toaster says:

        Wow – that’s kind of awesome! Did you actually make it to PA? More details of the adventure!

  15. thezone says:

    The minute I thought something was wrong I would immediately be back at SFO. Brushing someone off on the phone is fairly easy. Doing it face to face is much more difficult.

    • Spider Vossarian says:

      After which, the parents would be arrested as terrorists by the ever-vigilant and level-headed TSA…

      • thezone says:

        Seeing as how you can get to the ticket counter without an encounter with TSA, I tend to doubt your assertion.

  16. clevershark says:

    With all the horror stories about, it’s a wonder anyone still flies with United…

    • eccsame says:

      “With all the horror stories about, it’s a wonder anyone still flies with (insert airline here)”


  17. Deep Cover says:

    Of course it is not the OP fault. But you have to question the wisdom of sending an unaccompanied 10 y/o through ORD (or ATL, DFW, or anything in New York for that matter). I know you have to make a connection from SFO to GRR, but “maybe” 10 y/o should only be flying direct. ORD connections are tough enough as it (I’m actually SHOCKED that nothing was late). There is NO WAY I would let a 10 y/o do it alone.

    • bravejango says:

      they are lucky to only have one lay over. After a quick look on United’s website there are 0 direct flights between SFO and TVC. almost every flight goes through ORD with a lot of them having multiple layovers such as LAX and ORD.

    • VintageLydia says:

      My brother and I did it all the time. We were on airplanes every summer from the ages of 5 (3 for him) until present day (I’m 26 now.) We were both flying unaccompanied by the time we were 8 (grandparents lived in FL–lots and lots of layovers spent in Charlotte and Atlanta) and we were navigating those airports like they were our second home.

      I guess what I’m saying is age is less of a factor than experience and maturity level.

      Maybe a direct flight wasn’t available at the right dates or times or were out of their price range? I agree with others that the kid should’ve been given a prepaid phone (we had change for pay phones because cell phones were Not A Thing for anyone but businessmen.)

      But at the end of the day: United fucked up. BADLY. It’s totally inexcusable.

  18. SilverBlade2k says:

    Threaten with taking the story onto more national news agencies, then lawyer up.

  19. RandomHookup says:

    Somewhere in Alabama is a huge warehouse where all the airlines send their unclaimed and lost kids. Some lost their unaccompanied minor tag; others forget to deplane at the correct time. If you go on the right day, you can get a 7-year old boy or girl just for a bag of Gummi Bears.

  20. VicMatson says:

    Call the Police dummy, don’t trust the Airline for anything. They would of BANGED on United’s door!

    No call, that’s not what the Police do, they arrest people.

  21. Pete & Repeat says:

    Headline should read:
    Parents show remarkable lack of interest in child and got her lost.

    I am blaming the OP.

    Dear OP:
    1) 10 is a little too young to fly unaccompanied. It just is.
    2) If you entrust your child to underpaid strangers who don’t know you or love your child bad things can (and do) happen. You are very very lucky your daughter is safe.
    3) O’hare isn’t a “nice” airport under the best circumstances.
    4) United isn’t functional under the best circumstances.
    5) If you are dumping your child (and that IS what you are doing when you refuse to be responsible for her safety and well being) try to make at least a little effort and find out who you are dumping her on. You didn’t even know a third party was responsible for her.
    6) In this modern age, you can provide these things called “burner” phones so your child has the ability to contact you should the complete strangers you are dumping her with fail to provide for her basic safety.

    Hope your daughter enjoys that away camp…Hmmmm, yet another place to dump her on low wage strangers so you don’t have to take care of her. Poor kid. She is 10, not 16 – no matter how much you force her to fend for herself. You are lucky she didn’t get gang raped in a airport bathroom. Never fear! There are still a few years for you to ignore and neglect her enough to get her hurt then blame an airline or camp or whoever you dumped your kid on so you could do things other than raise her.

  22. prismatist says:

    If this were my child, I would have called 911 to report a missing child after the first non-answer after being on hold. Not to try to stick it to the airline, but rather out of panic that my child was hundreds of miles from home and nobody knew where she was.
    Since the disappearance happened at an airport, the FBI’s potential kidnapping jurisdictional rules would have kicked in and there would be an enormous dose of hell to pay.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      Since the disappearance happened at an airport, the FBI’s potential kidnapping jurisdictional rules would have kicked in and there would be an enormous dose of hell to pay.

      Except that none of that would actually happen in real life.

  23. JF says:

    Something similar happened to me and my brother when we were being shuttled between our divorced parents (this was over 20 years ago). We were on a direct flight. My dad waited until the plane departed the gate to leave the airport (these were back in the good old days when any non-ticketed person could go to the gate), but the plane got turned around for mechanical issues on the runway. We were left by the staff (literally) on the tarmac with no clue what to do. We basically just followed the rest of the passengers. No personal cell phones back then :-/

  24. limbodog says:

    What’s all the fuss? They offered a partial refund, didn’t they? Water under the bridge.

  25. yaykayjay says:

    The story has gone national:

    I think United is going to reconsider its use of that particular vendor.

  26. bben says:

    Reached out? A week after losing a ten year old kid? And then only because of the bad publicity? I want someones head on a platter. And not some piddly gate attendant – I want an executive sacked with NO golden parachute. A slap on the wrist of some under paid employee just doesn’t get their attention. Blood on the walls in the executive suite is what it takes. If they don’t care what happens to this couples kid – they won’t care what happens to yours either.

    After crucifying an executive, (A real one and not some scapegoat) The rest of the stuffed shirts are going to make sure it never happens again. At the first whiff of a missing unaccompanied minor they are going to be on the phone with every airport, on radio with every aircraft in the air and have someone on line keeping the parents up to date constantly.

    There is no excuse for losing a kid like this. All they had to do was allow the kid to call home to let her parents know what was happening. And they refused to even do that.

  27. Bender6829 says:

    The airlines are out of control… callous and uncaring, but I still question the wisdom of putting a 10 y/o on a flight requiring connections, especially without a cellphone. It’s definitely not something I would have done as a parent, even though I think my children would have been able to handle it at that age, there are just too any creeps out there.

  28. sebastian tombs says:

    United seems to be getting alot of bad press lately which they do not seem to address – must have bad management – I know that I will not intentionally fly with them again public perception changes.

    Is this one of the worst airlines or what?

  29. Aliciaz777 says:

    When I was a young child, I used to start crying on the school bus if the substitute bus driver accidentally missed my stop. I became scared immediately thought I wasn’t going to get home, so being lost in a huge airport at 10 years old with nobody willing to help you was probably the fear I felt in the above situation multiplied by 1,000. United needs to pay out the ass for this to ensure it never, ever happens again. The ONLY way to make sure big companies don’t screw up like this is to hit them where it hurts most: the wallet. And not some pitiful amount either. I’m talking BIG money.

  30. Taylor says:

    Wow. In response to some of the comments. There are rarely payphones anywhere anymore and the ones that do exist usually only take credit cards. Ten is when a kid starts to become independent but an airport that someone has never been to can be confusing even for a seasoned adult traveler. It may have been one of those airports where you need to take a train to get to a different gate and then go upstairs and then back down stairs and then down a few halls and then the gate is tucked away in some corner behind construction.

    Then there’s also the stranger danger thing. A little girl wandering around an airport alone is just begging for a kidnapper or pedophile to grab her. Airports are so crowded and everyone is in a rush that I doubt anyone would notice. She was smart to stay by the gate and not go wandering off getting lost. Ten year olds are smart but they’ve still only existed for ten years and there’s a lot of dangerous situations they haven’t been exposed to yet and don’t necessary know any better solely for the reason that they just don’t have enough life experience. I am proud of that girl for doing the safe thing. She knew her well-being was more important than getting to camp on time. Most ten year olds don’t have the sense to make those decisions.

    The girl trusted United. She isn’t jaded yet like the rest of us. She didn’t know yet (I’m sure she knows now) that most people suck. She expected them to take care of her like her parents probably told her they would.

    To anyone who is blaming a little ten year old girl for this situation instead of United is a horrible person and probably the same type of people that the parents talked to on the phone. I hope the parents sue United.

  31. LucyMarie says:

    I think it’s absurd to let a 10 yr old fly alone. In my opinion, the parents are partially to blame for this. They’re very lucky she wasn’t taken by a pedophile or a murderer. At the same time, it’s totally inexcusable that the airline refused to help this child. I hope the parents sue them.