You put a lot of trust in an airline when you hand over your unaccompanied child for a solo flight. At the very least, you’d hope that someone might let you know when your kid’s flight is diverted and then canceled. A North Carolina family says American Airlines failed to notify them about a significant change in their 11-year-old daughter’s flight, telling WSOC-TV that the only way they learned her plane never landed in Charlotte was because the young lady called from her cellphone.
The family’s ordeal began Monday evening when the girl was scheduled to fly unaccompanied from Syracuse, NY, to Charlotte, where the girl’s parents were already waiting.
However, as sometimes happens in the winter, the flight encountered inclement weather and was diverted to Columbia, SC, a change the girl’s mother says she was never informed about by American.
Instead, the woman said her daughter called saying the plane had landed in Columbia, the trip to Charlotte was canceled, and she was being removed from the flight.
“I’m getting frantic, because I have no idea who took her off (the plane), where she is, what she’s thinking,” the mother tells WSOC-TV, explaining that she lost contact with the girl for more than an hour, during which time the family began driving to Columbia to pick up the girl.
About halfway into the drive, the woman says she finally received a call from American informing her the flight wasn’t canceled and that the girl was safely on the plane that would land in Charlotte.
At that point, around 2 a.m., the family began driving back to Charlotte, only to receive a call from the airline with different information.
“The agent comes on and is apologetic (and says), ‘I’m sorry ma’am, that flight was canceled. Your daughter is in Columbia,’” the woman tells WSOC-TV, noting that the American rep said the girl was in a room for minors.
Minutes later, though, the woman said her daughter called saying she was still on the plane.
“They lied to me about where she was,” the mother says. “I think parents need to know. Maybe this is ill-placed trust. It certainly is ill-placed money.”
The family arrived in Columbia and picked up the girl around 4 a.m. Tuesday.
The woman tells WSOC-TV that while she would like for American to refund her the $300 unaccompanied minor fee – $150 for each leg of the trip – she wants to make sure an ordeal like this doesn’t occur to another family.
“I don’t want another parent to go through this. They need to look at this system they have in place. They’re charging people $300 for and they need to examine where it failed because it failed drastically,” she said.
American Airlines tells WSOC-TV that it is working directly with the family to resolve the issues, but that the Airline did everything it could.
“Upon landing in Columbia, an indicator light went off that caused a maintenance issue,” an American rep tells WSOC-TV in a statement. “The customers stayed on the plane for a while after they landed in CAE because they thought they were going to be able to fix the maintenance issue. The customer service team did bring the customers water at that point. When the supervisor came on to bring the water, the flight attendant called [the girl] up to the front so she could call her mother. The mother offered to drive down to CAE and the supervisor said that would probably be the best course of action since we weren’t sure if or when the plane would be fixed. The flight finally had to cancel when the issue wasn’t able to be fixed at 2 a.m.”
The airline said the girl was then brought to a manager’s office where she waited with a female employee until her parents arrived.
“Weather and maintenance are certainly never things that we want to affect our operations, but we always have the safety of our customers as the top priority, so we were unable to fly the aircraft back out that night,” the rep said in a statement. “We apologize to the [family] for the diversion and inconvenience of having to drive to Columbia.”