Don’t Send Your Children Flying As Unaccompanied Minors In The Current Summer Mess

A mother complains that her 14 year old son, traveling as an unaccompanied minor on American Airlines, had his Miami to New York flight cancelled and he was forced to spend the night in the airport. This seems to me to be the parent’s fault, and not American’s. Don’t send your child as an unaccompanied minor right now, on a connecting itinerary, if you can possibly help it.

@AmericanAir My son 14 years old is alone at the @MIA_Airport Miami international airport since yesterday morning. The crew member gave him this for sleeping at the airport, just snacks for food. The attention of this airline @aaair is the worst. pic.twitter.com/iid0qhhUkw

— Dora Ángela Hoyos Ayala (@dorangelah) July 28, 2022

Digging into this a little bit, the passenger was connecting in Miami. Their flight to Miami was cancelled due to weather. He was rebooked on an early flight the next morning, and it appears that the child was supervised by an employee throughout. I’m honestly not sure what they would have had American do in this circumstance.

The child’s mother says that checked bags didn’t travel on the same flight they did and were sent to New York LaGuardia instead of JFK. But that’s because the child was originally booked to, and their bags were checked to, New York JFK.

American coordinated with the family on a new itinerary to get them to New York as quickly as possible – LaGuardia. And American delivers late-arriving bags. This just doesn’t seem like a reasonable complaint to me.

American Airlines requires children 5 – 14 traveling alone to use their unaccompanied minor service. It’s optional for ages 15 – 17. Children 8 – 14 are permitted to travel unaccompanied on connecting flights.

Right now I wouldn’t send a child alone as an unaccompanied minor if it is at all possible to avoid it – during the current travel mess, peak summer passenger volumes, and facing summer weather events as well. That goes doubly for connecting itineraries. Travel with them if you can, even if it means dropping them off somewhere and flying home and then another trip to collect them later. That’s an additional expense. But if you can possibly afford it, doing so will prevent situations like this.

Airlines offer the unaccompanied minor service but I bet they wish they didn’t – it’s a service to customers more than a revenue-generator for the airline given the staff time, paperwork, and risk involved (including reputational risk).

At least if your child is flying unaccompanied on a non-stop you can go back to the airport and collect them if their flight is cancelled and they will not be traveling same day. As a connecting passenger, in a far-away city, there’s a lot less that you can do.

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