Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What If Your Child Were Lost In The Airport?

Have you seen this story of the 9-year-old boy who was left in a room at O'Hare airport in Chicago? He was on a flight that left San Francisco, after visiting his dad, and he was on his way back to Ottawa, Canada, where he lives with his mom.

The boy, Julien Reid, makes this trip about 6 times a year. His mother didn't know anything about him missing the plane until Julien himself called her from his pre-paid cell phone.

WHOA Hold up. There are so many things going on in the first part of that story, my head is spinning.

So, let me get this straight: A 9-year-old boy is flying cross-country by himself?
And, he makes this trip every other month?
And, he is being unsupervised in the children's area at the airport?
And, when he is finally determined to have missed his flight, it is only after his flight was supposed to have landed in Ottawa?

Am I the only person who sees that this was a near-miss of a tragedy? Why is such a young child flying on a plane alone without a guardian? I know it must be hard for a divorced family to afford to buy an extra plane ticket just to supervise their child's travel, but this very situation shows what can happen. I do understand that this is an unusual circumstance, but to me it just sounds like a situation that was going to happen sooner or later, one way or the other. Flight attendants shouldn't be expected to have responsibility for him - they have to do their job with safety and flight instructions and also do the whole beverage service thing. But if the airline DOES allow kids to fly alone, don't they also assume the responsibility of taking care of the child while he's in their care? Even in the airport?

I know, we can't protect our children from EVERY POSSIBLE bad thing that will ever happen. I just feel that we have to minimize that risk as much as we are able to. Sometimes that means disappointing our children by telling them NO you can't do that. NO you can't ride your bike without your helmet, not even this one time. NO you can't spend the night at your new friend's house until I know his family a little better. NO you can't go on a plane by yourself to visit your dad; I need to save up some money until I have enough to buy a ticket to go with you.

The rule of thumb we try to use is this: Can my child live with the circumstance if something really awful did happen because of this? If the circumstance is that she doesn't get to join cheerleading or his friend teases him at school, that's something they can live with. If the circumstance is kidnapping or sexual abuse or cranial injury, is that something we'd want them to have to live with? Uh, not so much.

As usual, just my 2 cents.

Texan Mama


Jennifer said...

I'm like a safety freak. I can't imagine a situation like this. And amazingly, I don't think this is the first time something like this has happened.

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bridgett said...

I flew alone at 9. Not every other month, but I flew alone. Back then it was easier, in fact, to get lost and wind up somewhere wrong. Friends here have their daughter, also 9, fly alone to OKC, and it's a pretty controlled atmosphere. That said, it sounds like OHare fell down on the job.

And I didn't have to do anything but a direct flight until I was 15. THAT is crazy. There's no Ottawa-SF direct?? Or even just a touch down but same plane??

Lady V dZine said...

I can't even imagine! Don't airlines offer a service for minors that travel?

Kirby said...

Ummm nope couldnt put my kiddo on a plane at age 9 I would be worried the entire time, if it werent for so many freakazoids out there it wouldnt be so bad but 9 is a little young I was 14 before my parents would let me fly and it was a 45 min trip to DFW!

Amy O'Connor said...

My husband flew alone between DFW and Houston from the time he was about 3 years old. He says that he was basically assigned a flight attendant and he stayed with her the whole time. I still find that crazy even if it was 30 years ago. I know that I couldn't imagine putting my child on a plane and expecting them to take care of him the same way I would. Especially nowadays. Heck, I wouldn't even allow my older two kids to play in the front yard until they were 11 & 8!

Laura @ The Things I Said I'd Never Do said...

The unaccompanied minor program is usually pretty intense. I've sat on many a plane made late because we were waiting for a UM. This is a case where the airline really fell down on the job.