How would you react to finding your seatmate on a 12-hour flight to China is a talkative eight-year-old boy whose father had ditched him to go sit in business class?
Flyertalk member steveo posted the following question in the United forum:
Hi Flyertalk. Just got off [Chicago] to [Beijing] and to my delight I had a maybe [an] 8-year-old boy sitting next to me the whole flight while his dad was in Polaris. I had the distinct pleasure of entertaining this kid who wouldn’t shut up for 12-hours. Should I complain about this?
Short answer: yes.
Flight attendants appear to share blame here. Steveo added:
Just to clarify the dad was sending stuff back to the kid from Polaris; and the kid even told the flight attendants that his daddy was up in Polaris class.
They knew it wasn’t my kid.
This is was also one of the worst crews I’ve ever seen from United. For example they rammed a guy with their cart and yelled, “You need to keep out of the aisle” and the guy was like “are you even going to apologize?”
There’s two big issues here. First, the father’s actions. Is it appropriate for a father to ditch his young son on a long intercontinental flight? I tend to think the answer is no, though I may be singing a different tune when my son is eight. 😉
On a serious note, it does appear the father checked in on the son during the flight, but wouldn’t you want to fly with your child? Is entrusting him to the strangers seated next to him wise parenting?
The kid apparently talked for nine hours, eventually to himself after the seatmate put his headphones on and tried to sleep.
I mean, I can think of some ways to entertain the kid, but really…
Second, what is the responsibility of flight attendants in this case? According to United rules, a child is PERMITTED to travel in a different cabin than his guardian or parent…but will be considered an unaccompanied minor.
Unaccompanied Minor means a Child/Minor 5 to 14 years of age when traveling alone or not accompanied on the same flight and in the same compartment by a companion Passenger at least 18 years of age or with a Legal Guardian or parent.
While we don’t know for sure whether dad paid the unaccompanied minor fee, I suspect not because the child was left alone after landing and the father had to go back and get him. Had the boy been an official unaccompanied minor, he would have not have been left alone after landing.
Earlier this week I wrote about a couple in New Orleans traveling with their granddaughter who was detained because a fellow passenger thought they appeared suspicious. What about this flight? Here a father ditches his son for 12 hours. Isn’t that more suspicious than two men traveling with a girl? Or is that just more commonplace than I think?
In some ways, I’d love it if my eight-year-old son was able to travel alone without any issues. But even if he was able, I would not want to separate from him on such a long international flight.
The poor man next to the boy should not have been subjected to nine hours of “entertaining” the little fellow. At the same time, a complaint to the FA or request for re-seating may have solved the issue.