Last week unaccompanied minors were traveling on a Frontier flight that was diverted. The children’s parents claim they were not notified when their kids were taken to a hotel by airline staff. What should have happened?
Siblings Carter and Etta Gray aged nine and seven were headed home on Frontier flight 1756 to Orlando after visiting grandparents in Des Moines. The pair were flying as unaccompanied minors when their flight was diverted to Atlanta due to bad weather in Orlando which caused a ground stop at the airport. After arriving at the Orlando airport to pick up their kids, parents Jennifer and Chad learned that the flight was diverted to Atlanta.
Parents of the children claim that they were not notified by Frontier when the flight their children were on had been diverted and further did not know what had happened to them once they arrived in Atlanta. The children, along with four other minors, were taken to a Holiday Inn and looked after by an airline supervisor. The issue the parents raise (and may pursue legal action as a result) is that they were not notified that their children were being taken to a hotel nor that they were in a personal vehicle of an airline employee. Frontier disputes their account.
Their father claims that his son reached out by text message around 4:30 AM from another child’s cell phone and told his father that they were staying in a hotel with other children and an airline supervisor. There are a few reports that say all children were together, some had to share beds and that they were fed Rice Krispie treats and were given a voucher for McDonald’s breakfast the next morning.
A few thoughts
I think there is more to the story here. Frontier Airlines claims to have attempted to reach both parents and also claims that they did not send any children to the hotel until all parents were contacted. Reportedly, these children had flown many times before but their parents were waiting until they thought they were old enough to let them fly unaccompanied, and for them, those ages were nine and seven. If that is the case (and everyone’s situation is different) I don’t think I would send my child without a cell phone or a way to reach out in case anything like this were to happen.
The flight was nonstop and should have been as simple as getting from point A to point B, but even a nonstop flight can encounter issues as this example clearly demonstrates. This was also the last flight out which leaves little room for error and no options until the following day.
What could have been done better?
While I don’t work for the airlines and was not personally connected with the family, I doubt that the parents made it up. I also doubt the airline failed to take any steps to reach out to the parents. That being said, given the facts as reported, here are some simple ways both could have improved the situation.
Frontier: Contact parents immediately and explain the protocol for these situations. If the parents are not satisfied with the protocol they should make their own arrangements for the children. If the parents cannot be reached, do not move them from the airport.
Parents: Send a phone along with your child for emergencies and situations like the one at hand. After receiving the message, respond and ask to speak with the airline supervisor. Send a list of contact numbers with your children so that if one parent is not able to be reached, another responsible party who can determine the best outcome for the child can make the decision.
While Frontier certainly has an obligation when accepting unaccompanied minors (and/or charging a fee to care for them) the parents have a responsibility too. If parents are not comfortable with the circumstances of what can happen when your child flies unaccompanied… then they’re not comfortable with their child flying unaccompanied and should make alternate arrangements.
That may mean a parent should fly out to retrieve them or one of the grandparents joins them. It may mean driving cross-country, or it may mean accepting the outcome the airline chooses. Frontier may not be blameless in their choices handling this matter, but their parents could have better prepared their children and themselves for the outcome.
Did Frontier provide a reasonable solution for the less than ideal situation? Do the parents have a reason to be upset with how things were handled? What would you expect to happen in this scenario?