Earlier today I had to contact United Airlines about an unaccompanied minor situation. My husband and I purchased a direct flight from Tulsa to Denver for my 15 year old nephew to come visit in a couple weeks. I purchased them like I would any other tickets, got the confirmation, and went forward with my week excited about seeing him.
Well I received an email about 3 days after I booked his ticket saying that any children ages 5-15 are unaccompanied minors and we have to pay an additional fee of $300 round-trip to even allow him to get on the plane. It’s funny that I received the email 3 days later, well after the 24 hour grace period for canceling a ticket.
The fee is to make sure he gets on the plane safely, has help putting away his bags, give him snacks, and basically keep any eye on him. Why is it a 15 year old can get his learner’s permit and drive a car but he can’t be an unattended passenger on a plane? Now I appreciate this service for younger children and I appreciate it for any parents that feel like their child might need some help during travel. Especially during flights that are not non-stop. However, my nephew is fully capable of traveling alone and has done so before. How is this service not optional?
Now when I called United to figure out what was going on and how we could fix this, I got to talk to two people who were about as helpful and kind as an agitated grizzly. Immediately defensive they callously informed me that it was my mistake that I put 1 adult instead of using the drop down menu to select 1 child. A drop down menu that is pre-selected to 1 adult. In my past experience of booking 100+ flights I’ve never had to select anything else. I don’t have children and I’ve never booked for one before. Instead of waiting 3 days to tell me you think they could’ve let me know that the birthdate I entered on his passenger information was invalid and that there would an additional $300 fee for a 15 year old to travel alone. I really want to be clear about this, the fee to supervise my nephew costs MORE than his round-trip flight.
They were not willing to work with us in any way, shape, or form. They said if I did not pay the additional $300 my nephew would not be allowed on the flight. They told me I could apply for a refund, that sounded great. Oh except the refunds aren’t guaranteed and he informed me that their policy is clear and they don’t bend the rules for any customer. Essentially telling me to get stuffed. I was pretty much in tears after this exchange.
$300 is a lot of money for any family. It’s not enough that I give you my money willingly when I want to use your services? You have to charge me for a service that I don’t want and wasn’t even aware of? The airline with the most complaints per customer and an annual income of 4.5 BILLION dollars. A company that could’ve easily let me pay a fee to change the ticket, let me use it as a credit, or possibly understand that my 15 year old nephew does not need a babysitter on a non-stop flight. It’s really hard for me to wrap my head around this whole thing. I hate confrontation, I hate being at someone else’s mercy. I hate being bullied. It seems like that is exactly what America stands for now. Stomp on the little people and cash in on your extra million. I’m just so tired of it. I know I made a mistake but I can’t believe how much United is actually making me pay for it.
Image courtesy of Bloomberg.com