Annie and Perry Klebahn had a horrible experience sending their unaccompanied minor daughter on United, very similar to the experience my wife and I had sending our daughter on Continental three years ago (before Continental and United merged). Just like I did, they are trying to agitate for change, to make things better in the future for parents who need to put their kids on flights without them. Please help them out by signing their petition on change.org!
Posts Tagged ‘Cleveland or Newark?’
Please sign this petition for United Airlines to improve the safety of its unaccompanied minors programThursday, August 16th, 2012
Continental (now United) up to its old tricks, losing children and not caring until the media gets wind of itMonday, August 13th, 2012
Bob Sutton writes about how earlier this summer, United Airlines (which is the merger of the old United and Continental) lost a 10-year-old girl. Aside from the exact details of how they lost her, the story is surprisingly similar to what happened to my daughter in 2009.
It is depressing, but not surprising, to learn that nothing has changed.
See When kids are all alone at 10,000m, published May 1 by The New Zealand Herald.
The author of the article, Danielle Murray, did a remarkably good job of getting her facts right about what happened to me daughter, with the exception of saying that it happened “in June last year,” when in fact it was the year before.
“The situation is a very serious one,” said Delta Airlines spokesman Paul Skrbec. Yes! Somebody actually gets that what parents want when something like this happens is for someone from the airline to at least pretend that the situation is serious!
I received email today from a Principal Operations Inspector at the FAA, who indicated that although “air travel by unaccompanied minors is a subject that is not regulated by the FAA… your complaint has caused us to look at other issues surrounding your daughter’s situation, and we are investigating those issues.”
I asked him for additional details about what they are investigating, but he was unable to provide any at this time. He did, however, say that I would be notified when the investigation is complete, and I hope they’ll give me more details then.
My guess, and my hope, is that what they are investigating is how two different planes could take off with the wrong number of passengers, and how a passenger could go down a ramp onto the tarmac and then not get on the plane without anyone noticing. That issue is relevant not only to the correct routing of unaccompanied minors, but also to travel security.
I just realized that I misunderstood the initial response I got from my report to the FAA. I read it quickly (things were a little crazy the day after they lost my daughter!) and thought the FAA folks said that they had forwarded my complaint to the DOT and TSA. In fact, they hadn’t, so I’ve just gone ahead and reported the incident to both agencies.
I just sent this letter to my contact at Continental:
Ms. [named elided],
Continental’s response to the incident that happened to my daughter, and to another little girl a day before my daughter, and to who knows how many other children who didn’t make the news, is inadequate.
“Reinforcing procedures” does not fix anything. “Reinforcing procedures” is a cop-out which means, “We aren’t going to change anything, we know that it’s going to keep happening, and we don’t care, because we expect that most of the time it won’t make the news, and when it does, our PR flacks will be able to weather the storm for a few days, after which it’ll blow over and we’ll be back to business as usual.”
I just sent this letter to my contact on Sen. John Kerry’s staff:
Subject: Progress on regulation related to airlines’ handling of unaccompanied minors
I’m writing to check in with you on the status of Senator Kerry’s efforts to prevent what happened to my daughter on June 14 — being put on the wrong flight by Continental Airlines, following by no one at the airline realizing what had happened until I pointed it out to them several hours later — from happening to any other unaccompanied minors flying in the United States.
I also wanted to provide you with an update of my attempts to get Continental to recognize without any government intervention that changes to their procedures are required to ensure that this does not happen again.
On June 18, I wrote to my contact at Continental and asked her, “Can you give me an update on the progress of your investigation into what happened to M and the steps you will be taking to ensure that it does not happen again?”
Yesterday, she responded via email as follows: “We understand your continued interest in this matter and assure you that our documentation and procedures for this type of travel are very effective, but we are reinforcing to staff members the need for them to closely adhere to procedures.”
In other words, “We aren’t going to change anything, and please stop asking.”
Aaron Cross of ThinkReliability, a Houston, TX company that specializes in incident investigation and root cause analysis (RCA) and trains individuals and organizations to use the “Cause Mapping” RCA technique, has prepared a case study of what happened to my daughter last week which illustrates how Continental should approach determining what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again. Whether Continental will take this approach remains to be seen. If they’re interested in doing so and they don’t feel like they have the necessary in-house expertise, maybe they should give the folks at ThinkReliability a call; it’s a local call from Continental’s corporate HQ!