The mother speaks

By | June 16, 2009

Here’s how my wife tells the story…

My horse-crazy daughter, nearly eleven years old, was packing to visit my parents in my old hometown of Cleveland, OH, where she would attend horse camp, go to baby namings, synagogue, and the local art fair in Chagrin Falls, and, as the oldest of five siblings, be an only child for two glorious weeks of summer.

We packed light because she was going to carry all her luggage on the plane so as to not worry about having it lost, damaged, or garnering extra charges. I didn’t pack sunscreen, bug spray, or a drink for her because she was going to have to go through airport security which keeps our skies safe by banning such items from coming on the plane. My husband went two hours early to the airport to have time to get through security and to make sure all the proper paperwork was in order to allow him, a non-ticketed escort, to bring our daughter to the gate where she’d be flying for an extra charge as an unaccompanied minor. My husband checked her in, waited with her until boarding, brought her to the entrance to the jetway, and could go no further, because again, that would violate security and we all know that the reason we stand in long lines, remove our shoes, show our IDs, and leave our toiletries behind is to keep our airlines secure. Airline employees signed her paperwork, took charge of it and her tickets and proceded to bring her on to the tarmac and load her on to the wrong small commuter plane where she flew unnoticed and unaccounted for to Newark, New Jersey.

The plane to Cleveland took off without one of its passengers. The plane to Newark took off with an extra passenger. That means on two separate flights, no one checked the manifest or so much as counted heads. It means someone can get onto the jetway and then not board their plane, having now full access to the most sensitive of high-security areas.

In case you are wondering when they figured it out, they didn’t. When no one met our daughter in New Jersey, someone called the Ohio phone number provided on her forms as a local number and left a message on an answering machine saying that she was at the airport waiting for her ride (no mention of which airport!). Several employees signed her forms which means they did not read what they signed because they clearly stated the child was going to Cleveland. No one called any of the other emergancy numbers provided or checked her tickets or asked her what might be going on.

When my father arrived at the Cleveland airport to meet the plane, he was let through security with his special paperwork to pick her up and was told when the plane landed, that she wasn’t there and they had no idea where she was. It was my husband who tracked her down.

I didn’t pack any of those dangerous items like a bottle of juice or a tube of toothpaste. Do you feel safe yet?

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3 thoughts on “The mother speaks

  1. jik Post author

    I’m curious (mostly for curiosity’s sake) about what your daughter’s side of the story is.

    She didn’t know she was in the wrong city. She probably just figured it was a Cleveland terminal she hadn’t flown into before. Either that, or she listened to where the adults told her to sit, buried her head in her book and waited for someone to come get her.

    She’s usually pretty quick to complain when we’re late to pick her up from ballet lessons, so I suspect she was building up a good head of steam to complain to her grandparents about why they took so long to pick her up — not scared, just irritated — before somebody told her that she was in the wrong airport :-).

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  2. Camilla

    I’m curious (mostly for curiosity’s sake) about what your daughter’s side of the story is. I don’t think it was in any way her responsibility to mitigate the problem, but I think in your shoes, I’d deal much more harshly with the airline if that 45min delay in Newark involved them ignoring a clear and sensible request on her part.

    If she was agitated and incoherent in Newark, and they spent that time comforting her rather than looking at her paperwork, that’s at least a little more forgivable.

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  3. Amber

    This makes me want to cry a little…to think that I can’t travel with a big bottle of shampoo because I may have put something dangerous in the bottle instead but a ten year old who’s parents followed specific protocol can go unaccounted for. This, even after there is important paperwork and an all important fee attached to the task since they have to do you such a favor as to do their job and keep up with your child. There is some serious audacity in the fact that they LOST your child and were willing to pay you $75 for that little booboo. Ludicrous. Very thankful she’s safe.

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