why you shouldn't let your kids fly delta as "unaccompanied minors"


This was a busy travel week for the Lawley family; Alex arrived solo from Rochester (via United) on Monday afternoon, 45 minutes before I got on a flight to Chicago. Then Lane left solo for Rochester (via Delta) on Tuesday morning, 15 hours before I flew back to Seattle.

This was the first time the boys had traveled by themselves, and I wasn't too terribly worried about it. All the airlines now charge a hefty "unaccompanied minor" fee for kids alone ($99 for United, $75 for Delta), and in return they promise to keep track of your kids and their tickets, get them to their connecting flights, etc. Since they're both seasoned travelers, I figured there'd be no problem.

With Alex, there wasn't. My mom put him on the first flight in Rochester, he connected without incident at Dulles, and Gerald and I met him in Seattle. United handled everything perfectly, and he was in good spirits when he arrived. (Although a little cross about the garish red and white striped button they'd made him wear, which he felt looked quite awful with his camo-print t-shirt.)

With Lane, however, Delta screwed up royally, and the more I think about it the angrier I get.

He made it home safely, and my mom picked him up at the airport as scheduled. But he nearly ended up in Albany rather than Rochester. Why? Because some idiot Delta employee in Atlanta PUT HIM ON THE WRONG PLANE. WTF? How the hell does that happen? How do you put someone on the wrong plane? Thank goodness someone on the flight realized it before they took off, and they relocated him to the correct plane for Rochester--moments before it was supposed to leave.

Yes, all's well that ends well. But it was a pretty upsetting experience for all of us, including Lane. And it has seriously shaken my trust in Delta airlines. There are few responsibilities as important as taking care of a child's well being, and they dropped the ball on this in a very big way. So today I'm dealing with Delta's "customer care"--at a minimum, I want the unaccompanied minor feel waived. But I would expect that they'd do more than that if they want our business in the future, including giving us an explanation of how they intend to improve their procedures so that this doesn't continue to happen.


Update, 7/26: After I provided them with the receipt number by phone today, customer care did refund the $75 (or so they say; I'll believe it when I see the reversed charges on our Amex bill). But when I asked them to please provide me with information on how this was followed up, and what changes (if any) were instituted to prevent it from happening again, they said I'd have to go onto the website and write a complaint, because they weren't empowered to follow-up with me directly. Ridiculous. I've updated the title of this entry so that it can leverage my Google page rank to bring the post up when someone searches for Delta and "unaccompanied minor." Here are some other key phrases that should help: "children traveling alone" "kids traveling alone" "children flying alone" "kids flying alone" "unaccompanied child" "child flying alone" "child flying solo" . Any others that should be added? Put 'em in the comments. I'm already the #2 site for "delta unaccompanied." :)


Right on Liz! If a parent were to consider this, he/she would definitely want to hear other people's experiences.

Eek! This type of story makes my hair stand on end. Eldest could work her way out of such a situation but youngest, with her autism, would be completely unable to deal with confusion and last-minute fixes.

Delta really ought to watch themselves with only accepting complaints via the web. As your blog post shows, the web is more than just their own little website!

I've been a longtime lurker who found your site as a mom not a tech lurker. I love your site and always look forward to your posts. I am writing because I need some help as I am not really tech savvy. We are having problems with Toyota (our van broke down 21 miles over the warranty and needs 10K for a new engine and the problem is one that is not uncommon in 2002 Sienna vans)and I wanted to be able to have our story/complaints show up on Google from our web page if someone was thinking of purchasing a Sienna van. How do I do this? My email is joconnor@interrawave.com.
Many thanks,

Here's the response I just emailed to Joan, in case anyone else is wondering the same thing:

Unfortunately, it's very hard to get a complaint to show up high on Google unless you've already got high page rank in Google. Page rank is a result of people linking to your site, so you generally have to a have a web site that a lot of people link to over a period of time in order to get that kind of ranking. It took several years of regular blogging, for me to get a high page rank, and that was helped a lot by the number of people I know in the tech industry who linked to my site from their well-read sites.

So there's not really a great way to accomplish what you're hoping for :(

A better approach might be to see what web sites rank high when you search for information about Siennas, and see if those sites have comment or review areas--I'm thinking that websites like Edmunds.com and MSN autos, where people often go to research car purchases, would be good places to post your experiences.

Hope that helps!

I'm searching for "delta unaccompanied" and clicking mamamusings.net as the result now... ;)

Thank you for your post. I will be sending my 6yr old on a flight as a UM in two months. While researching which airlines have a poor track record I found your blog. We will not be considering Delta as a result. Also, I'm always looking for a new blog to read and i'm going to add yours to my list.

I have one additional comment, regarding the overall procedure for unaccompanied minors. Airlines are not required to release data concerning their success and failure to get children to their destinations without issue. Personally I feel this is a HUGE problem in the industry. As a parent I feel I have the right to know what percentage of the time an airline has screwed up with somebody's child. I also feel such statistics would lend some accountability to the airlines, forcing them to re-evaluate their procedures.

To add insult to injury, the unaccompanied minor fee is now a crippling $100 each way, so if you are flying your child round-trip, tack another $200 to the ticket price. Delta used to be my staple, no matter what, but this has pushed me over the edge and I've found another airline.

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This page contains a single entry published on July 25, 2007 3:34 PM.

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