Several readers wanted to know what happened to the kid in the last story last week (copied below) — is he still wandering the airport or what? I of course wondered that myself, but the story I used as a source didn’t say! I tried checking other sources and never got an answer. I was pretty sure the kid was fine — surely airports on Vancouver Island can’t be all that big — but I didn’t know.
Well, Premium edition reader Greg in Washington wanted to know, and since I couldn’t tell him he emailed the reporter. I asked him to let me know what he found out, and he wrote back later: “She said the editor had hacked up the story for space considerations, cutting out the part where Grandma found the little guy wandering around the baggage claim.” Which makes me wonder if maybe his bags were lost after all. 🙂
If you missed the story, here it is:
Boy, You Make One Little Mistake
“It shows that their system has huge flaws that have to be fixed,” grumped Greg Henry of Calgary, Alta., Canada. The man had put his 7-year-old son on a WestJet flight to Vancouver Island, B.C., to visit his grandmother, but the airline lost the boy, despite a special tag hanging around his neck declaring him an unaccompanied minor. The airline’s policies require a flight attendant to escort such passengers off the plane. “We realize how important our children are,” said a WestJet spokeswoman, who promised the airline would “take steps to address the issue.” (Calgary Sun) …But hey: at least the kid’s suitcase got there OK.
I did hear from a Canuck flight attendant, Michael from Alberta, who had a comment from the “inside”:
While it is truly terrifying that an unaccompanied minor could apparently get ‘lost’ on their way to visit their grandmother, I have had several near-misses with unaccompanied minors (UMs) myself. We brief UMs at the start of the flight, telling them all the emergency procedures and where the exits are, et cetera. just the way we do everyone on the plane. However, UMs are also told to stay in their seats upon landing, until everyone else has left the plane, whereupon we can escort them off the plane (Transport Canada regulates that there must always be a minimum of 2 flight attendants on board an aircraft when guests are present, and 1 per 40 guests — which is why we can’t get off the plane with a UM as soon as we land).
We also re-brief the kids at the top of descent, reminding them that they are to stay put. Some kids follow the rules, and some don’t. A few times (thankfully not many!) I’ve had to actually grab a kid as they were going out the door, and pull them back to stand behind me until everyone else has left. The day after this news story broke, I had a child dash off the plane as I was handing the flight’s paperwork to the Captain (which we received from the gate agent as soon as we opened the doors), which means the kid bolted for the door as soon as it opened. Thankfully, he was caught by the gate agent — halfway up the ramp!
We do have procedures in place, and redundant procedures for the handing over of our Unaccompanied Minors — but every so often the circumstances create that one little loophole where opportunity combines with the child’s willfulness or heedlessness to allow them to evade us. I’m chagrined that this happened, and even MORE chagrined that the media spin on this makes us look negligent and irresponsible. There’s only so much we can do when a seven year old, who one assumes has been taught to follow the rules laid down by an adult in uniform, decides to not only ignore those rules but to deliberately seek to avoid authority figures and play a game of hide-and-seek in unfamiliar territory.
However, in the final analysis it IS our responsibility, and I for one am doing everything I can to increase my and my co-worker’s sense of awareness when it comes to unaccompanied minors.
Much appreciated, Michael — and I do know kids can be hellions. Unlike many adults, I remember my childhood. I hate to disappoint you, but I had to laugh: you don’t really think even most kids these days are “taught to follow the rules laid down by an adult in uniform,” do you?! :-/
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