No Kid of Mine Will Fly Alone!
Child endangerment comes to mind when I see children ?ying unaccompanied by family or friends. Instead of an adult, they have a cute pilot's pin or other adorable identifying tag. This says to me, "Go alone. The ?ight attendants will take care of you on the plane." Fortunately, at the other end, strict measures are in place to ensure that the correct person is retrieving this precious cargo. Children ?y all over the country to see parents of divorce or grandparents. They even ?y alone overseas. The kids think it is so cool. I think it's reckless and penny wise. For me, the minimum age to ?y solo is 18.
I personally have never put my kids on an plane alone, and I never would. I have experienced many travel mishaps and delays are the least of it. I've experienced cancellations, ?ight diversions to other airports, rocky ?ights due to weather conditions, kids getting airsick, even a plane forced to make an emergency landing due to smoke in the cockpit. That episode involved an overnight hotel stay. Sure the ?ight attendant will do his or her best with the kids, but if there are over a hundred other passengers to attend to in an emergency, one cannot expect the kids' needs to come ?rst. What a trauma!
My most stressful ?ight was from Raleigh-Durham to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida after visiting my children for Mother's Day. Thirty minutes into the return ?ight, the 21-year old ?ight attendant, announced that we were to assume crash positions, head in lap, eyes covered. She explained that we had to make an emergency landing in Savannah, Georgia. I thought for sure this was it for me.
The aircraft was a 40-passenger baby-plane. Among the passengers were a family who had just attended a wedding in Chapel Hill. There were several children in the group. Fortunately, their parents were with them.
After we landed safely, a ?re truck, an ambulance, and several people in silver-coated jumpsuits ran to the plane. Smoke was coming into the cabin. We were told that we would ?y out the next morning and spend the night at an airport hotel.
The Savannah Airport and hotel reminded me of the Tara plantation from Gone With the Wind with lots of white-painted columns in the waiting rooms. We were re-ticketed and given two $7 vouchers to cover dinner and breakfast. Hah! I used both vouchers for dinner and had to add to it. My overcooked, blackened hamburger, French fries, and salad were barely edible. Breakfast was Starbuck's coffee at the airport since my ?ight was at 6 a.m.
When I told my daughter, she was amazed that I would get on another plane to get home.
"What was my choice?"
"Rent a car and go south on I-95."
It ended OK because my new ?ight to West Palm Beach was only 20 minutes from my house. So except for an overnight stay, I considered myself lucky.
Not so lucky would have been an unescorted child.
Parents, think twice about putting a child unescorted on a plane. Wouldn't it be more responsible to buy one ticket and use it to see the children? Actually, I don't see that many kids ?ying alone lately. I'm thinking that Face Time and Skype have something to do with that. Just don't do it!
Madelon Sheff is a retired literacy specialist and staff developer, who volunteers with young children in public schools. Her favorite title is "Grandma Maddy," given to her by the neighborhood kids, where she lives in Southern Village, in Chapel Hill. Born and raised in the Bronx, she's lived in the suburbs of New York City and Florida before moving to the Triangle. She recently published a book, Geography Is Destiny which is available locally in book stores and gift shops as well as on Amazon.com.