I took my ten-year-old daughter to Boston Logan Airport this morning to put her on a Continental flight to Cleveland, where my in-laws live, as an unaccompanied minor. The gate agent took all the paperwork and escorted my daughter down the jetway, and then proceeded to put her on the wrong airplane. There were two flights on the tarmac being boarded through the same gate, and the gate agent put her on the flight to Newark rather than the flight to Cleveland.
No one on the Cleveland flight crew noticed that my daughter, who was listed as an unaccompanied minor on the manifest, wasn’t on the plane. No one on the Newark flight crew noticed that they had an extra passenger not listed on the manifest, or that an unexpected unaccompanied minor had been boarded, or that the paperwork accompanying my daughter spelled out in big, clear letters that she was supposed to be going to a different city.
When the flight arrived in Newark, no one there noticed that my daughter had been put on the wrong flight and flown the wrong city, again despite the fact that her paperwork clearly spelled out both the flight number and destination. The Continental people in Newark called my in-laws’ phone number to tell them to come pick her up as if nothing was wrong, despite the fact that their address on the form was an Ohio address and their phone number had an Ohio area code. The people in Newark did not call my home or cell number to find out why no one was at the airport to pick up my daughter, despite the fact that they had both of those numbers on the same paperwork as my in-laws’ number.
We didn’t find out something was wrong until my father-in-law called me from the arrival gate in Cleveland to ask why my daughter wasn’t on the plane.
It took forty-five minutes from that point until the Continental people in Cleveland finally confirmed that she was in Newark. The only reason they were able to figure it out at all is because I told them that there had been a flight to Newark boarding at the same gate and the best possible explanation for her whereabouts was that the gate agent put her on the wrong flight (the alternatives were much worse!). God only knows how long it would have taken them to figure out where she was if I hadn’t noticed the Newark flight leaving from Boston and mentioned it to them.
The folks in Cleveland “graciously” offered to refund the unaccompanied minor fee. My father-in-law laughed when they made the offer, it was so outrageous. You can bet they’ll be refunding a lot more than that fee by the time I’m done with them.
But this isn’t about the money. It’s mind-boggling how many people must have failed to do their jobs properly for this to be able to happen. Furthermore, surely numerous FAA regulations must been violated, e.g., surely flight crews are required to positively verify that the number of passengers on the manifest matches the number of passengers on the plane. And this has all sorts of implications for airport security — if someone can buy a ticket for a regional jet flight, go down the jetway to the tarmac, and then sneak behind a pillar and hide rather than boarding the plane, and no one on the flight crew notices that a passenger has disappeared, then doesn’t that person now have essentially free rein over the entire airport tarmac?
I’ve been told that my daughter was put on a flight out of Newark scheduled to land in Cleveland in less than an hour. We’ll see if they got it right this time.