DSD flying alone - NEED HELP - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 08:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I really hope this forum is as active as it was when I was here before!  My DSD is flying alone tomorrow back to her mom's house.  She is 12 but emotionally younger (her therapist agrees with that statement).  She worries and is scared of everything.  An example - we have to leave a light on at the bottom of the stairs (as well as other places) because "someone might be lurking there".  She has flown alone before on a 1 hour flight to the next state.  This flight is about 4 hours or so.  We got her a cell phone "in case they forget to pick her up".  That's her huge worry and no, that's not even sorta likely.  Small chance mom could be running late, but I doubt it.

I just read the midwest weather report and the weather looks REALLY rocky for tomorrow afternoon. Anyone have experience with this situation and have the plane be diverted due to weather? I've had it happen to myself before. Ended up overnight in St. Louis! I literally think she would have a nervous breakdown if that happened, regardless of how well the airlines handled it.  Of course, she's 12 and every day she changes so who knows how she will handle ANYTHING day to day?

 

Any advice how to handle this ahead of time?  We'll give her some cash, she has a cell.  Should we say anything to her if she doesn't bring it up herself?  What should we say if she DOES bring it up?

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#2 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 08:18 AM
 
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Is it a direct flight? Is she going as an unaccompanied minor?

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#3 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 08:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Yes & yes


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#4 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 10:17 AM
 
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Call the airline and ask what's the likelihood of her flight being diverted; where might it be diverted; and what is their policy, if a 12-year-old is stranded in a strange city?  At least you can tell your SD that there's a plan and what to expect, in a worst-case scenario.

 

I don't think her concerns are at all immature.  My step-son has been flying unaccompanied between California and Indiana (min. 6 hrs.), 6-8 times/year, since he turned 7.  We HATE it.  We couldn't afford to accompany him (TWO adult round-trip tix for every one round-trip ticket of his...).  His mother, who decided to move out there, can't afford to accompany him, either.    

 

While DSS was under 12, in order to put him on a plane, you had to sign a form acknowledging that the airline takes no responsibility for him whatsoever; that if he winds up in a strange city or the person picking him up isn't there early, waiting for him, he will either be shipped back to the "sender" - at their expense - or turned over to CPS in the city where he winds up, whichever is more convenient for the airline.  Now, in actuality, they DID pay attention to who was supposed to pick him up, and checked their i.d.; they sat him in the front of the plane so the flight attendants could fuss over him; he could only take direct flights; and the person dropping him off had to remain by the gate until his plane got in the air, so that in case the flight were cancelled at the last minute, somebody would be there, to be responsible for him.

 

But he just made his first flight since turning 12 (the cutoff age for the Unaccompanied Minor program, at least on Southwest).  It was as though he was an adult!  He was just another passenger, to them.  They did not care who picked him up.  Even though I emphasized that only my husband was allowed to pick him up, in California, DH's ex-wife got there a few minutes earlier and the airline let her go back there to pick him up anyway.  She doesn't have the same last name he does.  They did not even check who was allowed to take him.  He's allowed to change planes, now, and if his mother schedules him on such a flight, he's expected to change planes entirely by himself.  I do not understand on what planet it can be considered safe for a 12-year-old child to potentially get off one airplane, figure out for themselves where/when they're supposed to catch the next one and hang out for who knows how long in a huge, busy airport hundreds of miles from anyone who knows them.  When I dropped him off, my 3-year-old was having a complete meltdown, so I gave my cell # to the attendant and explained I couldn't stay until the plane got off the ground, but if something happened, to call me and I'd turn right back around to come get DSS.  The guy pointed out that DSS was 12 now.  He just did not care about having any way to reach me.  So, a week before, when DSS was 11, Southwest thought someone should be around to take him home, if the plane didn't get off the ground.  But now that he's 12, he's just supposed to find a cab and get home on his own?

 

I've heard people point out that you never hear about kids getting lost while flying alone.  I have heard of one case - I think it was last Christmas, in Denver, when a flight was diverted due to bad weather.  Maybe other cases don't get publicized.  And maybe the parents who do send their kids unaccompanied are mostly super-anal-retentive about the travel, because - especially past the age of 12 - the airlines sure aren't.

 

I note from a prior response that she is on a direct flight and, evidently, an airline that still considers 12 an UM.  That's good.  I think she still deserves an answer, though, as to what would happen if her flight were diverted?  And, if she's going to keep flying like this as she ages out of the UM program, I think you guys need to keep her on direct flights and explore what happens if a kid's flight is diverted when they're over the UM cut-off age.  I don't know.  Technically, the airlines do not take responsibility for them.  But they're too young to get themselves a hotel room.  So, what DO they do?


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#5 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 11:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Jeanine, thanks for taking the time to respond!  I agree it's crazy that a 12 yr  old be considered an adult!  It's not that I think her fear of flying alone overall is unfounded.  It's that her actual fear is someone will actually forget to pick her up.  While I feel her mom has a TON of issues (and the therapist agrees our home is a better place for her), her mom does love her and does have her best interests at heart.  She is not going to just forget about her.

 

I'll have DP contact the airline and ask.  Thank you, that's exactly what we need to do.  Luckily right now we are using accumulated miles on UA from DPs business travel at a different job.  I really hope that by the time the miles run out we can afford to keep flying them!  Their UM is up to 17.  I'm really hesitant about discussing it with her though as it will just make her panicky over something that might not (probably not?) happen.  She will honestly most like be in tears getting on the plane if we have the discussion ahead of time.  Even knowing a plan in advance has not eased her worry about other things.  Oh!  I know!  I'll call the therapist and ask her!  LOL


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#6 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 12:15 PM
 
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her actual fear is someone will actually forget to pick her up. 

 

I know this is an irrational fear of hers, and I respect that. Would it be at all helpful for her to call her mother right before the flight takes off, as a last-minute "reminder"?

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#7 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 12:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I will suggest it, though 99% of the time she doesn't answer.  And she gets very annoyed about being called too much :(  Of course, that being the case, DSD won't worry MORE since she's used to the non-answer.

 

eta - thanks for the suggestion, I should've thought of that!


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#8 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 12:26 PM
 
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My kids were flying on their own from the ages of 5 & 7. On numerous airlines. Once a month at a minimum. There was never a problem.

 

I do think it is wise to find out what the contingency plans are if the flight gets diverted, but emphasize to her that the chances of it happening are really slight.

 

My two would call the other parent (Dad when going, me when coming home) as soon as they boarded and at landing. Then they'd call the sending parent when they were met by the receiving parent.

 

She'll be fine.

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#9 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 12:51 PM
 
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I'd call and be sure what the procedure is in case of emergency, like diversion to another airport or whatever, for a 12 year old flying alone. And I'd tell her what it is that would happen and what she needs to do. IE call both sets of parents and let them know, and you will work it out depending on circumstance going on. Make sure she has plenty of minutes on her cell and that it's fully charged and that she has a charger and knows where and how to charge it at the airport. BTDT.  I also gave my kid maps of the airports she was going to be in with important things like bathrooms, charger kiosk, their airlines ticket counter, food and baggage claim highlighted. I also taught her how to use the boards to read flight status and figure out what baggage claim area to go to get her bags and highlight where the pick up location is to meet the parent if she is not required to wait at the gate and have an adult give ID to pick her up. 

 

Obviously, general personal safety stuff applies and should be reminded. 

 

 

Heck I remember being worried when my 18 year old flew cross country in winter for the first time because I was concerned about her getting stranded at the airport when they changed planes or the airport being closed. She had never had to navigate that stuff alone, nor had to book a hotel room ect. It would be scarier at 12. My dd ended up missing her connecting flight one time and called me crying out of frustration and I talked her through it. They had already gotten her a ticket for the next flight so the airline handled it fine I think she just needed some support and a safe place to vent and regroup mentally on what to do next. 

 

She has a legit concern since her mom is not reliable about answering the phone. I'd have her call you, if she doesn't get an answer. At least you can support her on the phone till mom does show up. 

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#10 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 12:54 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Auntie Sapphire View Post

 

 

 

I know this is an irrational fear of hers, and I respect that. Would it be at all helpful for her to call her mother right before the flight takes off, as a last-minute "reminder"?



For many kids it's more a worry of not knowing what to do if something happens. If mom doesn't show up, through no choice of her own, what do I do? What are the steps? Once they have the list of what to do it often eases their mind. They at least have a plan now. 

 

 

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#11 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 01:46 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arduinna View Post

I'd call and be sure what the procedure is in case of emergency, like diversion to another airport or whatever, for a 12 year old flying alone. And I'd tell her what it is that would happen and what she needs to do. IE call both sets of parents and let them know, and you will work it out depending on circumstance going on. Make sure she has plenty of minutes on her cell and that it's fully charged and that she has a charger and knows where and how to charge it at the airport. BTDT.  I also gave my kid maps of the airports she was going to be in with important things like bathrooms, charger kiosk, their airlines ticket counter, food and baggage claim highlighted. I also taught her how to use the boards to read flight status and figure out what baggage claim area to go to get her bags and highlight where the pick up location is to meet the parent if she is not required to wait at the gate and have an adult give ID to pick her up.


Southwest does allow a parent to accompany a 12yo through to the gate, even as a non-UM. So she should not have to deal with the terminal alone before boarding.

 

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#12 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 02:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the help mamas!  I'm happy to report the therapist said don't worry her about something that probably won't happen and would cause her to panic, AND that she's actually pretty mature/resourceful when her parents aren't around and she thinks even if the plane does get diverted that she will be fine.  DSD has been seeing her almost weekly for a year, so I trust her unbiased view.  Interesting about the regression in behavior around her parents.  Although now that I think on it ... when she's just with me her behavior is much better/age appropriate.  She's still 12 (aka 16 lol) but not 7.

 

Unfortunately UA wasn't helpful at all.  I couldn't ask the details of the conversation, but DP looked plenty annoyed.  I'll forward on the advice and hope for the best.

 

Thanks again, I feel much relieved now!


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#13 of 14 Old 06-20-2011, 03:19 PM
 
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I'm glad you feel better about it!

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#14 of 14 Old 07-30-2011, 12:57 AM
 
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Can I make a suggestion even though it's late? 

 

In addition to telling a child what to do in case of whatever...., Write it down and give them the piece of paper with instructions for possible scenarios.  Like "Go to ticket counter and ask someone."  or "Call parents."  I know when I'm freaking out I can't remember the details of instructions and it is super nice to have them written down to refer to.

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