Apparently United Airlines has not learned its lesson from its very public fiasco where it damaged a passenger’s guitar (See United Breaks Guitars) and refused to accept culpability.

A new, more troubling story has emerged about United Airlines losing a 10 year old girl who was using an ‘Unaccompanied Minor Service” offered by the airline for an extra $99.00. The girl was finally found and delivered to her destination but without her luggage, which arrived 3 days later. But not without putting her parents through hell.

Here are all the things United did wrong.

1. The ‘unaccompanied minor service’ was outsourced to a third party (it was not done by a United Airlines employee).

2. The airline did not advise the parents that the service was being outsourced. The marketing material implied that United Airlines would be responsible for the service.

3. The agent that was supposed to accompany the minor during flight change did not show up. The girl missed her connection.

4. The young girl, while waiting for over an hour for someone to come and get her approached a United Airlines employee asking to be able to contact her parents to let them know where she was and was told they were ‘too busy’.

5. After spending  hours on the phone with United Airlines, the father (who is a Premier member) was told by a United employee that she could not help him find his daughter as her ‘shift was ending’. Only after  pleading and appealing to her as a fellow parent, did she relent and went to find his daughter.

6. United Airlines failed to notify the parents of the problem or the resolution (the young girl was put on the next flight).

7. A detailed complaint letter after the fact written by the girl’s mother went unanswered by United Airlines.

8. Only after complaining to NBC, a TV media broadcaster, did United Airlines finally respond and apologize to the parents, refunding the miles used to buy the ticket and the $99.00 fee for unaccompanied minor service.

Here`s a video by NBC Bay Area that describes the situation and the United Airlines response.

View more videos at:

Here’s another account of the story from Social Media Today called United Loses 10 Year Old on Flight and Burns its Reputation (Again)

I used an Unaccompanied Minor program for my son when he was young to fly from London, England to Toronto, Canada on Air Canada. It was the responsibility of the Air Canada Stewardess to ensure my son was delivered safely at his destination (fortunately there were no planes to change as it was a direct flight) but I can relate to these parents. I would have been frantic and an attitude of indifference would not have been acceptable to me either.

United Airlines has a long way to go to improve their offerings and front line staff’s behavior with customers.

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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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