When I was a Res Supervisor at Vanguard, our policy on UNAM
's changed over time. At first, the rule was that UNAM
's could only fly on flights that were direct and that they could not be on the last or only flight of the day. A couple of months before we went out of business we changed our policy to allow them to change planes in Kansas City, however they still could not be on the last or only flight of the day. The one thing that stayed constant was that it was limited to those 14 and under and required proof of age.
It was always interesting talking to upset customers about the UNAM
policy. You had the two extremes, parents who wanted to send their 8 year old without the UNAM
in order to save the money, and parents who wanted the pay the fee on their 17 year old daughter, a high school Senior.
My problems with the UNAM
policy had nothing to do with minors. It had to do with adults with diminished capabilities. We had no policy for dealing with them until 2 incidents shortly before we went out of business. In the first instance, a women put her mother who suffered from Alzheimers on the last flight of the day from Chicago to Dallas with a change of plane in Kansas City. Needless to say the women decides to wander around MCI
, instead of getting on her next plane. The first I know about it is when I get a phone call from our Dallas ticket counter at the Res Center just after midnight because the MCI
ticket counter had already closed. Another daughter was waiting to pick her up. To make a long story short, the airport police found her wandering around the airport and she was checked into a motel with a security guard sitting in a chair outside her door until she was put on the first flight in the morning. We found out later from the Chicago police that the sisters had been flying her back and forth on various airlines for several years. My understanding is that the Chicago authorities told the daughter in Chicago that if it happened again, neglect charges would be filed.
The second time was in 2002 during the bad forest fires in Colorado. A women put her deaf 27 year old son on a plane in Buffalo to send him to a summer camp for the deaf in Colorado where he was counselor. We were notified that he was deaf, so our flight attendants and gate personnel communicated with him by written word. Well he gets into Kansas City and the flight to Denver is delayed. We tell him that the flight is delayed. He then misses the flight because he had to visit the restroom. By this time his mother is on the phone with the Res Center demanding information, she was afraid that he would miss his connecting bus to the camp. We explained that he did not board the plane when he was supposed to and that it left without him. We booked him on the next flight out, we gave him written instructions that he was to walk up to the large black man in a Vanguard uniform at the gate in Denver (6'4" 350 pounds) and he would be escorted to his bus. He gets off the plane and wanders away. This is where I came into the picture. The mother calls screaming and yelling about how we mishandled her son and that she was going to hold us responsible. I tell her that her son is an adult who is responsible for himself and that the escort that we were going to provide was a courtesy not a requirement. Over the 2 plus hours that I had her, the Denver Station Manager, the Kansas City Station Manger, and Denver Airport Police on the line, she was swearing that it was our fault and that her son didn't understand written English because he was deaf. The Denver Airport Police clued me in that he kept trying to walk away from the Security Office and that he had only $20.00, no credit cards, and a State ID
instead of a DL
in his wallet. They made the decision that he is not safe to be on his own and they take him into custody until the next morning when he can be placed on the next bus going to this camp. I tell her that her son has been found and will be spending the night with the Denver Airport Police. She started making noise about suing us for everything. Finally, I said to her," Ma'am, I live a stones throw from the Kansas State School for the Deaf in Olathe, Kansas. Over half of my neighbors are deaf. And I communicate very well with them via the written word while I try to learn to sign. Is there something else that you are not telling me about your son?" She denies that she is leaving anything out. About this time, the Buffalo station manager calls because she had been contacted by the local press about the situation. So, of course the PR
department gets involved. I found out the week before we went out of business that the young man had lost his sight and was brain damaged due to birth complications. His mother was his legal guardian.
The policy that we put in place was to treat them like UNAM
's if we found out about it at the time of the flight, however if the customer told us beforehand during booking, we would not book it, Or on a later call, we would cancel the ticket and issue a refund.
What are the various policies out there dealing with this issue now?