Split Up From Your Kids Involuntarily While Traveling? Don’t Sue, Celebrate!

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Empower Your Children With Solo Travel
My son’s first flight. 2007 from Los Angeles to Guatemala City

Empower Your Children With Solo Travel

Perhaps you have recently heard or read about a story of a Michigan mom who is suing Spirit Airlines for removing her 15 year old daughter from a flight without her knowledge. She is suing the airline for $75K for emotional distress after her daughter was removed from a flight without her knowledge.

I want to be clear that I am not judging this mother and her situation as I don’t know her, but felt it was a good opportunity to talk some common sense among travelers. To start, let me tell you what I would do if my 15 year old son was separated from me without me somehow noticing. I would be happy for him to get the experience. Don’t believe me? Read this!

I Let My Son Fly By Himself Internationally & Why You Should Consider It

My Thoughts

First, do yourself a favor and read that article above. It has a lot of great thoughts on family travel and independence, but also it details how I sent my 15 year old son home from Germany BY HIMSELF. Did I have to do this? No, I actually purposely booked myself home a day later just so he could do it.

In the article above I wrote, “I know the worriers among you are ready to tell me to consider what would have happened if there was a problem. Well, the kid is 15. He will be on his own in a few years and I have confidence he would be able to handle it.”

So you can probably guess how I feel about this story. Again, I am not judging this specific mother, but this story is only coming to light after 11 months meaning she tried to get something more than a refund and miles from the airline and they refused. But more importantly I think this might be a missed opportunity for empowerment.

RELATED: 5 Tips On How To Survive Flying Spirit Airlines

Great Learning Experience

My son flying from Germany with connections both in Europe and in the United States opened him up to being strong and independent. Yes, he traveled A LOT with me, but he never had to cross a border, determine how to make domestic or international connections or generally do anything for himself. Now, he can pretty much do it all even if he is still a bonehead sometimes when doing it. 🙂

Now, let me address this story specifically. Keep in mind we only have the mother’s side since Spirit is not commenting, however lets assume it is all true. We’ll assume the daughter told them that her mother and brother were on the plane and assume the Spirit Airlines employee ignored that. If that happened would I be upset? Yes, I probably would, but I wouldn’t sue. I would also ask my kid why he didn’t just scream at me from the front of the plane.

Spirit Seemingly Is Wrong

With that said, Spirit should never have split up 3 passengers flying together. I wonder if their tickets were all on the same reservation? For that the family deserves compensation in the form of flight credit, etc. Spirit apparently refunded the money and gave some miles, although I’m not certain if they offered something else. Either way, yes this is something that they did wrong (if the story is accurate), but no I wouldn’t be emotionally distressed.

The truth is 15 years old is the standard for when kids can fly by themselves without having to pay to be an unaccompanied minor. The reason for this is because they can do it. They don’t need you. I promise. Sure, there are all kinds of situations and individual needs issues that can arise, but those don’t seem to be part of this story, or at least the mother didn’t mention them.

Conclusion

To sum it up, empower your kids when traveling. Start young and do it often, then when they are 15 years old they can fly all over the world solo and not have to worry if they ditch you in Tampa or not! 🙂 And in case you are wondering, while I do feel girls are a bit different, I still plan to let Ellie have a similar adventure of her own when she is 15.

No doubt you have some thoughts on this. Share them politely and respectfully below!

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9 COMMENTS

  1. I did my first solo flight to Europe when I was 12. Since I was leaving home rather than returning, I had a little anxiety but a lot of excitement. After that time I never looked back. I don’t think I have any children, but if I did I’d try to do the same with them.

  2. I agree. Children love independence and actually thrive better later in life. My son was 7 yrs old when he took his first solo flight ( OGG-SFO-EUG ) to visit grandma. He was a UM, of course. When I took him to the gate, I thought he’d hesitate leaving me, heck no. He walked up the jetway, wearing his little backpack turned and waved and shouted “goodbye mommie”. My daughter, 3 yrs younger was the same way. They both started traveling independly at 16 and love to travel. Me, not so much!!

  3. This article and the conversation has gone off track. Whether your kids were happy to VOLUNTARILY go off on a planned airplane adventure on their own at a younger age and for longer distances has literally no bearing on whether an airline can or should force a minor to be separated from her parents/guardians without consent from any relevant party. Would any of you be OK with walking up to your child’s seat an hour after takeoff, after having boarded the plane together, and just finding a stranger sitting there?

    • First of all, I made it clear that what happened wasn’t okay and that I wasn’t blaming the mother. My hope was to start a broader discussion which is something I did mention in the article. Now to your last question. No I wouldn’t be happy if this happened and no I wouldn’t sue, nor would I be traumatized by it. I would ask for compensation for the bump and for the hassle, but I wouldn’t sue.

  4. As a child of divorced parents, I was flying nonstops alone before I was 6. No UM tags 60 years ago. Internationally and connecting by 13.

    That said, I was prepared in advance of the flight with my parents phone numbers and what to do if things go wrong. The girl in the story did not expect to be separated and had no idea of what to do when the plane landed. While suing is a stretch for me, I understand the fear.

    15 is not too young to fly alone with preparation but she wasn’t prepared and her parents had no reason to expect she would fly alone.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head, the issue here is the teenager had no expectation of traveling alone and wasn’t expecting to be left alone at an airport alone. Did she have any money on her? And when did the airline notify the mother or did she just get off the plane expecting to see her daughter and have to go searching for info on where she was? As a mother the stress of that is worth suing over. Spirit messed up big time imo. Parents have a right to decide if a minor can travel alone, spirit doesn’t get to make that decision ffs.

    • Yeah I don’t disagree with that. I think traveling solo is empowering for kids and of course it isn’t the same when something like this happens where it wasn’t planned. Situations like these are good reminders of teaching our kids how the handle themselves if things go wrong. Again, we don’t have enough information (and the only info we have is from one side) to judge this case completely, but my hope was to talk more about how sometimes we can victimize our kids instead of empowering them.

  5. I think you missed the point. How happy would you have been to get off the plane and not find you son? Don’t pretend that you wouldn’t have been asking Spirit where he was and demanding compensation.

    I don’t think the age is the problem at all, though we don’t know how often the girl flew. I think the lack of preparation is the key. We have no idea if the girl had money for food, knew the airport or even what to do next. At 15 I could(and had)flown on my own, but I always knew where I was going, had cash on hand, and had an idea of what would happen if I had been bumped. The average person who does not fly often, and even those who do, may not know what to do in that situation.

    The other thing to remember is that at 15, girls especially, have been told conditioned to not make a scene. Even recently on a flight, I, who am much older than 15, said something to a man who was yelling about how he could sit anywhere(he had self-upgraded to premium economy) and to bring him a drink. He would not stop or listen to flight attendants. I said, “sir, could you please quiet down and listen to the flight attendants so we can get moving.” Not only did he get upset, but other passengers told me to “calm down” and that I was “getting emotional.” Not only did they not remove this man, they let him stay in his seat, and served him alcohol. I was appalled and I had passengers telling me I was making a scene. This is what you feel like if you speak up. She tried to self-advocate and was not allowed. Who knows what happened why she got back to the gate.

    I think the mother is well within her right to demand some sort of compensation for this mess. I think this whole article is way off base and makes it sound like this would be a cool adventure. If you knew it was coming, yes, it would be awesome. If you love your child and have no idea what happened, terror and panic.

    • So you agree with me? Great!

      “With that said, Spirit should never have split up 3 passengers flying together. I wonder if their tickets were all on the same reservation? For that the family deserves compensation in the form of flight credit, etc.”

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