PORTLAND, OR (KOIN) — A few months ago, Ira Martin booked a flight for his 15-year-old son, Zackery, so he could visit family in Rochester, New York.
Zackery is supposed to return to Portland on Tuesday — but his parents just found out United Airlines won’t let him fly home because he’s an unaccompanied minor on a flight with plane changes.
Ira said United should have told them that when they booked the flight 2 months ago. The teen’s return trip was slated to fly Rochester to Chicago to Portland.
“They said ‘You can drive 5 hours to Newark and catch a direct flight there,’” Zackery told KOIN 6 News via Facetime. “‘But the flight that you purchased, that you thought was going to work, isn’t going to work. So you’re kind of stuck.’”
His dad Ira, who spoke from his job site in Underwood, Washington, said he’s frustrated with the whole thing. “How are we going to get him home? United’s not offering any options, at least any human options,” Ira said.
“Getting on the phone with these people and you just want to say, my child is in Rochester. They go, ‘We will give you back half the ticket.’ It’s just the frustration.”
United Airlines officials say the airline will refund the miles used to buy the ticket and will refund a $150 fee charged for the first leg of Zackery’s flight.
Statement from United Airlines:
To help ensure safe transportation for our young customers, United requires that parents and guardians of children between 5 and 15 years old traveling without a responsible party use our unaccompanied minor service. Through that service, we provide escorts and close monitoring for children traveling alone. As a goodwill gesture we are refunding the customer’s miles that were redeemed for the ticket, as well as the fee for the unaccompanied minor service.
“They messed up in their system and it basically had me stranded in Rochester,” Zackery said. “This shouldn’t happen with other kids, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Their bad — they should fix it.”
The Martins’ added frustration is that airline rules for what age qualifies as an “unaccompanied minor” varies. On many other airlines, a 15-year-old is considered a standard adult passenger.