In last week's Q&A, a parent of a 9-year-old who flew alone from LAX to Boise, Idaho, pondered what the airline fee was for, because no services were rendered. Readers of the Los Angeles Times column responded to writer Catharine Hamm with several takes on the issue, including whether any child should fly alone. Here are some of their thoughts. Rebecca Keenan of San Diego notes that at one time in her life, she flew more than 100,000 miles a year. "I would fly on red-eyes, the last flight of the day and flights in between," she said. "Flights are delayed, diverted and canceled. ... No one under the age of 18 should be allowed to fly alone, period."
She wonders what the child or the parent would do if the child is on the last flight of the day, and it's canceled. "On a connecting flight, would a parent really want their child attended to overnight by a stranger?" (Attention, parents: Don't put your child on the last flight of the day -- some airlines don't allow this anyway -- and try to avoid connecting flights, too.)
Among other reasons, she listed a child's need for attention for a variety of issues, including emotions that run amok ("I have seen too many kids begin to cry for numerous reasons. There is no one to comfort them") as well as bad behavior ("I have seen kids kick the seat backs of the person in front of them, color on the drop-down table, throw items and use language that would make a sailor blush"). Roger Bourke of Alta, Utah, is still steamed about a nonstop flight his almost-16-year-old son took. "The airline demanded a $100 surcharge, even though he had flown alone on both Southwest and United previously (without an imposed surcharge) and was completely comfortable flying on his own. (Not on his own exactly: He had his ever-present laptop)." An outraged Bourke said he considered the fee "extortion." It was waived on the return trip because his son had turned 16 during the trip, but, he said, it soured him on the airline. Tina Little of Ojai believes the fee was worth it -- at least in her case. "My minor daughter flew each summer from LAX to Portland, Ore., to stay a week with friends. I, too, questioned the steep price and necessity of the 'unaccompanied minor' charge. One summer, I got stuck in L.A. traffic and was more than a half-hour late to pick up my daughter. I called from my cellphone to explain my tardiness and to assure the airline I was on my way. When I got there, (airline) personnel were sitting at the gate with my daughter. ... That's when I learned the value of the fee. It's not necessarily for the flight itself, but to have an accountable adult with the child if something unexpected arises."
Today's column comes from Catharine Hamm of the Los Angeles Times.