CHICAGO -- ( TheStreet) -- More than 100 stories on the Internet describe a case in which United (UAL - Get Report) allegedly lost a 10-year-old child at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, but it turns out that this is not at all what happened.
Just for fun, before reviewing the details, let's read the Internet headlines. One says "United Airlines Loses Ten-Year-Old Girl, Refuses to Help Parents Find Her." Another says "United Loses Child Traveling Alone." And then there's: "10-year-old girl flying alone left stranded in Chicago Airport."
Did United actually lose a child? Of course not. In fact, the "lost" 10-year old, who was traveling alone, was never unsupervised. She did, unfortunately, miss a connection at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. We're just not sure that "Child Misses Connection at O'Hare" would "attract eyeballs," as the Internet folks like to say.
In any case, on June 30, Phoebe Klebahn was flying alone San Francisco to Chicago, and then to Traverse City, Mich., in order to attend summer camp.Her parents, Annie and Perry Klebahn, paid United a $99 "unaccompanied minor" fee so that she would be supervised throughout the trip. Understandably, they became worried when someone from the camp called to say that Phoebe had not arrived in Traverse City as scheduled. Annie Klebahn then called United reservations. In a letter of complaint that she sent to United, Klebahn described the call. She acknowledged that she "started to panic" and that she was frantic, and that this did not elicit the desired response from the agent. The agent checked reservations, which inaccurately said that Phoebe had arrived in Traverse City. She checked elsewhere and learned that Phoebe had not arrived in Traverse City. She did not know exactly where in O'Hare Airport Phoebe was. Each question required that she put Klebahn on hold in order to get an answer. And of course, whenever someone asks a telephone service agent "Can I talk to your supervisor?," the supervisor is invariably nowhere to be found. As we try to picture this phone call, it involves a frantic mom who does not know where her 10-year-old is and another person who also doesn't know and lacks the resources to find out quickly. This is the definition of a phone call that is not going to go well.