Delayed Plane Means 13-y.o. Spends Night Alone at Airport — and So?

Hi Readers — Here’s a story that elicits at least three reactions from me. An Air Canada plane, delayed because of weather, came back to its gate at Toronto’s Pearson International  Airport at 2 a.m., whereupon it disgorged its passengers with a $10 food voucher and instructions to come back in the morning.  Thus a 13-year-old on board found himself spending the night at the airport, by himself. The plane ended up leaving at 10 a.m. the next day.

Now, my first reaction is: You’d think Air Canada would try to give its passengers lodging. I understand that bad weather is not the airline’s fault, but still: When you’re dumping your passengers at 2 a.m., it would be nice to let them sleep at the airport hotel.

Anyway, that doesn’t even count as one of my reactions. Here they are:

1 – It must be rotten to spend the night in an airport chair along with, one presumes, some other stranded passengers. But it’s not dangerous.

2 – There is something galling about Air Canada blaming the parents for not buying the $100 unaccompanied minor service for their teen:

This is a very unfortunate situation, but it underscores the value of our Unaccompanied Minor service, which the parents in this case elected not to purchase,” said Isabelle Arthur, Air Canada spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

“Parents should always, before making the decision to let their children travel alone, take the time to consider how they may react when travel plans are disrupted. Some are seasoned travellers able to accept interruptions and adapt, while others do not handle them as well.”

What’s so irksome is that Ms. Arthur makes it seem as if the kid was at fault for not handling Air Canada’s wee-hours-of-the-morn “Goodbye and good luck!” with good-natured aplomb. Who does? And to suggest that parents should consider how they’d like THEIR kids to sleep at the airport as a way to promote the airline’s Unaccompanied Minor service is like saying parents should all consider how they’d like their kids to be permanently crippled in a horrible crash in deciding whether or not to buy flight insurance.  About 99.999% of the time the service is simply a chaperon, not a lifeline, and I don’t think parents should be encouraged to envision the rarest, worst-case scenario when deciding whether or not to buy it. Frankly, in a very strange situation like an all-night, in-airport layover, I’d expect Air Canada’s staff to react with some compassion not a, “Serves you right, you cheap parents” snip.

3 – Finally, it is amazing that this is a news story. At 13, kids around the world are holding down jobs, traveling long and dangerous distances, taking care of younger siblings and sometimes bearing children of their own. A night in a plastic chair is not fun (though in the right circumstances, it can be). But if this is news, soon we’ll be reading about 15-year-olds forced to wait over an hour for a ride home from the mall when mom’s dentist appointment runs late.  - L

Your plane will be boarding soon — NOT! — kid.

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