United Airlines Loses 10-Year-Old Girl

6:29 AM, Aug 16, 2012   |    comments
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(USA TODAY) -- United Airlines is drawing criticism from a San Francisco family that alleges the airline "lost" their 10-year-old daughter as she was traveling as an unaccompanied minor on the carrier.

Annie and Perry Klebahn of San Francisco say they paid a $99 unaccompanied minor fee to have their summer camp-bound daughter Phoebe fly from San Francisco to Traverse City, Mich., via Chicago O'Hare on June 30. She had a connection time of about 1 hour, 15 minutes, according to Klebahns, whose story had been picked up by major outlets such as NBC, FOX News and the CBC of Canada.

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The Klebahns, who have attempted to draw attention to the issue by going public with a letter of complaint to United, say they first learned something was wrong when their daughter's Michigan summer camp called to say that Phoebe had not arrived as scheduled.

In her letter, Annie Klebahn says her initial call was routed to a United call center in India, where the phone agents returned mostly unhelpful information. Annie says she was placed on hold numerous times, with agents twice telling her that her daughter had in fact made it to Traverse City before another agent said that she missed her connection in Chicago.

WHAT THE PARENTS SAID: Read The Klebahns' Letter To United

Perry Klebahn, an elite frequent-flier member with United, apparently had better luck when he called a special number dedicated to United's elite-level customers. His U.S.-based representative confirmed that Phoebe missed her connection. The couple claims the representative told Perry that United's unaccompanied minor personnel "forgot to show up" to help escort Phoebe through Chicago O'Hare to her connecting flight.

Perry says he pleaded with the United representative - who initially told him she was "going off her shift" - to help locate his daughter. She finally relented, according to the Klebahn's account, and Phoebe was located about 15 minutes later and put into contact with her parents.

The Klebahns leveled numerous other complaints at United, such as alleging that Phoebe was told to wait numerous times when she asked airline workers for help after getting stuck in Chicago. She also was told to wait when she asked for help in calling her parents, the Klebahns allege.

Phoebe finally made it to Traverse City, but about four hours behind schedule and without her luggage.

The Klebahns say they went public with the letter after failing to get a meaningful response from United.

The CBC notes that "when local news in San Francisco took an interest in the Klebahn's story in August, the airline responded. And on Aug. 13, company officials released a statement saying they had apologized to the family and are 'reviewing the matter.' "

United acknowledged the incident in statements to several media sites, including to website Tnooz.com.

"We reached out directly to the Klebahns to apologize and we are reviewing this matter," United said in the statement to Tnooz.com. "What the Klebahns describe is not the service we aim to deliver to our customers. We are redepositing the miles used to purchase the ticket back into Mr. Klebahn's account in addition to refunding the unaccompanied minor charge. We certainly appreciate their business and would like the opportunity to provide them a better travel experience in the future."

Written by Ben Mutzabaugh
USA Today & USAToday.com

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