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Friday, May 16, 2008

Follow-Up: TOI reports the Air Deccan Goof-Up

Follow up to the earlier post on the Air Deccan goof-up, here is an article in this morning's Times of India, Mumbai edition.
Child walks out of airport, alone

16 May 2008, 0407 hrs IST,Manju V,TNN

MUMBAI: Children who fly alone are usually pampered silly by the cabin crew, but last week a Mumbai mother got a rude shock when she saw her eight-year-old son walk out of the airport unescorted and alone except for his baggage which he tugged along.

But while the mother may have gasped at the lapse, little Aniruddh was quite calm. After all, he was a frequent flyer and knew his way around Mumbai airport as well as any attendant. "He deplaned on his own, got into the passenger coach, walked into the terminal building, located the conveyor belt, picked up his luggage and walked out all alone. I shudder to think that he was in that crowded airport unescorted for over 30 minutes," says Anandhi Batibrolu, whose son flew Air Deccan's Coimbatore-Mumbai flight on Sunday. "The airline is supposed to take my signature after handing over my child," she adds. "I have registered a complaint with them."

The airline admitted that things had gone wrong. "We have a strict policy for unaccompanied minors but this lapse did take place and we have initiated action against those responsible," the spokesperson said.
A fortnight ago, Aniruddh, a third-standard student, had flown to Coimbatore on the same airline and was escorted right up to exit where his uncle waited to receive him.

"That was the first time I sent him unaccompanied. They charged Rs 500 per flight for the service and all went well when he flew to Coimbatore. He even bought sandwiches and cold drinks on the flight," says his mother.

According to her, things went wrong on the return flight after it landed in Mumbai at noon. The cabin crew apparently forgot that there was a minor on board and the other passengers, not noticing anything amiss, did not bring it to the staff's notice. Says Aniruddh, "I have flown a number of times with my mother and so I was not scared. When the others started deplaning, I got up and went with them." His mother is less stoic. "With the airport renovation on things are changing every day. In fact, he has not used the new 1B arrival. We always land in 1A," she says, heaving a sigh of relief that all had ended well.

For most airlines the rules for minors flying alone are more or less the same. When the air ticket reservation is made, the child is marked an unaccompanied minor. The parent/relative accompanies the child to the check-in counter and fills out a form of addresses and contact numbers. The airline takes the signature of the parent/guardian while taking and handing over the child. The adult accompanying the child is told to remain in the airport till the child boards and the aircraft departs from the gate. Some foreign airlines do not allow unaccompanied minors to travel on the last direct or connecting flight of the day.

While airlines do not have ready data on the number of unaccompanied minors they have flown, sources say that the number is going up.”Until two or three years ago, one came across only a case or two every month. Now, every week brings about four or five cases," said the airport manager of a domestic airline.

Source: Times Of India, Mumbai pages

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