Kids on planes. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s a story that Carrie Calzaretta’s 14-year-old son, Tyler, will probably tell his kids someday. This summer, the Calzarettas paid American Airlines an extra $300 for their son to fly round-trip as an unaccompanied minor in order to join a 10-day educational tour of Belize. When thunderstorms delayed his flight from Miami to Newark, the airline offered to re-book him for the next morning — but not to provide a hotel room for the night.

Does penalizing airlines for customer service infractions do any good?

The Department of Transportation fined airlines $4.5 million and issued 23 consent orders in 2016. But it isn’t clear whether these actions are benefitting the passengers they’re supposed to protect. Industry watchers say the numbers don’t tell the full story — something you already know if you’ve flown this year.

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