Help! United left my 13-year-old daughter in Syracuse

What does United Airlines’ unaccompanied minor fee cover? Katrina Cichosz wants to know, and after reviewing her case, I’m kind of curious, too.

Let’s go right to the textbook definition, which is on United’s website. When her 13-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, flew home for Thanksgiving on Nov. 21, she had the option of paying the $99 fee to cover “the extra handling required” for managing a child’s travel, but technically, she didn’t have to.

She was scheduled to fly on United flight 4799 from Syracuse, NY, to Cleveland, which is scheduled to depart at 6:05 a.m. The night before, her daughter and her daughter’s father received a notification that the flight would be delayed by two hours. They still arrived at the airport with plenty of time to board the flight for its original departure, getting to the airport at 4:20 a.m.

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Now, you have to remember — it’s Nov. 21, which is one of the busiest air travel days of the year. The terminal was crowded. Father and daughter stood in a long line to check in and then paid the $99 UM fee.

At 5:50 a.m., just after they had passed through security, they heard their names being paged.

They ran to the gate and reached it within that same minute. When they arrived at the gate, a United employee told them they had missed boarding by four minutes.

The plane door was still open and the walkway was still at the plane’s door. My daughter was crying and the employee still wouldn’t let her on and told them to wait to be helped for another flight.

Turns out the aircraft wasn’t delayed, and even though the family arrived on time, they still missed their boarding because of the long lines. Oh, and one other thing: Their flight was completely full, and when her daughter didn’t show up for boarding, United gave her seat to a standby passenger.

Gabrielle caught a flight the next day, for which United didn’t charge her, but Cichosz is unhappy. She paid $1,600 for the ticket, plus an additional $99, to get her daughter home for Thanksgiving. Instead, she spent the better part of the day on the phone with United, trying to get her daughter home. If her father didn’t live nearby, Gabrielle would have truly been stranded in Syracuse.

She wonders,

Why was her seat given away to a standby person, when the UM fee had been paid that morning and she was checked in at the ticket counter? Didn’t that mean she was in the airport? I’m having a hard time understanding how United can give an UM seat away like that?

She put the question to United in writing. Here’s what it said:

We appreciate your valuable feedback regarding your daughter’s recent experience. We are sorry you felt that the situation was not handled properly by our airport agents and will forward this issue along with your comments to management for further review.

We apologize for the inconvenience and frustration this situation may have caused you and your daughter and regret any poor impression created. Your comments will help us in future policies, procedures and protocols to create an airline receptive to your needs.

While we empathize with your concerns regarding your daughter’s experience, United agents must follow certain guidelines and timetables regarding flight boarding. Passengers, even if shown as checked in, are required to be at the gate at least 10 to 15 minutes before the scheduled flight time.

Not being present at the gate during boarding may cause that person’s seat, regardless of being a minor or Premier frequent flier member, to be given away. Also, if the plane has been boarded and the passenger manifest submitted for security review to various government entities such as TSA, no further boardings or additions are allowed, regardless of whether or not the plane is still at the gate or even if the door or walkway is still open.

As a “gesture of goodwill,” United offered Gabrielle a $150 flight voucher.

Cichosz isn’t impressed with that response, and wonders if United can offer a better explanation and more compensation for her daughter’s delay. If that had been my daughter, I would definitely feel as if United’s pro forma apology didn’t fully address the question. It also fails to tell her why a flight that was supposed to be delayed two hours could depart on time without any notification.

She wants to know if I can mediate this case with United, and while I think she’s entitled to a better answer, I’m not sure if the outcome — a $150 voucher and a cookie-cutter apology — would improve. I’m willing to try.

Should I mediate Katrina Cichosz's case with United?

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Update (10:50 a.m.): I’ve updated the headline to reflect that the passenger wasn’t abandoned in Syracuse. I’ve also heard from United, which says that it appears the passenger was late getting to the gate, and if that’s the case, it would be the end of the story. I’ll see what I can find out.

115 thoughts on “Help! United left my 13-year-old daughter in Syracuse

  1. This sounds like an undesirable situation that was resolved as satisfactorily as it’s going to be. When traveling on a popular travel day with an unaccompanied minor, one should allow plenty of time. I hate to sound unsympathetic, but in this case, Katrina did not arrive early enough for this process. United was kind in permitting them to rebook without charge and even offering a voucher, when they were not required to provide any accommodation at all.

    As an aside, who pays $1600 to fly from Syracuse to Cleveland, or did I miss something?

    1. Yeah, but the information she received from United the night before that the flight was delayed by 2 hrs. Any reasonable person would think that arriving more than 3.5 hrs ahead of time would be enough – even on a heavy travel day.

      1. Totally agree. I wish there was some explanation about that. If everybody got notification the flight was going to be delayed, they’d have had a TON more passengers irate. Odd the letter doesn’t mention a host of people screaming at the gate, because that would certainly have been the outcome. Somehow, I think there’s something missing from the story.

    2. Perhaps it was a last-minute ticket? It was definitely not first class, as the equipment operating the flight was a Bombardier Q200, a turboprop, operated as UA Express by CommutAir. However, as a travel agent, I have seen exorbitant fares for shorter hop flights like this one, and they are usually aimed at last-minute business travelers. This trip was also the day before Thanksgiving, Wednesday, one of the busiest travel days of the year.

  2. did she keep the proof of the flight delay notification? If she did, she might have something to work with.

    but if not then this was just a case of someone arriving too late for their flight.

    and the fact that she was with her dad , not stranded in a random layover makes me loose sympathy.

    1. it took me a minute to understand this as well, but I’m guessing by the fact that she was a UM means that her dad was not with her on the plane. The story is a bit confusing I know, but maybe @elliottdotorg can help clarify this? Even the United website says that the UM fee is for when the child is not accompanied by a parent, so they wouldn’t have to pay it if she was traveling with her dad…

        1. That’s the way it worked when I was sending my son back home to his mother. I would get a special pass to get through security with him for him to board and another pass to meet him when he got off the plane.

  3. This situation seems weird to me on several fronts:

    1) As I outlined below in a comment, I think there’s some ambiguity within the article. I’m guessing by the fact that she was a UM means that her dad was not traveling with her on the plane, but simply took her to the airport. In this case, that means a United staff member was with her from check in and should have expedited her through everything. In this case, even if she was running late, the United staff member should have been able to page/radio ahead and ask for the gate to be held open for her.

    2) When the flight was delayed by 2 hours, why did it take off on time? Was this simply a miscommunication? When they were checking in was there any indication that the flight was delayed for 2 hours? Also, I’ve traveled a fair bit myself and if I am sure that the flight was delayed, I would also delay my arrival time at the airport (unless I didn’t see the message received the night before).

    3) According to the article, “At 5:50 a.m., just after they had passed through security, they heard their names being paged. They ran to the gate and reached it within that same minute.” I’ve never heard of names being paged after they’ve closed the gates and won’t let you board. If I had reached within the same minute, I think I would assume I’m allowed to board and that my seat wasn’t already given away to a standby passenger. Otherwise, what’s the point of paging in the first place?

    As an aside, same comment as mentioned below, $1600 for a RT ticket from Syracuse to Cleveland?!? That’s just ludicrous, even during the holidays.

    I’m sorry that this happened to the child. This case definitely needs to be looked into further, even if Chris chooses not to mediate it.

    1. The $1600 sounds like a first class ticket which means she should have been in expedited line ups. Perhaps the UM fee only covers the transfer at Chicago or Newark. However, I wonder how come the other passengers got on board on time. Could her parents have misread the notification? Perhaps they should consider train travel. If you factor in check-in, security and transfer, the travel time is similar and the ticket a lot less pricey.

        1. but was it the same plane on that day? Could they have substituted a larger plane to handle the larger than normal crowd expected that day?

          1. Yes, United has 2 to 4 flights a day on that route. I looked forward and on most days days its a turbo prop with no F, occasionally its a Q400 with F. Some days its an ERJ-145 also with no F. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to see what equipment was used in the past without paying for a subscription.

          2. I am still curious why the $1600 fare and aircraft are relevant to the case. It seems to be more about the erroneous flight delay notification and what transpired from airport arrival to gate arrival.

          3. They aren’t, I think the mom just wanted to throw out how expensive the ticket was to try and get more sympathy.

            You mentioned the aircraft on here 3 times. But its not the same aircraft you mentioned every time, so I wanted to point that out.

          4. Possibly so, but it’s still relevant. $1600 for a ticket, they get told the plane was running 2 hours late, they arrive at their original check-in time, yet somehow still miss the plane? Pretty crappy for them.

      1. United flies that route 2 to 4 times a day depending on the season. I looked forward and on most flights it’s a turbo prop with no F,
        occasionally its a Q400 with F. Some days its an ERJ-145 also with no
        F. I even saw one day (at random) with a CRJ-700. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to see what equipment was used in
        the past without paying for a subscription. But it could have had first class that day.

    2. 1) A United (or any airline) rep does not go with a UM from check-in to the gate. The parent has to accompany the child to the gate and wait at the airport until the plane is in the air.

      1. That’s how I thought it worked, too. But I’m struggling with the part of the letter where it says they both heard the announcement and arrived at the gate within a minute of each other. Were they in separate lines or something? Was dad huffing and puffing and sent the daughter on ahead? It reads like they were coming from different places and weren’t even together when the announcement was made.

      2. Didn’t know this. As stated above, even though I lived in the NYC for 5 years, I’ve never flown in the US as a kid, and things are really different on this side of the world. I live in Japan, and here they literally pull everyone out of the line who’s running late and parents aren’t allowed to take UMs to the gate. hence my comments.

        I’ve flown a lot when I was a kid and my parents were only allowed up until the outside perimeter of the security check, but I was always accompanied by an airline representative from the time I checked in.

        1. Tushar, you are correct for an international departure – no one without a seat assignment can go to the gate. That is why international flights have the 1 hour cutoff time vs the 10-15 minute time.

          1. I work in a domestic station, so I just went and checked with the website… on an international flight you have to be to the gate 30mins (not 1 hour) before departure, on domestic 15 minutes. That was the cutoff time to which I was referring.

          2. funny, whenever I’ve boarded an international flight, I’m always told that the gate closes 10-15 minutes (depending on the airport) prior to departure and to be there beforehand, but I’ve never been quoted the 30 minutes number. Recently, most of my boarding passes include a boarding time.

    3. As an Unaccompanied Minor, the child is escorted all the way to the gate by the parent, who is issued a gate pass by the check-in desk to get through security. The child then boards the plane and gets seated in the first row, or as close to the front as possible. He or she may or may not get special attention. My daughter has flown as a UM about five times, and the attention she’s been given on the plane has varied greatly. At the destination, she has disembarked on her own. No one has ever checked that the person meeting her is in fact authorized to do so.

      1. There is no policy about seating the child in the first row or close to it. Actually, the policy is to sit the child as close to the rear as possible on the majority of flights. Now that flights are so full, it is usually just wherever there happens to be an available seat.

        I don’t know what airlines you are having your daughter fly, but it is a requirement for an agent to check an individual’s ID and match it to the recorded pick-up person. United’s policy also requires the agent obtain a signature from the person picking up the minor. The child is always escorted by an agent or flight attendant, though I have seen occasions where a child runs off the plane (which is why they are not seated in the front).

        1. you’re 100% right. makes me wonder if the child isn’t flying as an actual UM. maybe they’ve been flagged as a “youth” or something. but this doesn’t sound right or real at all.
          care to share the airline, JCS?

    4. “Also, I’ve traveled a fair bit myself and if I am sure that the flight
      was delayed, I would also delay my arrival time at the airport”
      please don’t ever do that. delays can change in an instant. arrive at the airport for your SCHEDULED time. PLEASE.

      1. I see it from your side, I really do, but if anybody else on earth–from a party to my doctor’s office–tells me the timeline has moved back by two hours, I absolutely am not going to show up at the original time.

          1. well, then you’ll be out of luck when you get to the airport and your flight has left. keep in mind, you will get a new message when the time has changed. if it moves back, and you’re an hour away from the airport, you’re screwed. and NO airline will compensate you. so go ahead and be bull-headed, but you’re doing so at your own risk.

          2. You can just keep your bull headed comments to yourself. Make your comments but keep the personal insults to yourself.

          3. Flutiefan, there is no call for personal attacks in here. That bull-headed comment was completely uncalled for.

            Yes, Ed might be out of luck if he follows the airlines new schedule and they change it again. But a lot of people don’t realize that the airline can move the flight time up by I think 24 hours. So even if your arrive at the time listed when you bought the ticket, you could still miss your flight because it was moved earlier. It’s another one of those things the airlines can do to screw over the passenger without any accountability.

          4. um honey, i wasn’t being rude or attacking anyone. if someone insists they are going to show up at the delayed time, even when as a 13 year employee i’ve begged them to please come at the regular time, then they are just being stubborn. in other words, bull-headed. that’s not a personal attack. anyone on these boards can tell you i don’t “attack” people. you need to lighten up and read the comment the way it was intended. Merry Christmas.

          5. Where I was raised, calling a stranger’s attitude bull-headed sure was no complement and based on Ed’s response to it, it seems you two don’t know each other and felt it was insulting too.

          6. Oh. And by the way. If they change the time back and notify you, that becomes the new SCHEDULED time. You see, SCHEDULED time means the time they have SCHEDULED the flight. They can change that time and it becomes the NEW SCHEDULED time.

          7. no, sweetheart, SCHEDULED time is the time they have filed with the FAA and various airport agencies for their SCHEDULED departures. while the actual departure time itself may vary due to many possible circumstances, the SCHEDULED time is the one in the flight books.

          8. Excuse me, but I am not your sweetheart. I really don’t care what time the airline tells the FAA or other airport agencies. What is important is the time they tell me. Like Hal mentioned, the airlines can even move up the departure time before the published time so even going by your advice, the passenger can still be out of luck.

            Oh, and by the way, I did find myself caught in this once where the airline moved the departure time up two hours before the time listed when I bought my ticket and did not notify me. While the airline refused to do anything to help and said I was out the money, the Credit Card company said otherwise and I did get my money back.

        1. Why bother to tell me I’ve been re-scheduled for two hours later if not so I can show up to the airport two hours later?

      2. thanks for the insight. I get to the airport on time because I’m a tech geek and always checking my gadgets so I’m constantly wired in. Also, using tools like TripIt Pro help immensely. but, I guess not everybody’s as wired in as I am. and, I guess you’re right that times can change any instant, but most of my flights are international, so maybe’s it’s a little different than a domestic situation

  4. Chris, did you get to see the email informing the delay? I really don’t see how the plane could have departed on time after that indication, especially how could everyone else have gotten there in time, but the girl. Could it have been a misunderstanding of the father?

    1. The alert also could have also been a text message or phone call. The flight status could have changed from evening until morning. Usually an evening flight delay alert indicates a late-arriving crew and required crew rest, if there is an aircraft there. They could have found a replacement crew, which would explain why the status changed to on time by morning. I agree it would be a good idea for Chris to investigate further, and I am curious why the father didn’t double-check the next morning. Or perhaps he did, and that’s why they arrived at 4:20 a.m.

    2. I wouldn’t assume everyone else got there in time — there may have been a large number of stand-by’s and also plenty of passengers in the same boat as this girl.

      I’ve received a few emails reporting flight delays that were subsequently reduced by a material amount. In one egregious case, I was notified of a 3+ hour flight delay — corroborated by the airport terminal’s own departure board — which then inexplicably got reversed and resulted in mayhem and scrambling angry passengers — some of whom clearly didn’t get to the gate in time to make the flight.

  5. The major screwup on United’s part was the false notification of a flight delay. At the time that the OP arrived at the airport and paid the unaccompanied minor fee, wasn’t the actual departure time made clear?

    And on the critically busiest days of the year, shouldn’t an agent be stationed near Security to check for passengers still stuck in the line, just as stores routinely hire extra personnel for the holidays?

    1. TSA would be the agency that would need to have extra personnel on duty to expedite passengers. It would be a much bigger mess if every airline that shared the same security lines had an agent stationed there. If there was only 2 or 3 airlines maybe – but having 10+ airline reps all trying to get their people to the front of the line – would create much bigger problems! And for this example – everyone else on the plane managed to make it through security on time.

      1. However, not everyone else had to check in with an agent and pay the UM fee. Perhaps the father should have paid the fee online, but for children 12-17, it is optional, according to UA’s Contract of Carriage.

  6. Question: the original departure time was 6:05am but it was supposedly going to be delayed by 2 hours (to 8:05am)? Seems like the family did everything, within reason, to ensure their daughter was on that flight.

    I agree with Ian P. Sounds like the family has been given all the compensation and explanation they are likely to receive. Never hurts to try though.

  7. The father ensures the early arrival at the airport but then neglects to look at the flight schedule displays or to ask someone? Yet all the other passengers were aware of the new schedule and boarded on time? Is there some other bit to the story which the father is holding back? Sorry, based on the information in the article, the airline was correct.

    1. By the time you’re in the security line there aren’t usually any flight schedule displays to look at. While the airline might have been correct (technically) it did have some responsibility to get the young lady to her mother’s for Thanksgiving.

      1. There are flight displays at the check-in counter and sometimes between there and TSA. Or he could have asked the counter agent. Everyone else made it on time.

        The airline’s responsibility starts when he signs over the child to whomever brings the child onboard (or whatever UA’s procedure is). Up until then it’s the father’s responsibiliy.

  8. If the daughter reached the gate 10-15 minutes prior to boarding, as per airline rules, and was involuntarily denied boarding (you said the gate agent gave her seat away), would she be entitled to IDB compensation?

    1. United’s CoC states:

      UA has the right to cancel reservations (whether or not confirmed), deny boarding and/or refuse the acceptance of checked baggage of any Passenger who fails to present himself/herself within the applicable check-in time limit for Passengers.

      All Passengers must be present at the loading gate for boarding at least 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure.

      The time limits provided by UA in this Rule are minimum time requirements. Passenger and baggage processing times may differ from airport to airport. It is the Passenger’s responsibility to arrive at the airport with enough time to complete check-in, baggage and security screening processes within these minimum time limits

      So if they were not there at least 15 minutes prior to boarding, then they were not IDBd. In fact, the way I read it, United doesn’t even have to re-book them. They did it out of courtesy.

      Notice it says “Scheduled Departure” Delay or not, they still need to be there 15 minutes before the scheduled time. I personally would arrive much sooner than they did on the busiest travel day of the year.

      1. I am a travel agent and I understand the airlines’ Contract of Carriage. However, if you read the excerpt from United’s reply in Chris’ post above, United is the one that states 10-15 minutes. Why was the daughter paged if it was already too late? Furthermore, according to United’s own website, the check-in counter at Syracuse doesn’t open until 5:00 a.m., and according to another person’s post above, the security line at Syracuse starts forming at 4:15 a.m. How on earth could they have gotten checked in and through any earlier than 4:20 a.m.? Compound that with the statement that the father thought the flight was delayed by two hours, therein lie the problems that make this a complicated case.

        1. They page people to see if they are in the gate area and get them to board, if they aren’t, they give the seats away. Obviously they were not at the gate when they were paged.

          As I posted, the line there is often 50+ people deep an hour before check in even opens around the holidays. Showing up 1h and 45 minutes ealy on the busiest day of the year is cuttign it too close. states that the TSA line alone at SYR will take 1h 30m during peak travel times on non-holidays. The supposed delay is simply a red herring.

          1. I think the UM issue is another red herring. While the wait to pay the fee may have resulted in extra check in time, they still had the TSA line to deal with.

            I can’t quite figure out when they found out the flight was not delayed. Would not they reconfirm the departure time while with the agent at the counter paying the fee?

          2. LOL, I am a 50,000 mile per year frequent flyer and a travel agent. I know how it works. But thanks for clearing that up. 😉 I still stand by my previous posts. It was a situation complicated by a number of issues, including the (bogus?) flight delay alert, having to check in face-to-face to pay the UM fee (which they could have done online), long check-in and security lines, a check-in counter that doesn’t open until 5:00 a.m., and probably some inefficiency along the way.

  9. This is why the parent or adult is told not to leave the gate or airport until the plane is in the air. You don’t “drop off” a UM and leave, the only time a UM is with a gate agent is to meet a connection or escorted to whomever is picking her up. Just saying.

  10. I voted mediate. Perhaps my heart grew two sizes, but if there was an erroneous UA delayed flight notification sent, the fee was paid THAT MORNING, and they rushed to the gate, I think UA could’ve done better.

    …and $1600 for a domestic coach ticket!??! Was this a last minute booking?

    1. I was just going to suggest that. I know the one time we took a very early flight (I think 0600) with USAirways out of AGS, we arrived an hour and a half early only to find no one at the check in counter until 45 minutes prior to departure. Security wasn’t even open yet. Granted it is a small airport, but the point is, with the cutbacks the airlines have made, agents aren’t always available when you expect them to be no matter how early your are. Our flight the first of the day, ended up not departing until well after 1300hrs. Another time in the middle of checking us in for an international flight, the agent had to leave immediately to finish boarding passengers in the terminal. We waited at the counter for over 20 minutes, he wouldn’t even finish checking us in, just said he had to go and will be back soon.

  11. I have little interest in having you mediate THIS SPECIFIC CASE. These people seem to have gotten through with little loss, and lots of inconvenience.
    I want you to go after UN-TIED AIRLINES so that they will not do this to someone who lives 2-3 hours from the airport and can not really afford the extra fee, but pays it out of fear for what could happen . . . and has something really bad hapen.
    United took responsability when the fee was accepted and the child checked in at the counter. Busy days happen and delays happen, they should have dealt with it a lot better.

  12. Hmm. Couldn’t take sides. At ticket counter, father could have checked departure time and found it to be 6:05, as originally scheduled. At that point, he contacts roaming passenger service agent or goes to side of counter, and politely says he has an unaccompanied minor for a flight in less than an hour. They will expedite passenger given notice.

    Likewise at security, I have seen many people put into expedited line when the TSA is informed of a “runner,” especially so when it is a child.

    It appears no effort was made by father and child to overcome the delays at the airport. It is partly their responsibility to notify airline and TSA people so they can get the service they needed to make the flight. Please don’t attack me for that concept. It is the reality of how the system works.

    1. I beg to differ… When our family had a tremendous tragedy nearly two years ago, my husband was caught up in lines, lines and more lines at LAX and there wasn’t a single person there who could have given two flips that he might miss his plane. Had it not been for the pilot holding the plane, he would have.

      1. Again, I knew exceptions would pop up, as they always do. The point is the father appeared to be in no rush, clearing security 15 minutes before stated departure time, while the gate typically closes 10 minutes beforehand “to ensure an on-time departure.” The passenger must make the effort. The father never mentions any such effort at United counter or at TSA.

        Of course, certain people will be denied compassion now and then. However I have seen it given every time I have been close enough to overhear. Especially, in this instance, with a minor, I can see the vast majority of airport personnel giving her the courtesy of expedited service. Not every time, everywhere, which I never said of course.

        1. Why would the father be in a rush if he thought the flight was delayed by two hours? That seems to be the root cause of this issue, compounded by the other variables, like a heavy travel day, having to check in with an agent, waiting in line, the layout of the Syracuse airport as mentioned above, etc. If the daughter did arrive within the allowed boarding time, why did the gate agent page her and why did the gate agent give the seat away?

          1. The first thing I do when I get to the airport is to look at the arrivals and departures electronic check my flight. That is why I am at the airport. Seems logical to me.

            Father says he arrived airport at 4:20 a.m. and did not clear security until 5:50 a.m. Everything in between is a blank, unknown. All we are doing is assuming things.

            If he got there and went to the line at the counter, the airport has a current departures board in that area. When I fly AA out of Syracuse, there is an electronic board.

            The passenger did not clear security in time to get to the gate in time. On one the busiest days of the year, I am sure the gate agent was trying to observe the 10 or 15-minute rule of “closing” the flight or whatever the exact term is. To change passengers at that point definitely means a late departure, what with baggage and updating the manifest.

    2. As for expediting security for those running late, I guess it depends on the TSA agents. I was trying to check in to a flight using the electronic boarding pass (barcode on my phone) and the TSA’s scanner wasn’t working. I had already waited almost an hour in the line to get to that point. I was told that I would have to go get a printed boarding pass. After I got it, after another long wait at the only kiosk that was working that morning, I went back and the TSA agent told me I would have to wait in the line again, which by now was even longer. I had gotten to the airport with almost 3 hours before my flight but by the time I was 2/3 the way through waiting *AGAIN*, I had less than 30 minutes before my flight was leaving and probably more than 30 minutes before I would get to the security. The line snaked around where I was able to ask an airline agent about the problem. There was nothing they could do to get me to the front of the line (the agent mention the TSA person was basically the problem) but went and checked on availability of another flight. By the time I got through security, it was too late for the flight but the agent had already scheduled me on the next flight which left in about an hour and handed me the boarding passes.

      1. That is too bad. Many TSA lines have VIP or “parents with children” lines where families are routed. Depends on the airport of course. These lines are appreciably shorter. Each airport is different.

        As for the bar codes, I too found them “hit or miss”, so I learned to always have the “hard copy” from early on-line check-in in my pocket. Even the airline’s own scanner at the gate will not work! Nice concept, not ready for prime time.

      2. I’ve used “electronic boarding passes” recently – actually Passbook on iOS 6. I found it convenient, but I always had a backup, where it was a print at home boarding pass or ones printed at the airport. I haven’t had any issues with the TSA scanner (additionally TSA isn’t at SFO) but I did whip out the paper boarding pass when the flight attendant needed the info to check something in last second.

        I will also say that I found something interesting. We recently flew home from an airport where they had check-in/boarding pass kiosks all over the place. They even had several at a consolidated off-site rental car facility. I understand that they even have several in some hotels and a local convention center (this is a major vacation and convention city, hint hint). We had plenty of time and I actually printed several boarding passes, including extras to keep as souvenirs (we flew Southwest, which keeps each boarding pass presented at the gate). I would have printed them out beforehand, but our local hotel charged something like $1 a page to print with a $5 minimum; that compares to some inexpensive hotels I’ve been to where internet and a printer are provided as a courtesy for free.

        I also had my phone number on file. The gate was changed, and I already figured this out because the second set of boarding passes I printed out had the correct gate. However, I got a call from Southwest while we were already on the plane, alerting us to the gate change. I’m not sure if these alerts would have applied to a delay.

        1. I had used electronic boarding passes a half a dozen times through this same security line and never had a problem. The first couple times I also had a hard copy of the board pass with me but with never having an issue, stopped wasting paper to print them. But after this experience, I never use the electronic ones.

          1. Like I said, I usually come with a backup. On my last outbound trip I had printed up two boarding passes just in case. I looked in my pocket for the boarding pass I’d prepared and couldn’t find it. Turns out I’d left it in the office where I wrote down the gate (wasn’t available when I checked-in the day before) and delay info. So instead of heading back to the counter or kiosks, I whipped out my backup stashed in my luggage. I still got to the gate in time and asked about when to line up at the gate (the plane wasn’t even going to arrive until at least an hour after our scheduled departure). Of course I was there in time, although I would say I did leave the office before I normally would do so based on the announced delay. I guess I got lucky.

  13. As much as I love Syracuse I can tell you from experience it is possibly the worst place to try to fly from early in the morning. They are in the process of constructing a new security check-point and other improvements but it is way over due. There are probably 10 flights departing within an hour of each other on one concourse, which means around 500 people trying to get screened by ONE scanner. The situation experienced by this girl is very common. The line starts forming around 4:15 a.m., which is pathetic. The staff can only do so much to move people through, but it is still unacceptable to have to arrive 2 hours early to walk a total of 200 yards to get to your gate. All the airlines want to have an early morning flight, but the current design of the airport makes it nearly impossible to manage. So I blame United, the airport authority, and the other airlines for insisting on scheduling so many flights within a short period of time when the infrastructure is not designed to handle it. SYR cannot complete their construction project soon enough.

  14. When you don’t get to the gate on time, they put you on the next flight they can, that’s what they do.
    What are they supposed to do, hold all of the flights?
    The TSA is likely what needs to be fixed here. Maybe they could be a little more efficient (and also not steal luggage straps, which appears to be what they did to me last week).
    Like many, I’m wondering why a $1600 ticket? Also, if she flew the next day, didn’t she make it for Thanksgiving?

  15. I really don’t understand this at ALL. Was the email they received about the 2 hour delay a joke? So the original flight leaving at 6am was now leaving at 8am. What if they had arrived at the airport at, oh, say 6am thinking they had 2 hours? It seems this delay is at the root of it all and I didn’t see anything mentioned…

  16. I voted no. United’s rules state that all passengers must be at the gate at least 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure or United can cancel their ticket. The delay is a red herring as they still need to arrive before the scheduled departure time. I have a feeling something was left out in regards to the delay anyway.

    As someone who flies standby a lot, they are usually very strict about these rules, and page people by name before giving away their seat. In my experience, they usually wait until 10 minutes, even though in writing it says 15 minutes.

    Dad arrived 1h 45min before the scheduled departure on the busiest travel day of the year, that is cutting it too close. I usually fly the day before thanksgiving and I arrive 2 hours early when I am not checking in at a counter on that day. When I have flown out of SYR around the holidays, there is usually a line at check in 50 to 100 people deep before they even open the check in counters.

    I think they gambled by not arriving early enough and lost. United had every right to give away their seat, and United also did the right thing by putting them on the next available flight. They didn’t have to do that, but I am glad they did. I know I always grumble about how much I hate the new United, but in this case the passenger was simply not prepared and is now mad at United.

  17. I said yes, primarily because United told the OP that the flight would be delayed, which was not true. So United’s screw-up was to blame in large part for this whole situation. I haven’t flown on United in over 10 years, and a story like this isn’t likely to make me change my attitude.

  18. Novembember 21st 2012? FlightAware Says that flight left SYR at 6:23am Radar for that day does not show any weather that would cause a delay. That early in the day its un-likely to be ATC holds. A full flight could slow boarding, Maybe the crew was ‘late’ (they had to delay flight for outbound crew to have it ‘rest’ period). I doubt UAL would send out a txt delay alert if the flight was going to be delayed 10-15 mins.

      1. That’s all he ever says. I think he is related to the guy who says “If I paid in cash, I should get a refund in cash.” Even when its not about a refund.

        1. At least “paid with cash, refund in cash” is a pretty valid argument. But the story could be about puppies being cute and Adam would post “it’s another scam!”

  19. ok, let me give you some insight from a gate agent’s perspective. this is the busiest travel day of the year; lines are to be expected. it’s all over the news and internet, so feigning ignorance isn’t an option.
    if United has a 15 minute rule for being in the boarding gate, then they did not make it. by their own calculations (which is a secondhand account, as the mother is relaying what the father claimed…who knows how much he could be exaggerating. i know my dad always did with time), they made it to the gate at 5:51. that is less than 15 minutes, and they are not due any compensation.

    some people are questioning their names being paged, but seats still given away. from my experience, i can tell you that the agent had likely been paging the child’s name for at least 10 minutes. they probably heard the “FINAL CALL FOR PASSENGER GABRIELLE CICHOSZ”… the *final* call. when i make that announcement, i look for anyone running down the terminal or waving their arms to say “that’s me! that’s me!”. if i don’t see that, then sorry, their boarding pass is canceled, and i give the seat to the standby who has been perched next to my desk waiting for that final 15 minute cutoff.

    as far as the delay notification, ALL airlines’ messages that i’ve ever seen clearly state that the departure time can change at any point, and to still be at your gate for your scheduled time. if it’s an Air Traffic Control delay, the tower can flip a decision like a switch. for instance, i had friends traveling from Phoenix to Newark on Saturday. they were on a 4 hour ground hold due to ATC. within 30 minutes of that notification, the ATC tower lifted the delay program and their airline was told to board and take off immediately. my friends had gone to get something to eat, and nearly missed it. luckily, the wife thought she heard a terminal page, and so they went to the gate to check, and were the last to board! point is, delays aren’t set in stone. always always always get to the airport at the regular time. another poster mentioned it may have been a crew rest issue, and they were able to get another crew in. perhaps there was a mechanical issue they thought would take longer to fix. perhaps they swapped the aircraft with another to get the flight back on time. these things happen EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. it’s not unusual to have a delay change at a moment’s notice.

    if the dad checked in at the counter, then he knew the flight was back on time. the counter agent can notify the gate, but if they aren’t present to board by 5:50am, then they lose out. it doesn’t matter to the gate agent that they knew the UM was in the airport. (if the dad knew time was tight, wouldn’t he have been rushing the entire time? sounds like they only realized it was an issue when they heard the page.)

    the fact is, just because someone is “in the airport” doesn’t mean they’re not dilly-dallying somewhere else. i’ve had people miss flights, or show up 1 minute before departure, and
    claim they’ve been there for hours. then i notice the McDonald’s bag in
    their hands. so they decided to stop instead of going to their plane. i’ve had people who fell asleep in the terminal, people who were too engrossed in their book to hear their flight called, people with their ipods on too loud who miss their names being paged, people who’ve decided drinking that last beer is more important than the plane leaving, people who’ve been stuck on conference calls, and people who just have no concept of departure time. so just because i know someone is physically at the airport doesn’t mean i am going to waive the time requirements for them. they still must be AT THE GATE 15 minutes prior.

    as far as those security lines go, i know my airport doesn’t allow airline agents to move someone to the front of the TSA line unless it’s an extreme circumstance — and even then, it’s usually a supervisor who has to do it. 5 airlines are in our concourse, and there’s no way TSA will let us pull “late runners” out, regardless of whether or not they’ll miss their flight.

    this is all i can think of at this moment. i don’t work for United, but most airline policies about arriving by a specific time are pretty similar. i can answer (or at least try) any questions anyone has.

    in any case, this is a NO vote. do not mediate. they weren’t there at the required time.

    1. this is so insightful. Even though I lived in the NYC for 5 years, I’ve never flown in the US as a kid, and things are really different on this side of the world. I live in Japan, and here they literally pull everyone out of the line who’s running late and parents aren’t allowed to take UMs to the gate. hence my comments below.

  20. Apples and oranges maybe, but I just went to United’s website and priced a ticket for a minor, 13 to 17, to fly SYR to CLE on 11/21/2013. The most expensive fare is $365; the cheapest, $121. Granted, maybe the OP purchased his daughter’s ticket at the last minute this year, but I still find it hard to believe that even a walk-up fare for 2012 was 438% to 1322% higher. If it was, then as RetiredNavyphotog said, she probably should have taken a cab.

    1. Interesting, I tried looking again at the published fares this season and refundable is $543 per way and the rare times its available First Class is $885 per way. Tony’s fare tool is better than mine, but I bet he is enjoying family time.

      1. Hi, Em. Coincidentally, I got the prices I posted by clicking on the link in your reply to Elizabeth Smith. I just clicked on it again, and the lower prices I mentioned are still there…

        One Way (Start New Search)
        Depart Syracuse, NY (SYR)
        Arrive Cleveland, OH (CLE)
        Date Thu., Nov. 21, 2013 Time Anytime
        Cabin Economy Travelers 1

        Buy Now — limited tickets at our lowest price
        Nonstop from $365
        With Stops from $121
        Flexible Fare from $573
        First Cabin from $865

        1. I use a tool called KVS that gives me access to all published fares on a route, inventory on a route, and a lot of other useful information. Its pretty cool, but not as good as GDS (or GSD) subscription which cost more.

          KVS Also lets me look across airlines, so I can see what airlines have published fares by route, etc and choose accordingly.

  21. The airline’s accept no real responsibility for children. Sit down here little one and be good, I’ll be back when it is time to board. $100.00 out the door! This BS with the flight on the ground and the door open / shut has got to be dealt with in court now and sooner. The days of being late on the connection and holding a flight for 10 minutes are gone. The gate agent can see that a passenger is on the ground and running for the next flight. They choose not to. I was one of those agents and I never boarded a standby passenger until I checked the manifests. “Got time to spare, go by air”!

  22. I don’t remember TSA ever reporting a 1.5 hour security check-in… but still, if there was a phone call about the flight being delayed by 2 hours the day before, then I think it is definitely the airliner’s fault for falsely advertising its flight times to its customers if the flight didn’t end up getting delayed at all.

    1. And if like others have said, the airline still expects you to show up at the originally scheduled time, then why even bother notifying the passengers of the delay? Sounds like the airlines are using some unethical behaviour to cause passengers to miss their flights so they can keep the money.

      1. The contract of carriage always says that the airline will get the passenger from point A to point B. If one arrives at the gate too late (i.e. the passenger’s fault), they will typically honor that contract, regardless of whether that’s the next flight, the next day, etc. It may mean flying standby and hoping someone else failed to show (if it’s a full flight).

        They pretty much won’t keep the money in cases like this. She already checked in, so that’s at least a good faith indication that she intended to board the flight. I do understand that some airlines will penalize for all-out no shows, but not for this.

        Of course there was the famous Hong Kong Airport meltdown where a older woman acted as if a loved one died when she found she missed her flight. Of course they just put her on the next flight.

        1. The part about keeping the money was in response to another post, and a personal experience, about the airlines not helping you if they announce a later time and then change it back and you end up missing the flight.

  23. Uh, what about the 2 hour delay? The way the story was told, the flight was supposed to be delayed by 2 hours. They showed up at the earlier time anyway and were denied boarding at 6 in the morning for an 8 Am flight. What’s THAT all about?

    1. It was scheduled as a 6 AM flight and turned out to be a 6 AM flight. I’ve learned a long time ago that estimated delays are never guaranteed to the point where one can rely on them to be late. If I relied on the estimated delays for my commuter trains to give me more time to get to the station, I’d miss the train about 80% of the time. Even if United has estimates that they’ll be late, if they can depart on time (or close to it) they will make every effort to do so. The only guarantee they make (save a cancelled flight) is that they won’t leave before the scheduled time, although I suppose that’s possible (by a few minutes) once there’s a full plane.

      I looked up a United flight. The following is the URL for the results page. It will show an actual result if you have a previous search, but will still show their disclaimer even if you’ve never searched for a flight.

      “* United Airlines will do everything practical to ensure we provide the most accurate flight status information at all times. However, situations change quickly and many factors affect our scheduled operations. Please understand that a flight listed as “Delayed” may, depending on the circumstances, depart “On Time.” Unless your flight has been listed as “cancelled” we suggest you always check-in for the original scheduled departure time of your flight.”

  24. I am….confused. Maybe it’s Chris’s editing of the story, but in the OP;s complaint to United, she only seems upset that they didn’t hold a seat for an UM….but did she detail in her complaint the fact that they were under the impression they had an additional 2 hours due to the delay? Who told them the flight was delayed? United, or an online travel service? I find it hard to believe that if she sent a copy of the email along w/ her complaint that they’d have not been more receptive. And on a side note, for what it’s worth, my son flies UM twice a year to visit his grandparents and the FAs have always been great to him. They chat with him, give him warm cookies (!) and have invited him into the cockpit a couple of times and I have to show ID to drop him off and my Dad has to show ID to pick him up. For me, it’s been worth the money for peace of mind.

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