American Airlines sent an unaccompanied minor to the wrong state after a telephone reservations agent booked the child to Columbus, Ohio instead of Columbus, Georgia. The incident reminds us that we should not take an agent’s word for something when making a booking over the phone.
American Airlines Sends Unaccompanied Minor To Wrong Columbus
A 12-year-old had been visiting his mother in Dallas and it was now time to return to his father in Columbus, Georgia. Daniel Patton called American Airlines’ reservations number and told the agent he needed a one-way ticket from Dallas to Columbus, Georgia. According to Patton, the agent verified that the boy would be traveling to Georgia and booked the ticket.
Fast-forward a few days. The boy was dropped off at the airport and ended up flying to Columbus, Ohio (CMH) instead of Columbus, Georgia (CSG). Patton found out the error when he showed up at CSG but his son did not step off the flight.
AA agents found he was about to step off a flight in CMH that had departed around the same time. He was located and then sent back to Dallas and finally to CSG, arriving about 12 hours late.
Patton insists he specified the right airport and would have booked online (where you can easily distinguish between the two airports) but AA only allows unaccompanied minor bookings via telephone.
I recently completed an Award Expert booking over the phone with an agent and the “old school” e-mail confirmation I received only had the cities listed, no codes:
If the the father received a similar confirmation for his Dallas – Columbus flight, I can see why he did not think twice. As you can see, there are no states mentioned and no airport code listed, only flight numbers.
I’m not going to attack the father here. Patton told Business Insider:
“Mistakes happen but when they drop the ball it’s a big deal especially when you already take the agency and liability away from parents when making the booking. We’re not going to use American Airlines again or trust them because they’re incompetent.”
I think that’s fair. I also think American Airlines owes them a full refund plus compensation for the lost time and stress.
However, without attacking him, I do think this incident provides an instructive lesson on carefully double-checking your reservation. Here, it isn’t clear if knowing the right airport code would have helped if the father received a confirmation like mine above. Instead, he would have had to look up the flight number and verify it was going to the right Columbus.
I’m glad Patton is now reunited with his son.
Columbus is in both Georgia and Ohio. Portland is in both Maine and Oregon. Sometimes, even when we specify which city we mean, human error kicks in. Here, a boy was sent to the wrong Columbus, in Ohio instead of Georgia. The lesson is to double and triple check itineraries to ensure you are booked to the right place.