Happy Holidays? Frontier kicks minor off a flight twice on Christmas Eve

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On Christmas Eve, Amber Lloyd drove her 14-year-old nephew to the Denver airport to board a Frontier Airlines flight to New Orleans, where he was going to spend Christmas with his parents.

Unfortunately, despite Lloyd’s best efforts, her nephew was not going to leave on Frontier. The resulting odyssey leaves Lloyd, our advocacy team — and probably, you — wondering how much compensation a passenger deserves when something truly goes wrong.

First, Lloyd paid the $100 fee that Frontier requires of unaccompanied minors to travel on board its aircraft. That fee is in addition to the fare, and payment must be made either online or at the airport. Lloyd paid the fee at the airport.

But when Lloyd and her nephew got to security, the TSA screener would not let Lloyd through, because Frontier hadn’t given her the pass which allows an unticketed adult to accompany a minor child to the gate.

Lloyd returned to the ticket counter, while her nephew continued on to the gate.

The Frontier agent gave Lloyd the needed security pass, and when doing so, allegedly called Lloyd “an idiot.”

Lloyd says she ignored the comment and proceeded through the TSA checkpoint to the gate where she watched her nephew board the flight.

Nobody at the gate asked her for information about her nephew. He simply boarded. The flight crew closed the door to the plane, so Lloyd headed back to the ticket counter to address a supervisor about the poor customer service she had already received.

Little did she know that her opinion of the airline was about to go from bad to worse.

When she explained the poor customer service she received earlier at the ticket counter, the Frontier supervisor refunded the $100 fee, and asked the employee involved in the earlier incident to leave.

Moments later, Lloyd received a panicked text from her nephew telling her that he had been removed from the flight. Apparently, the flight crew had no record that Lloyd completed the requisite paperwork for her unaccompanied nephew.

The supervisor assisting Lloyd called the gate and confirmed that the paperwork had been completed. The child was then allowed to board a second time.

When Lloyd asked why her nephew was removed, the supervisor told her she should have remained at the gate. “But the doors were closed,” Lloyd remembers. “She then said I should have provided the gate agent with the paperwork — that I was still holding in my hand.”

Lloyd asked if she should deliver the paperwork to the gate. The supervisor assured her that everything was fine.

A few minutes later, Lloyd received another unhappy text from her nephew, telling her he had once again been removed from the flight.

“I sprinted to the gate for a second time,” Lloyd explains. “My nephew was kicked off the flight and, ironically, standing unaccompanied at the gate.”

The flight left without this young traveler, who unfortunately didn’t get home until the wee hours of Christmas morning on a different airline. Lloyd says Frontier made no efforts to rebook the child on another airline, and the agent told them Frontier has “no sister airlines.”

After spending most of Christmas Eve in the airport waiting for a stand-by seat on Southwest, Lloyd’s nephew arrived home on a United Airlines flight, which Lloyd paid for herself.

Frontier Airlines has already refunded the $100 unaccompanied minor fee, and has promised to refund, in three to six weeks, the $445 she spent to fly her nephew to New Orleans on United Airlines.

Lloyd feels her nephew was embarrassed by being removed from the flight — not once, but twice — and wants the airline to apologize to her nephew.

Does Frontier owe Lloyd and her nephew more than the refunds it has already promised, or is it too late to fix this holiday travel nightmare?

Did Frontier offer Lloyd enough compensation?

View Results

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Jessica Monsell

A former legal professional who has helped hundreds of clients fight the airlines and the government following aircraft accidents. With years of research on aviation operations and the travel industry under my belt, I help the little guy win. More importantly, I love to solve a mystery. I have lived in Asia and Europe but I now call Charleston, SC home.

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  • Frank Clarke

    Does Frontier not have telephones whereby gate agents and flight crews can communicate with supervisory staff?

    I recall Tom Peters describing how the most successful companies got where they were: “Their employees TALK to each other!”

  • JewelEyed

    I can’t answer the poll question because it says they will refund the ticket on UA, but it actually doesn’t mention whether they’re refunding the money for the Frontier ticket. I would like to assume they did, but assuming they did anything right is what got the LW into so much undeserved trouble.

  • AJPeabody

    Is this involuntary bumping?

  • As a Denver resident for 44 of my nearly 50 years of life, I knew that airline to be a )once-great, customer-focused airline.

    Now, it’s owned out of the Midwest by some flying cattle-truck service that is Spirit 2.0. (The only thing missing is pay toilets on the planes.)

    To me, this borders on child endangerment and should be reported to the police for investigation. Someone should go to jail (and I am being serious). The “A” gates where Frontier resides become a ghost town. In fact, SO MUCH SO, that a woman was raped in that very concourse (IN THE CONCOURSE). See story: http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/police-woman-sexually-assaulted-by-ex-marine-at-dia

    Let’s see how a police investigation under the child abuse statue (C.R.S. 18-6-401 – Child Abuse), specifically, “…permits a child to be unreasonably placed in a situation that poses a threat of injury to the child’s life or health…”, gets their attention.

    I say, forget the money. Drop a legal hammer on them with a criminal complaint. Given the KNOWN history of sexual assault in the deserted concourse at DIA (Denver International Airport) – that VERY concourse – Frontier SERIOUSLY dropped the ball.

  • JessicaLM

    As of today, Frontier has offered to refund the United fare and the $100 unaccompanied minor fee. It has not offered a refund of the fare paid for the Frontier flight on which the child did not travel.

  • I voted No. Frontier obviously made a series of major errors in processing what should have been a standard unaccompanied-minor interaction. Does a UM have to be accompanied by his guardian to the gate, or is this optional? If mandatory, why was Mother not automatically issued a gate pass when she paid the UM fee?

  • mbods2002

    Wrong on so many levels….

  • cscasi

    Here is what Frontier Airlines states:

    Frontier Airlines
    Ages: Children 5 to 17 may travel unaccompanied, and may fly on any nonstop Frontier flight, including international flights. Minors are not allow to travel on connecting flights. Children 15 to 17 are not required to use the Unaccompanied Minor service (thereby no fee is applied).
    Fee: The Unaccompanied Minor service fee is $100 one way and includes a beverage and a snack.
    Service Includes: Agents will help children get settled into their seats prior to regular passenger boarding, and will continue to provide children with help during the flight, and will escort them to connecting flights, if applicable.
    Booking: Reservations can be made online.
    Forms: An Unaccompanied Minor form must be completed by a parent at the ticket counter. Children under 18 may need to have proof of age, such as a birth certificate or passport.
    Parents: One parent may obtain a boarding pass from the ticket counter to pass through security and accompany their child to the gate, and are required to stay at the gate until the flight has departed from the gate. One parents or family member will also receive a boarding pass to bypass security at the final destination.
    Click here for Frontier Airlines’ official web site.

    The last section “Parents” provides the answer. However, it contradicts itself by saying Parent “may” obtain boarding pass and then goes on to state, “, and are required to stay at the gate until the flight has departed from the gate

    “. May means may or may not; up to the parent. If the parent is required to stay at the gate until the flight departs, the wording should state “must obtain a boarding pass”.
    The other problem was that Lloyd left the boarding area when the doors were closed (boarding gate doors or aircraft door? We do not know). If it was just the boarding gate doors and the aircraft door was still open and the jet bridge still in place, it was possible for the crew to deplane the minor. Maybe that is what happened after Lloyd left.
    Most airlines have paperwork that goes with the minor and the gate agent signs for the minor from the parent and then gets the flight attendant to sign for the minor at boarding. Then the flight attendant gets the gate agent at the destination to sign for the minor upon arrival and the gate agent gets the responsible to sign for custody of the minor. That is why they have a “fee” for handling unaccompanied minors. Obviously it did not work right in this case. The minor should never have been allowed to board the plane if the paperwork was not in order and not properly signed.
    All in all, it really points to being Frontier’s fault and it should be held fully accountable.

  • MarkKelling

    It is interesting to note that their own rules are confusing. First, it states that connecting flights are not allowed at all, then it states that the minor will be escorted to connecting flights by an agent.

  • MarkKelling

    This must have been the first time the OP used the unaccompanied minor option. Otherwise handing the paper work to the gate agent would have been done. But this still should have been explained at check in.

    It is lucky that there were options available to get to the destination. Too bad Frontier could not provide any of those options. Frontier used to be a great airline. Today I think taking a Greyhound bus is a better option with a better chance of getting there before you will on a Frontier flight.

  • LonnieC

    I voted “no” (they didn’t offer Lloyd enough compensation), but I’d guess that Frontier will not pay anything more. This seems to be just another example of the general lack of care and courtesy we see time and time again from large corporations. It’s a shame, too, as they used to be able to treat us decently and still make a profit. Good luck….

  • Carchar

    I’m wondering whether Frontier will actually end up refunding the $445 at all, let alone in 3 to 6 weeks. I voted no, as they tossed the young traveler off the plane again and abandoned him to fend for himself.

  • madtad1

    She needs to file a complaint with the FAA as well. That will make the airline stand up and take notice.

  • Meredith Putvin

    The Minor is accompanied (or should be) until a listed adult is present to take over, then identification should be checked. At Least this was Northwest & Southwest Airlines policy. Sometimes the child was brought down to the baggage claim office for the airline (I’ve seen this happen). I used Northwest’s & Southwest’s program’s extensively, making sure that both myself and my ex- in laws knew the score…

  • Meredith Putvin

    The Ticket and the gate agent dropped the ball. The tickets and boarding passes should have been flagged in such a way that alerted them immediately. I’ve used these programs extensively for my own daughter who is now 20. If the agent followed established policy, none of this should have happened.

  • Rebecca

    To be fair, it is the bank’s fault you don’t see a refund until the next day after its processed. For example, if you return something at Target, they refund the money immediately to your card. You see it the next business day because this is when the bank “batches” the refunds. I completely agree “3 to 6 weeks” is unreasonable. It SHOULD be the next day. Most retailers have adapted this model, where it’s processed immediately and it’s batched overnight at the bank. In this case, it’s a matter of waiting on Frontier to process it. Then it will almost certainly show up the next day.

  • jmiller45

    will give the OP some slack here because this may have been her first time using the UM service & didn’t realize that she should have stayed at the gate until the plane taxied to the runway. Do not understand why the gate agent didn’t ask for the paperwork when the OP & her nephew first arrived at the gate.

  • Nathan Witt

    If required paperwork was missing at the gate, no one should have allowed a minor to board to begin with. Once he’s on your plane, he’s your responsibility. Why would you accept the responsibility without the necessary documents? Also, if there are any lawyers lurking around, does the act of ejecting him from the plane end Frontier’s legal responsibility for him?

  • Éamon deValera

    If that is policy you would think the Frontier agent at check in would have given her a pass to accompany the child through TSA screening. Someone is the idiot but I think it is behind the counter.

  • Lindabator

    But they are paying for the more EXPENSIVE ticket, so since he did end up flying, this was a good option

  • Lindabator

    NO – not having all the proper paperwork is YOUR responsibility — clearly shows on website, which would have helped her a great deal

  • JewelEyed

    I don’t agree, actually. At all. The whole thing was ridiculous and if a single employee had handled things in a logical manner, none of this would have happened. I think considering their history of horrible service, Frontier should have to take this one on the chin, give back everything, and do something to make sure it never happens again.

  • I’m guessing that when the supervisor refunded the $100 UM fee, it unchecked something at the gate negating the UM authorization, so the gate agent ignored it. Or they are just a bunch of idiots. Either way he’s a 14 year old and they took him and put him onto the plane. They can’t just dump him. Their procedures need fixing to take out the contradictions to assure nothing like this ever happens again. Due to their lack of ability to do their jobs correctly, I think he was unfairly bumped and deserves “involuntary bump compensation” at minimum, and since he did not fly on their airline at all, he deserves a refund of his flight fare. Offering to take care of the other flight’s fare is not enough. If he had gotten bumped and still flown on their airline he would have gotten a bump compensation in addition to the flight. They did not get him there at the contracted time and the plane took off as scheduled or within reasonable time to get him to his destination near the contracted time. As far as criminal negligence, that is for a legal team, but if it was my kid, I’d pursue it, especially since it is a known crime scene. Get hold of an attorney and provide them the info in mjclaxden comment about the statute and what has gone on in the concourse previously. It’s worth a try.. Then add punitive damages on top of it all.