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Airline Changes Child Policy After Mistake

THE NATION

August 03, 2001|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After mistakenly sending an 11-year-old girl from Los Angeles to Florida instead of to Detroit, America West Airlines has decided that it will no longer let children fly alone on flights that make en route stops.

The Phoenix-based carrier said Thursday that starting Sept. 10, children between 5 and 11 who are flying without adult accompaniment will be booked only on nonstop flights. Children under 5 must be accompanied by an adult.

Patty Nowack, a spokeswoman for the airline, said America West lacks the resources to supervise young children traveling alone.

On July 14, 11-year-old Aunnalise Woods' mother drove her from their home in Palms to Los Angeles International Airport and put the girl on an America West flight to Phoenix.

When she arrived in Phoenix, the girl was supposed to transfer to a flight to Detroit, where her father was waiting for her. Instead, Aunnalise ended up on a flight to Orlando.

"Something went wrong in our process," said Jim Sabourin, another spokesman for the airline.

The girl's grandmother, Sheila Hawkins, said that when Aunnalise failed to show up in Detroit as scheduled, her parents became frantic. "When we tried to find out what was going on, the airline didn't know," Hawkins said.

The grandmother said it took several hours for America West to sort things out and put Aunnalise on a flight from Orlando to Detroit, accompanied by an adult.

Due to the vagaries of America West scheduling, that flight was routed through Las Vegas, and Aunnalise's entire trip from Los Angeles to Detroit took about 18 hours. As compensation, the airline gave the girl's family $400 in flight vouchers.

America West said customers who already have purchased tickets for children to travel alone on connecting flights after Sept. 10 will be offered full refunds.

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