Disturbing? Cool? Both! 3 Kids Take Plane Trip W/Out Informing Parents

Hi Readers! This is just one strange story. A 15 year old Florida girl, Bridget Brown, saved up $700 in babysitting money and used it to take her friend, 13,  and younger brother, 11,  on a plane ride from Jacksonville to Nashville.

The trio cabbed it to the airport, boarded the flight without any problems (Southwest allows kids age 12 and up to travel without adult supervision), and got to their destination. They called their parents from there and immediately flew home.  Bridget is quoted as saying the impetus for this trip was simply this: she just wanted to fly somewhere — and had the money.

So what makes this disturbing? That the kids didn’t tell their parents. (Yes, even Free-Range me thinks kids should let their parents know when they’re flying off to another state.) Also that Southwest didn’t ask any of them for IDs, at least according to this MSNBC account. That’s weird.

What makes it cool? The kids’ spirit of adventure. Their competence in the adult world. The fact they got their money refunded in the end.

Which just may mean a sequel. — Lenore

75 Responses

  1. Why did they get the money back? I don’t understand.

  2. I just hope Southwest isn’t pressured to change their policy about allowing kids over 11 to fly without an adult.

    If they checked in online, and had no checked baggage, I wouldn’t expect Southwest to ask them for an ID. The TSA is another story, of course.

  3. It’s a great bit of news. And I applaud those kids for their sense of adventure. Yes, they should’ve told their parents, but the people at the airport should’ve done their job and asked for ID as well.

    Something went wrong. But that shouldn’t result in a rule change. It should be a teaching moment so airport personnel will know what to do the next time a bunch of kids come along.

    Now, if only I could get my plane fare refunded after taking the flight….

  4. Yes, I’m confused as well about the refund. Sounds like she made a perfectly sound decision on what she wanted, and was satisfied with the purchase. What’s the issue?

  5. Wow. That’s pretty wild of those kids. I’m not sure I agree with kids doing that, though in a child’s mind I think “cool”. Me thinks they should be grounded. There is a big difference between running down the block and hopping a plane.

  6. A cool story! And Lenore, your analysis of it is right on.
    On another note, I’m curious how you (and the previous commenters) managed to post on August 14. Here in the US Central Time Zone, we’re only half-way through the 13th (12:24 as I write this)..

  7. If a child has enough upmpha to save that much money, make all the arrangemets, follow through, and include friends and family – I say WOW! Of course, they have probably been watching too many disney movies that show them exactly how to do it. 🙂

  8. I can’t stop smiling! I did a similar thing at exactly 15, it was the summer before I started college and I wanted to go on a trip with a cousin who was eleven years my senior. Grandma said no, and off my cousin and her friends went. However…I had the airfare in savings, access to my birth certificate and the gumption. I called home when I arrived in the Bahamas and located my cousin and her friends. The 7 day stay was well worth the 2 week stay-in upon my return.

    As the parent of 18 and 11 year olds, I’m ambivalent about how I’d feel if my children pulled the same stunt, but I think I’d probably let them go if they asked.

  9. As others have mentioned, kudos to them on their free spirit and initiative. But, Free-Range or not, they still should have let their parents know. It’s the responsible thing to do. The trip itself isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that they did it on their own WITHOUT letting anyone know. Part of Free-Range is teaching our children to also be responsible. I hope the parents don’t come down too hard on them, and the kids learn from this experience.

    I think the reason why they got their money back, was probably because the Airline knew they messed up by not inquiring about ID. Refunding the money was probably to quell the parents more than anything.

    I’m wondering what the parents had to say about all of this. A sequel is definitely something to look forward to. lol

  10. The spontaneous person in me says, “Wow! How cool!” However, the parent that I am would ground their butts until Christmas for not telling me.

    Well, maybe not Christmas. But as a parent, I think I’d be pretty pissed off that my kid flew to Nashville without informing me, not because it’s “unsafe” but because, as others said, it’s the responsible thing to do.

    I’m jealous of the adventure though. I wish I had $700 to just hop a plane and go somewhere for a day. 🙂

  11. There is a distinction between admiring a kid’s spunk and wanting yours to do the same, isn’t there?

  12. I would have certainly grounded my kids for that one, but how awesome that they were able to do it! I mean, this adventure screams 1950 – when no one was checking ID’s and the skies were friendly. (Not to mention kids actually saved money to do what they wanted rather than hounding their parents for ages to buy it!)

    Kudos! They’ll never forget it as long as they live, I bet. Awesome.

  13. I don’t applaud these kids. With freedom comes responsibility. They shouldn’t be applauded for flying to another state without parental permission. Nor should the airline be held responsible for the lapse in judgment by the 15yo.

    What’s worse is that the lesson the kids will learn is not about how to make the correct travel arrangements. Their parents seem more interested in placing the blame on the airline rather than where it should lie: with the kids. So by blaming the airline for not asking questions, they absolve the 15yo of any responsibility for her actions, thus teaching her that there are no consequences for her poor choices.

    As a result, airlines will put even more roadblocks up for unaccompanied minors and it’ll be that much harder for my boy–who travels with parental permission–to travel alone.

  14. our news report was 100% blaming the airlines, FAA and TSA. Who is not to blame? The kids or the parents. They were “victims of the careless authorities and airlines”. Give me a break.
    Kids tried to run away from home, were really stupid about it and maybe if the parents would have taught them a little more life lessons (like geography) they wouldn’t be on the news.

    All kids at one point in time try to run away from home (if not actually then mentally dream of it). These guys just did it.
    Perhaps the parents underestimated the maturity of the kids and money. Or their common sense.

    They wanted to go to ….Dollywood. eesh. DisneyWorld is in their own backyard and much cooler (LOL)

  15. Yeah…what is with all the posts dated August 14? It’s 1:08pm August 13 where I am….is there some Friday the 13th rule in online-land that the date will never appear in print? Ha.

  16. Beth and AI,

    I would like to say hello from the future. The weather is great!

  17. My kids would be so grounded. I am all for the kids flying alone and young kids being allowed to fly with just an older kid. But having a 15 year old be able to purchase the tickets, In person, for a 11 year old who is under there age requirement seems wrong.

  18. Just so you all know, children under 18 are NOT required to show ID by either the airlines or the TSA. Usually because they don’t necessarily have licenses and such (especially kids under 16).

  19. I’ve raised my kids to be independent and self sufficient, but if either of them just up and flew off somewhere without telling me – and this goes for the 18 year-old, too, because he’s still in high school and lives at home! – I would peel the hide from their skinny asses.

    It’s one thing to have a sense of adventure, and totally another to be irresponsible about it, and scare the bejeebus out of your mother.

  20. I’ll bet they’re great kids but they should not have gotten their money back. Why? They flew!

  21. My kids would definitely be in trouble, but it would be one of those instances where I would have to suppress my smile while discussing how irresponsible it was to fly to another state without letting me know.

    I would imagine there are tons of kids their age who fly regularly alone between their parents’ homes. It’s a shame that this isolated incident will probably make it more difficult and harder for a FR kid to be FR.

  22. I absolutely do not think that the kid should have gotten her money back. I think the loss of $700 is a fair penalty for going to another state without telling your parents. Now the kids get an adventure and their $700.

    And what’s with blaming everyone blaming the airlines and the TSA? 15, 13 and 11 are not asked for ID because they are not required to show one to get on a plane because most pre-driving age children don’t have an ID. For most of my childhood, my father lived in one state and me another. I flew as an unaccompanied minor several times a year every year. I walked all over the airport to kill time so it’s not so unusual that kids would be going through security by themselves, even kids traveling with their parents may have been given the freedom to roam. The only people to blame here are the kids.

    I do think the story is funny as long as it is someone else’s child. I’d probably kill mine if she tried this, while silently cheering her gumption.

  23. One other point: How many teenagers are engaging in way more risky behavior and still managing to make it home for dinner each night?

  24. “There is a distinction between admiring a kid’s spunk and wanting yours to do the same, isn’t there?”

    Not really. If this was MY kid, I’d admire his spunk. I’d also ground his irresponsible behind. The feelings would mutually co-exist just as the feelings of both liking my child’s budding indpendence and not liking his stubbornnness in exercising it mutally co-exist.

    By the way, I’d have no problem with my child doing this at 16….provided he ASKED me first.

  25. As a night shift worker, I have to admire so many people up commenting on Free Range Kids in the middle of the night!! Go night flyers!!!

    (Yes, I realize it’s probably a time stamp issue, but I’m enjoying it anyway.)

  26. All seems perfectly reasonable to me.

    If they had ID’s to get through TSA, had valid tickets, and were flying on an airline that allows unaccompanied minors, I don’t see where anyone had any liability.

    They should be grounded for a month for not telling their parents where they were going.

  27. I think I remember a story about actress Molly Shannon in which she had done the same thing as a kid. I laughed at the story – not sure how I would react to my kids doing this … Though… I have to say, my 14 year old is extremely capably, responsible, wary when necessary, has more pocket money than I do, is “more connected” n a number of destination cities. Hmmmm…. AND – she and her friends are regularly mistaken for much older – even though – to us – they look their age, so…. easy to see how it could happen. But – yeah – communication best – TELL your parents. My brother and I did international flights all the time as a kid – so did my cousin – our parents lived overseas and we often visited friends and family back in the states… Never a problem – of course, the airline was aware.

  28. Totally sounds like something I would have done. Of course, I never stepped foot on a commercial plane until I was in my 20s, so I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to do that alone. But I sure did other things just to prove to myself that I could get there & back alive. And I wouldn’t have told my folks, either.

    Not that some of my adventures weren’t stupid!

    I really don’t think this is that big of a deal. The only thing that would really bother me would be if I was the 13-year-old’s mom. Obviously the 15-year-old was competent enough to do this and to watch out for her brother. But taking someone else’s kid on an adventure like that is kind of a no-no.

    I’d also feel sad that my kid wasted her $700 on something so fleeting. But if she earned it, she ought to spend it the way she wants – and learn her lesson through buyer’s remorse. (Don’t see why she got it refunded either.)

  29. Someone mentioned admiring our kids’ spunk in spite of everything. That’s totally me! This is off topic, but this morning my 3yo went off to put her shoes on, and came back with them tied up like those ancient knee-high sandal straps. Ha ha! I let her go to school like that. I think her teacher is still cursing me, LOL.

    Many are the times I’ve chuckled proudly and issued a threat in the same breath.

    I was very adventurous as a kid (for a city girl, LOL). I am really not sure why I am still alive, but I’m thinking it’s got something to do with horse sense. There’s only one way to attain it.

  30. I’m all for making sure kids have the skills to do this, but part of the skill-set is to inform the people who need to know about your travel plans.
    I actually see this as an example of the of the effects of the opposite of free-ranging. Kids kept on a leash at all times, will frequently brake their way into freedom without knowing the consequeences.
    If you, on the other hand, is given responsibility and learn to manage without parents telling you what to do all the time at an earlier age, you’re bound to know more about how your actions affect other people. As I recall from school trips when I was younger, the wildest and least considerate ones were always the ones with the least freedom at home.
    My kids (then 16 and 11) flew on their own from Canada to Norway last year: had a 12 hour stop-over in Iceland (where they’d never been before); managed to find their way , ask for directions, go downtown Reykjavik to eat and do some sightseeing; they also managed to neither lose their passports nor the connecting flight. They weren’t afraid, called home only once to reassure us, and generally felt they had the skills necessary to do this on their own.
    And no, their tickets weren’t refunded, unfortunately for me.

  31. The only policy I can see the airline reasonably changing is that apparently a minor can buy a plane ticket for another minor. Maybe I’m just a product of the overprotected generation, but it seems to me like if we don’t let kids older siblings sign permission forms for field trips, we certainly shouldn’t be letting them buy plane tickets for lil’ bro.

    I think if they were my kids (if I had kids) I’d be cross with them for not letting me know, but impressed with their independence. Then again, I’d almost certainly be cool with them doing it anyway. I think Hege might be on to something: is it possible these kids are a little sheltered and overprotected, and thus didn’t have the experience to know that running away to a different city is a bigger and scarier* thing than running away to the other side of town?

    *I don’t mean it’s dangerous, but being in an unfamiliar place can be unnerving even for a seasoned traveler, and it’s nice to know someone back home knows where you are.

  32. I admire the savings ability this young person has demonstrated.
    I think the parents should have been informed.
    If they were my kids I would be impressed, but still ground them upon their return! Because no matter what, they broke the rules. (ie, not telling me where they were going!)
    I did the same thing to my little brother who was 7 and went to the shops (4km – 2.5mi) to buy his “girlfriend” some chocolate. I was impressed with the independence, the fact he had saved his pocket money (and that he was showing signs of being a little romantic) BUT I still grounded him for a week.

  33. Why is this even a national news story?

  34. Great post, Lenore.

    The refund was probably motivated by the PR department.

    I’m surprised at some reactions here, though. Sound a lot like “I’m a FRP, but…”

    What these kids did was simply awesome. And safer than going joyriding with a friend to celebrate a new driver’s license. Or bumpershining. Or experimenting with alcohol. They went on a little in-country trip and came back safe and sound.

    Had it been my kid, I certainly would have *discussed* why they should have told me before going, but punishment certainly wouldn’t teach anything in this situation.

  35. In my (somewhat) limited experience with domestic air travel for minors, I’ve found that they most certainly DO require ID. School ID, state ID, some type of ID. Where I live, every kid has a picture ID from school from 6th grade on. That’s age 11. They have to wear them on a lanyard every day at school.

    My kid had difficulty, at 17, getting on an Amtrak without an ID. And Amtrak is not the poster child for security, lemme tell ya’.

  36. Wait. They got their money REFUNDED?!? That is pure idiocy in my opinion. They weren’t looking for a refund, were they? I think it would have been a brilliant lesson in the value of a dollar. Instead they learned that if you complain loudly enough (as I’m sure their parents did) that you can get your way.

  37. “I’m surprised at some reactions here, though. Sound a lot like “I’m a FRP, but…”

    Actually, I will fully admit that I am not a complete FRP and probably never will be. But even if I did consider myself a full-fledged FRP that wouldn’t mean my child would be without boundaries. One of my boundaries as a parent is my child needs to tell me where he is going. For me, that’s not even a boundary; that’s a rule. In our house, you break a rule, you get punished.

    I’m not saying you’d be wrong to do otherwise; it is just simply a difference in parenting styles.

    Again, I applaud their spirit, but I still think it was irresponsible considering the girl took two of her friends without informing **their** parents either where they were going. But I wouldn’t be mad at the airline; I’d be mad at my kid. And I agree with those who said a refund shouldn’t have been issued. A great lesson about spending your money was lost here, IMO.

  38. I think this is great, in and of itself, but I know where it’s going. The airlines, under pressure from a bunch of adults with too much time on their hands who claim to speak for the benefit of kids, will come up with a new raft of regulations to restrict kids from flying without a parent right there on the spot to say it’s OK.

    I still applaud the kids, but life is about to become more difficult.

  39. Of course it’s awesome. And equally of course, if they did this without informing anybody about their little trip they should be grounded for a while when they get home. But it’s still pretty cool!

  40. I think where the airline screwed up is in not requiring some kind of verification that the kids had permission to fly, and allowing a minor to purchase a ticket for another minor, It just seems like simple common sense that the airlines should have safeguards against older minors facilitating younger minors running away from home.

    There isn’t a kidnapper or predator behind every bush, but kids do run away every day, for real. Probably it should be a little harder than this to use an airplane to do it. This is a lot more of an actual danger than, say, SNOW GLOBES.

  41. I’d be secretly applauding my kids while scolding them if it were mine doing that. I have a few years before they’re old enough to try anything remotely that adventurous. I’d be pretty upset that they didn’t tell me they were going, and that would be the biggest problem.

  42. “What these kids did was simply awesome.”

    No really it wasn’t. To me there is absolutely nothing awesome or free range about a few misbehaved little brats lying to their parents about their whereabouts and taking off on a joyride over 3 states on a plane. There is nothing awesome about kids getting on a plane to get to an amusement park only to have no idea how to get there. I am free range but free range doesn’t mean that my child gets to do whatever the hell she feels like whenever she feels like doing it and lie to me about it. I would be all for the trip if and ONLY IF we have discussed it first and I knew what was going on. Extolling the awesomeness of this story is why some believe that free range means no parenting at all.

    It isn’t about fear or danger. It’s about responsibility and respect. Freedom is based on trust and my kid would have broken any I had in her by lying about where she was going and what she was doing to this extent.

    I do think that this is where free range has advantages over other parenting styles. At 15 and 11, I’d let my kids go on this adventure if it was rationally planned and not a trip to an amusement park that they have no idea how to get too. Therefore, I don’t see any reason that they would lie about what they were doing. That was certainly the experience in my childhood. My free range mother let me do many things and as a result I was always very upfront about where I was going, unlike my friends who always said they were spending the night at my house regardless of where we were going.

  43. The story is a good one and the only person who has a right to be upset, if anyone, is the mom at the kids for not asking permission.

    The ticket should not have been refunded since they got the flights they wanted and there were no problems.

    And ID should not be required of anyone at all, not just kids.

    And airlines don’t need to be checking up on 15 yr olds, the way they handled it was fine.

  44. It reminds me of the Simpson’s episode where Bart drives his friends to Knoxville because they think there is a World’s Fair going on there, not realizing it was 20 years prior. When they get there, instead of a Fair there is a wig shop. After the all buy wigs, they are out of money and stuck in Knoxville. To earn money to get back to Springfield, Bart signs up as a courier and ends up delivering human corneas for transplant to Tibet where he runs into his school Principal Mr. Skinner who had had a nervous breakdown from Bart and was advised to go study meditation in Tibet to get away from him.

  45. My daughter regularly flies alone. To the point where she wonders why I insist on getting a pass and going through security with her. She also knows that if she was flying to a different province (Canada) or into the US all she would need to do would be ask and I would make the arrangements for her.

    I’m wondering how the 15yo booked the ticket, because at least up here in the frozen north you need a credit card!

    Otherwise, I totally agree that this is the 15yo’s fault, not the airline, not TSA, and not even really the parents… after all, how many of us have thought to tell our children not to leave the STATE without permission??!!

    Oh, and btw… wouldn’t it be kidnapping to take minor children across state lines without thier parents’ permission? You can kidnap your siblings… it has certainly happened before!

  46. I agree with Donna. My rule is I have to know where my kids are. If they tell me they’re one place and I find out they’re somewhere else there are consequences. Being free range means being responsible, whether they’re three houses away or three states.

    I don’t understand why they got the money back. What a great lesson that was missed. She saved her money and blew it, it should be gone for good.

  47. Sorry, this is very disturbing and not at all cool. The fact that these kids snuck off behind their parents’ backs overshadows everything else. The reason my kids have the freedoms that they do is because I can TRUST them. By the time they are teenagers, I can imagine that they will get to do a lot of really cool things. But if my daughter, at age 15, would ask if she could take a pointless plane trip with two younger friends, and in the process spending her entire savings, the answer would be hell no. I might consider helping her plan an organized trip, perhaps for after graduation. Or I would let her do something smaller, like ride a Greyhound bus to a nearby city for the day (something that I myself did at 15). Of course, if she already had a habit of lying to me and sneaking around, then she wouldn’t get to do squat.

  48. Kudos to the kids who have that adventurous spirit which many do not have (including my younger half sister and half brother sadly enough). Though I take away kudos away from the kids for not telling their parents ahead of time and I take kudos away from Southwest for not verifying the identities of the kids and not verifying everything with the parents.

  49. As a non-parent the only thing I have issue with is not telling their parents. If I’d notice absent children and no one knowing, I’d freak the h*** out.
    The girl spent 700 dollars and didn’t seem to have minded the expense so why a refund?

    When I was a few years older I went on a trip to East Asia and fell in love with everything around me. One morning I called my mother to inform her that I wouldn’t be home at the date I had said, rather I’d stay on. It took me 2 years to finally make it home. It makes you grow, but like I said, I was older than the ones in this story.

  50. According to the ABC news report I watched online, the kids wanted to go to Dollywood amusement park but landed at the wrong airport, hence the reason for calling their parents.

    I have mixed feelings about this story. It’s great that the girl had the motivation to save so much money from her babysitting job. However, it’s sad that she couldn’t tell her parents her plans.

  51. Totally irrespobsible. What if there had been a terrorist keen on marrying them off to his Taliban friends?

  52. Unless there have been a lot of problems specific to *children* buying plane tickets for other children I would be really annoyed at airlines bringing in policies to stop it.

    It would place a real a burden on families when they buy tickets. Just consider how you would prove your age in such a transaction – you can’t do it over the internet or phone, it’s going to have to be face to face. One more way that families would be required to jump through hoops that others don’t.

    The only problem I see here is that the kids went so far from home without telling their parents (and apparently did so in a way that meant they had to call their parents for help). And that’s something they can do by bus, train or car too.

  53. tommynomad you wrote: I’m surprised at some reactions here, though. Sound a lot like “I’m a FRP, but…”

    Please let’s not start with “How can you call yourself a free-range parent when you don’t/do . . .” One of the things that stands my hair on end about, for instance, the Attachment Parenting movement is the constant policing that goes on within that group. I feel for those people! You can’t let your guard down least you be accused of not adhering to The Book of Sears.

    Here’s perhaps not the place to wax nostalgic about my own free range childhood, but if a contest thread ever gets going regarding whose childhood was the free-rangiest , I feel I confident I could be a contender. It didn’t get much more relaxed than Mom and Dad. Suffice to say, even then, in our 1970s New York suburban neighborhood, my folks’ laissez-faire parenting style raised some eyebrows. But doing something like getting on a plane and flying to another state without telling them wouldn’t have rated as “cool”. There’s a word for kids who think they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, without consideration for anyone else. It’s the same word we used in the 70s: Brat.

  54. What was disturbing to me was the “safety statement” that a childhood prank like this could now be taken up by the terrorists and kids flying planes officially becomes a terrorist threat: Seriously?!?!?

    “”Richard Bloom, an aviation security expert at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., said while this incident amounted to a childhood jaunt, it highlights legitimate safety implications.
    “The moral of the story is, at least in other parts of the world, young people are engaged in weapons, planting bombs, testing security,” he said. “The point is terrorist groups, insurgent groups, other kinds of transnational groups, what have you, they read the papers, they watch TV, they look at security lapses. And they take that information as they develop their own terrorist operations and anti-government operations.””

  55. I see great things in their future….

  56. I saw this earlier this morning on the Today Show and my first thought was, parents? Of course people are so fast to blame the airline (especially the parents). And the kids were there looking all innocent and seemed to be thinking how they are not in trouble all, it is the airlines fault. I wonder what else these kids get away with at school and anywhere else in their lives. So fast to blame the airline, pathetic. I am sure legal action is coming soon, anything for money.

  57. As soon as my best friend got his license, we drove from Indianapolis to Chicago and spent the day there. I was 15 at the time, and he was 16. It was terrifying and exciting (and not quite legal – he was supposed to be riding with other licensed drivers only, etc.).

    We spent the day downtown and had an absolute blast – and never told our parents.

  58. @Peter Brülis, that’s kind of far-fetched of a statement.
    Lets not fall into the trap of here comes the terrorists to do whatever they want with our children.
    Child marriage IS a concern, but it is a practise fascilitated by parents.

  59. What Kenny Felder (August 14 @ 8:57 am) and Ali (August 14 @ 5:10 pm) said.

  60. I for one do NOT want Southwest or other airlines to change its policy. Why should a whole age group suffer because of 3 pranksters.

    I have one minor relative with a crazy, addict parent. After a particularly scary incident, she was able to get herself to friends. Her stepmother arranged a ticket home to sane parent’s house. While her sane father is trying to get custody she has to go back to crazy mom’s house.

    As a safety feature her Dad and Stepmom got her a state ID and a credit card. If mom goes off the rails, relative is to call a cab go to the airport, buy a ticket – get behind security. She is to try and get hold any relative in the city her Dad lives in to pick her up.

    She is 15. I don’t want the airlines to suddenly require her to be 18 to buy a ticket.

    There are also 6 other minor relatives traveling with different sports teams/school groups/internships over the summer break. They all have an emergency get home safely credit card with them. Most of the time they also have names and numbers of friends and family in the area they are visiting to call for help. This is just in case something goes wrong, or an adult on the trip turns squirrely.

    Kids in our family have been doing trips like this for four generations. I can only think of one time when things went bad – there was the chaperon from hell making bigoted remarks, and a student tried to expose family member to a deadly allergen.

    In that case the other chaperons took care of the situation. The family member (age 16) had to threaten to call relatives in the country they were visiting to pick her up before she was taken seriously.

  61. Kimberly: sounds like very wise pre-cautions. I hope all goes well and that the father gets permanent custody.

  62. No one at the airline did anything wrong here, IMO. The kids were bold and I admire that. If it was MY kid, they would get some punishment for not asking, but it would be tempered by how well they pulled it off. I would rather them be bold than scared, and learning how to do that takes trial and error.

    About the ID thing….

    The ID rules were made for security reasons, to make it harder to hide your identity in case of criminal intent. It is also handy for emergencies.

    That said, you DON’T need an ID to fly. When I say this, no one ever believes me, but its TRUE! If you don’t have one, you just undergo multiple, more vigorous, security checks. They don’t keep you off the plane unless they think you’re going to blow it up. I have flown ID less many times, no problem.

    Kids that age wouldn’t even HAVE an ID, so it makes plenty of sense not to ask them for it. Its not a mistake- it is common sense! Seeing a few kids, old enough to fly but not old enough to have ID, they made the rational choice not to ask- its not like they were a security risk or something.

    Its not the airlines job to police your children and make sure they are following your rules. If they pay, are of stated age, they fly. Simple.
    I haven’t read the comments yet, I may be back 😉

  63. They should get NO refund! WTH? They got to fly, they get to pay!

  64. Just shows that kids are well able to take care of themselves much earlier than we often give them credit for. That said, it would have truly been a free range experience if the kids had told their parents what they were planning and had parents willing to let them go and encouraged the kids to handle all of the details. I was a free range parent and I always knew where my kids were (and this was before cell phones entirely for one kid and until 10th grade for the other), and they always knew where I was. The need to know each other’s whereabouts was simply because we love each other and if something came up and we had to reach one another, or if one of us didn’t get home, the rest of us would know where to begin the search.

  65. I flew at age 12 (1968) cross country with 2 younger kids in tow. True, my parents saw us off in LA, Calif. and a cousin picked us up in JFK, but it shows that kids can fly themselves – hey these day 14 -15 year olds sail around by themselves!

  66. I love how the last line is “Who is to blame.”
    There is no one to blame, this is just a one in a million event that took place.

    Yes, the kids should have told their parents [although I doubt the parents would have said yes], but no one really did anything wrong because nothing wrong was really done. Strange, and unique [I can’t believe the ticket counter people did not ask questions to what was going on] but that doesn’t make things wrong.

    Had this been a planned trip, what would have been different with the kids traveling if the parents have bought the tickets before hand? Nothing.

    The only problem as I can see it, is how the kids were able to buy plane tickets and take a cab WITH cash, without being hassled. Heck, a typical adult can’t get a plane ticket without an ID and credit card these days.

    I don’t know whether to be offended by the obvious ‘age-ism’, or appalled that the added ‘precautions’ in a post 9/11 world is just for show.

  67. Well, I may be the outlier here. But when I was a kid, my parents didn’t need to know where I was at all times. As long as I got home at the appointed time or had a darn good excuse not to.

    It depends on how much trust a kid has earned, but I could definitely see an otherwise responsible 15-year-old being given enough trust and freedom to decide where they want to go and how they want to get there, without telling the parents. And that would include a short plane commute, provided they had made realistic arrangements to be back by curfew.

    Some 15-year-olds go off to college. The trust and freedom has to start sometime.

    That said, there are some tidbits that make me think this 15yo didn’t qualify for that much free-range trust (based on comments above, assuming they are true). One, they didn’t make workable arrangements to accomplish their goal and get back before the folks would start worrying about them. Two, bringing along the younger kids without permission. Three, the fact that they got their money back suggests their parents really don’t believe they should be accountable – and accountability is really necessary for a truly free-range lifestyle.

  68. I admire the kids independence, but as a parent I say grounded kids. They shouldn’t have gone off without parent permission.

    It is an adventure they will never forget and even though they didn’t think it through as well as they should have they still showed a lot of independence that I don’t see in so many kids that age. Imagine what their “what I did on summer vacation” essays will say.

    As for the whole ID thing. The airline itself has a policy that minors don’t have to show ID when boarding or purchasing (even when alone) and I believe the TSA has the same rule. It’s a practical rule simply because most minors don’t have any type of state/government issued ID. A birth certificate has no way of being verified that it belongs to the person showing it so that doesn’t work. It’s not all that uncommon for minors to travel alone and purchase tickets and board without ID. They do it a lot to visit parents and other relatives. It’s just that in general the adults in their lives know about the trips.

  69. Anyone else shocked by the fact that someone at MSNBC is using this story to add their own little terrorist rant? 10 year old terrorists? PLEEASE! Get a grip!

  70. I agree the 15 year old whouldnot get her money back, she got to fly and that is what she paid for, however I probably would not have gotten to this point as I wouldn’t have called the airline to complain in the first place.
    Actually I am a bit surprised Southwest actually responded – kudos to them for having real customer service.
    In my world the refund would be going to a children’s charity. Seems like a good thing to do with it.

  71. Cool: the girl saved up money to do something she wanted to do.

    Uncool: They only bought ONE WAY tickets and didn’t have any idea how to get to their final destination (which was 200 miles from where they landed). They didn’t tell their parents where they were going.

    This was a silly prank and doesn’t deserve much of a pat on the back. If they had actually had a plan to get to the park and back home I would be very impressed. As it stands, though, it was very foolish. I hope my kids never pull a stunt like this!

    I don’t agree that the airline should have refunded the ticket – they did nothing wrong. They followed their policies and the kids took the flight. The kids got what they paid for. Refunding the ticket implies guilt on the part of the airline.
    For the sake of kids who DO plan ahead and have some sense I hope that the airlines don’t revamp their policy regarding unaccompanied minors.

  72. My kids flew unaccompanied last week. The Continental airlines minors desk stated that (a) kids 11 and under had to be checked in by an adult, and did not need ID (b) kids 12 and over needed ID, but could check in without an adult. So obviously ID requirements are something that vary by airline.

    As a teenager I frequently flew alone, and got bored of the whole unaccompanied minor stuff by age 14, so then I would just fly as a regular passenger. I had no adult checking me in, since I was on route from boarding school, and usually made my own way to the airport. I do think the airlines should require ID of someone (either the adult checking the child in, or the teenager checking their self in). But otherwise I would not like any new restrictions on children flying alone: teenagers should be able to buy their own tickets (when I was at boarding school many kids from overseas bought their own tickets, it was simply easier for them to do so than for their parents in some remote place to do it for them). And teenagers should be able to check themselves in.

    The only thing anyone did wrong here was that the kids didn’t inform the parents where they were. But maybe the parents were the over-restrictive type? I know my own mother claimed that she behaved badly as a teenager, lying to her parents, sneaking out the house via the window, because her parents were so restrictive, and would never give her permission to do anything. She had the opposite attitude with me, giving me lots of freedom, and as a result I think I was quite a goody-goody as a teenager.

  73. The closest I ever got to this was when I was about 12 or so, and I walked with my 7-year-old brother to the downtown of our small city (definitely a no-no), about an hour’s walk away. My plan/goal was to take the bus home, but my information was out-of-date (my family never rode the bus): and I started putting money into the farebox only to realize that the price was higher than I thought, and I didn’t have the right change for it. The bus driver waved us on anyway, and I thought we were out of the woods– only to realize we were going the wrong direction. 🙂 We got off quickly and took the hour walk back home. I warned my brother to say nothing about this to our parents, but the strain of secrecy got to him and he spilled all that night. Don’t remember the punishment, but I probably got a stern and loud talking-to.

    Not really in the same league, of course, but the impulse was the same. In both cases, mistakes were made, and both adventures would have been better with a little parental notification beforehand. But the solution to that, from the parent’s point of view, is to be open-minded and courageous. If I had thought my mom would have approved of my little adventure (with suitable modifications perhaps), I would have been willing to ask her. Be willing to give kids a taste of adventure and self-sufficiency, and they are more likely to keep you in the loop when they feel the urge to go off on their own.

  74. If my kid did that, I might accept the refund and not let him/her have the money back–maybe donate it to charity. You don’t get a free airplane ride for not telling where you’re going.
    I don’t fault anyone but the kids for what they did, though. So on the other hand, I might tell the airline to keep the money. The kids got what they paid for, after all.

  75. At least they’ve got a good story out of it. 🙂

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