Free-Range Kids

Airlines Think 15-Year-Olds Need Runway Escorts

Infantilizing ten travelers.


Unaccompanied Minors

At United Airlines, 15-year-olds will now have to be accompanied on and off the plane by a paid escort. Until this month, the requirement was only for kids aged 5-12.

This new rule will cost parents $150 a trip, which is such a total rip-off that the mind boggles even as the fingers Google. Let's see: Can 15-year-olds possibly make their way solo from security to the gate? Here's the list a fantastic site called Museum of Conceptual Art spits out when you put the age "15" into its "Things Other People Accomplished When They Were Your Age" rubric.

At age 15:

Composer George Gershwin ("Rhapsody in Blue") left school to pitch his songs in Tin Pan Alley.

Chess champion Bobby Fischer became an international grandmaster and dropped out of high school to devote himself to professional competition.

Swedish tennis star Bjorn Borg dropped out of school to concentrate on tennis.

American reformer Susan B. Anthony began teaching school.

Issac Asimov entered Columbia University.

Henry Ford, disliking life on the farm, moved to Detroit and trained as a machinist.

Ragtime musician Eubie Blake began playing piano in Baltimore brothels.

Benjamin Franklin contributed anonymously to a local newspaper, and he wrote ballads and peddled them in the streets. Also at this age, he became a free-thinker and a vegetarian.

Edith Piaf began her career singing in the streets of Paris.

Billie Holiday began singing in a Harlem nightclub.

Eddie Murphy performed his own comedy routines at youth centers in New York.

Louis Braille, blind since age 3, improved the method of raised writing.

Baker's apprentice Hanson Crockett Gregory invented the first ring doughnuts by knocking the center out of a fried doughnut.

Outlaw Jesse James joined up with Quantrill's pro-Confederate guerrillas.

Tennis player Jennifer Capriati became the youngest semifinalist at Wimbledon.

Inventor Thomas Alva Edison became manager of a telegraph office.

Newspaper editor Horace Greeley became an apprentice printer.

Anne Frank wrote the final entry in her diary.

D. Eversz gave herself a concussion in Foot Locker after attempting to do a backflip off the counter. [Lenore here: Not sure why that's on the list.]

A 15-year-old boy in southern India performed a Caesarean section on film, in an attempt to get his name in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest surgeon. The surgery was successful, but his physician father may face criminal charges and have his license revoked.

Then again, maybe United is afraid of kids running away. After all, at age 14, according to that same wonderful "Accomplishment" calculator:

American statesman and military commander Sam Houston ran away from home to live with the Cherokee Indians.

Danish fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen ran away to Copenhagen and became an apprentice at the Royal Theater.

W. R. Grace, founder of the Grace shipping lines, ran away to sea.

By the way, American and Delta both require chaperons until age 14, so they are almost as insulting as United. And, according to The Los Angeles TimesAir New Zealand is giving unaccompanied minors a special wrist band that texts their parents throughout the flight to let them know where they are. "Oh, Jordyn just crossed the 15th Parallel North. Phew!"

Wasn't I just saying in a recent post on my blog that soon parents will be expected to be as all-seeing, all-knowing, all-controlling as God?

Parents must be God and their kids are helpless babies, beset by adversity they cannot face alone, like trying to find a tuna sandwich near the gate that doesn't cost $12. And now the age of a helpless baby-hood has been extended to 15. Wait a few years and kids won't be able to travel unaccompanied until they are shipping out to Afghanistan.