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.

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  1. "At United Airlines, 15-year-olds will now have to be accompanied on and off the plane by a paid escort."

    At the words "paid escort," several female public-school teachers pricked up their ears.

    1. "So, where's the $150 runway escort job I read about?"

      "Uh, Miss Haskell, why do you have all those nude photos in your resume?"

    2. For $150 bucks the kid had better get a "happy landing".

      1. boooooo

  2. "This new rule will cost parents $150 a trip,.."

    New airline revenue stream for the Triopoly!

    1. Yeah, I think you've hit on the real motivation for this change in policy. Before they weren't getting the $150 for every unaccompanied 12-15 year old. Now they can bilk their parents too.

  3. mmm... paid escorts *licks old man lips*

  4. I've been accompanied by paid escorts since I was 22, but 15 does seem a bit young.

    like trying to find a tuna sandwich near the gate that doesn't cost $12.

    Maybe the little fools should've eaten at home like normal, red-blooded Americans on a budget do. Next you'll be complaining about the price of hot dogs at the ballpark.

    1. Anyone who complains about the price of hot dogs at the ballpark shouldn't be at the stadium in the first place.

      1. Go back to whatever cricket-playing hellhole you crawled out of, you traitor.

        /sarc sarc sarc

      2. Occasionally I'll read reviews of the gameday experience at various NFL stadiums. Often the author spends a while blasting the food options inside, and all I can think is "If you aren't eating in the parking lot you're doing it wrong."

        1. Hey man, Safeco Field has some pretty good sushi and really tasty garlic fries. And actually ok beer.

          1. Which I will never try, because tailgating is the correct way to go. Besides the beer, which I might try at some point.

          2. Unfortunately, two out of every ten vendor carts are unmanned.

  5. I was flying without an escort at nine.

    1. Every summer my parents would stick my younger sister and I on a Greyhound bus for a trip from NW Minnesoda to our grandparents' home in SE Minnesoda. We were just talking about those trips and trying to figure out how young we were. My sister thinks she started going when she was 8 or so (which would have made me 11).

      Good times, but yeah I could only imagine the consternation at the Minneapolis bus depot if they saw an 11 and a 6 yr old get off one bus to make a connection to another bus.

      1. During the Great Depression, parents were known to put their kids on passenger trains from, say, Chicago to Texas. Although the tickets were one way...

  6. They need runway models, not runway escorts.

  7. Um... yeah. I flew to Central America by myself when I was 15, and they served me booze on the plane.

    These escorts... will they be hot?

    1. TSA hot.

      1. Which is to say "not."

        1. More John-hot, with more undulations of flesh.

  8. I was thinking Kit Carson should be on that list, but according to the Almighty Wiki, he waited 'til he ripe old age of 16 before he fled into the wilderness.

  9. Have any 15 year old's managed to produce quality alt-text?

  10. [At age 15,] Ragtime musician Eubie Blake began playing piano in Baltimore brothels.

    Obviously, he was an at-risk youth who was exploited, neglected and abused.

    Why do you hate children, Lenore?

    1. What are you talking about, I bet Mr. Blake had no shortage of paid escorts.

      1. Were those paid escorts vetted by the TSA?

        1. Tribunal of Syncopated Artists?

    2. "...there is a house...they call the "Rising Sun"
      And it has been the ruin of many a poor boy
      and God, I know I am one"

  11. I'd think you'd need a paid escort more on a Greyhound.

    1. A good point. I'm wondering if this decision is driven by flight attendants who try to do less customer service with each passing year.

  12. Billie Holiday began singing in a Harlem nightclub.

    And died at the age of 44 due to lifelong drug and alcohol abuse.

    Why do you hate children?

    1. Lenore doesn't hate children, just everyone else's children.

    2. 44 is no longer a child.

      Why do you hate growing up?

    3. Because they're loud, annoying, and dirty.

      That's why I keep all the children working in the mines.

  13. If we're gonna take all these Syrian refugees then I we need to employ them. "Here you go, honey. Say hi to your father. Now do exactly as Mahmud here says."

  14. When I was 12 my sister and her husband were stationed at Elmendorf AFT in Anchorage, AK. My family agreed,with my whole hearted enthusiasm, that it posed a great opportunity for me to spend a Summer in the Last Frontier. So they packed me up and put me on a flight [my first, a Brannif 727 with trademark red fuselage] and off I went. Had to change planes in Seattle, and thought I was freaking James Bond; the stewardess [this was before they became a gender neutral "flight attendant"] had to chase me down to tell me that I was already going where I was supposed to be going to make my connection [being a secret agent, I was all over the flight boards]; this was the Summer Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

    1. We sent our kids to stay for a month with our old neighbors who now live in Switzerland. The boys were 16 and 13. My wife paid for them to be accompanied through the Amsterdam airport and walked through Swiss customs.

      On the way back, our Swiss neighbor got a refund on the accompanied fee and gave it to the boys to split. She thought it was a total waste of time. The boys made it back through Amsterdam and had almost made it through customs in Minneapolis before a Delta employee chased them down and made them wait for an official chaperone to come get them.

      It turned out that even though the Swill neighbor got the accompanied fee refunded that kids' tickets were still flagged as needing a chaperone. I guess there was a mini-meltdown at MSP as they tried to find them. My oldest son said that they were giving him a hard time for not waiting on the plane for them. He told them that if they hadn't stopped him at Customs he would have already walked down the stairs and been with his parents.

      1. Swill Swiss

  15. Infantilizing ten travelers.

    I think you meant teen travelers.

  16. My grandfather at, IIRC, age 13 or 14 got a job working for a railroad to help support his mother and 8 brothers and sisters. When he first went down to apply, he was wearing knickers, and was told "Go away kid, you're too young." So he changed into a pair of long pants, went back and was hired.

    1. " age 13 or 14 got a job working for a railroad"

      Sure, but did he work all the livelong day?

      "to help support his mother and 8 brothers and sisters"

      So...not just to pass the time away, then?

      "changed into a pair of long pants"

      But I bet Dinah could make those pants come off!

  17. ...and the age of the the Youngest Eagle Scout is.......
    (in Ventura CA)
    I'm sure he needs a "pathfinder".

  18. I flew alone when I was barely twelve off to "nerd camp" in southern Cal. My first flight segment from Anchorage to Seattle was delayed when the bargain-basement airline I was on for that segment couldn't land at SEA-TAC under IFR (seriously!) and instead had to land at Boeing Field, which was open under VFR. Then they bussed us to Seattle. So here I was with nobody to hold my hand. What did I do? I went to the Delta counter, explained to them what happened, and they rebooked me on the next flight to LAX. I arrived a few hours late, but went off any found the chaperones who were waiting for me there and all was well.

    If a 12-yo could deal with that in the pre-cell-phone days, why the hell do they think a 15-yo can't when they can call mom and dad as soon as they land?

  19. $150 to do what exactly? Help them with a backpack and seatbelt?
    I got a badge to escort my 7 year old daughter to the gate. There's not much to do after that.

  20. "Infantilizing ten travelers."

    I think it's more than ten, I think it's "teen".

  21. At 14, my Dad was assigned the task of driving the school bus to and from school..... picking up the other kids on the way in, and dropping them off on the way back home. That included various stops along the way for Dad, and the other kids, to hop off the bus and shoot at rabbits and rattlesnakes as they saw them.... the guns being carried on the bus as they had been in years prior on their horses.

    I've also met at least a couple women who married at 14, raised large families, and did well.... and my Great Grandmother, having been twice orphaned, married at 15 and also had and raised a large family and did well. She celebrated her 75th Wedding Anniversary, too... married to the same man all those years.

  22. More airline "pocket picking", all no doubt, with the blessing of the feds".

  23. Wait, what? They let kids ship out to Afghanistan unaccompanied?!

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