Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It’s always someone else’s fault

Here’s a story about a 15-year-old boy who was traveling alone on a Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix to Tulsa. When the plane arrived at his destination, the boy was sleeping with headphones on and didn’t hear the announcements or notice that passengers were disembarking. He slept through the ensuing take-off and landing as well as the litany of annoying announcements that accompany those events.

The plane continued to its next and final stop, St. Louis. The boy awakened and noticed that St. Louis is not Tulsa.

For 24 hours, he wandered around St. Louis until finally a kind person helped him call home.

The boy’s mother was not happy with the airline saying, "The child wakes up in St. Louis with no family, no money, no cell phone and no help,"

Southwest apologized and refunded the cost of the ticket. Yes, they should have noticed the sleeping boy, and they need to figure out how this could have happened. [System error or human error? I say “human,” but Southwest will probably say “system” and develop a new policy. See my previous blog on system vs. human error.]

But wait a second. I have three sons, who thankfully all are no longer teenagers. What parent in her right mind would send a 15-year-old boy alone on a plane with no money? What if weather or equipment trouble had forced the plane to divert from Tulsa? I guess mom assumed that Southwest would notify whoever was meeting him in Tulsa and feed the child until his journey resumed. Also, he must be the last 15-year-old boy in the United States without a cell phone.

Did he even know who was picking him up in Tulsa? Did he speak to any Southwest employee in St. Louis? Did anyone report him missing? Was there an “Amber Alert”? The plane had to have been on the ground in Tulsa for at least 45 minutes. Did the person who was to meet him in Tulsa call the mother and say he didn’t show up or better yet, ask someone at Southwest in Tulsa where he was?

So let’s list the stupid people in this drama—the mother, the boy, the person picking him up in Tulsa, unknown numbers of Southwest employees [cleaning people, flight attendants] and KPHO-TV in Phoenix for its “blame the airline” slant on the story.

This country is circling the drain right now. The future is grim. God help us all.


Anonymous said...

Wait, there's been a development in the story. The boy has decided to enter the Republican primary in NH.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe someone hasn't figured out how to blame this on Bush!

plumtree said...

I live in St Louis and I have a 15 yo son. Therefore, I can confirm that this boy is not the only 15 yo without a cell phone.
My guess is that the boy got off the plane, eventually realized it wasn't Tulsa, was too embarrassed to ask for help, and got on the MetroLink light rail out of the airport. If he was actually wandering around St Louis, as opposed to the airport (your post did not specify), that is really the only way he could have left. The light rail is a random ticket check so he could have gone downtown free.
Or, more likely, he had $5 and bought himself McDonald's somewhere.
Southwest is probably flogging whoever thought that seat on from Tulsa was 'occcupied' when it could have been sold!
Agree that Southwest's culpability here is small compared to the general irresponsibility exercised by the parent.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

Thanks fr all the comments. If you click on "story" in the first paragraph, it, links you to the KPHO article. He apparently did go into the city of St. Louis.

You may be right about why he did that. It's an amazing story. I hope it gets made into a movie like, "Terminal," the one with Tom Hanks stranded in the airport.

rob lindeman said...

"He went to a police station, and there was nobody in the police station," his mom said.

Erik McBee said he called 911.

"They said that they're not a taxi service and hung up," he said.

Something about these three sentences doesn't smell right. McBee's mom may be, um, stretching the truth, or she's dumber than we thought.

Skeptical Scalpel said...

I agree. It was in her best interest to make her son as vulnerable as possible. However, all it does is reinforce the idea that he was incapable of traveling alone.

Michael said...

This story always sounded pretty suspect. My son has traveled by himself many times on Southwest and they are always very diligent and have a very clear, rigorous process.

Then this year, the same kid kills someone in some weird family murder plot:


Skeptical Scalpel said...

Michael, thank you for the update. The links describe the crime in great detail, almost too much.

The azfamily link mentions the sleeping on the plane incident.


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