Can Your Child Board An Airplane and Leave the State Without Your Permission? Yep.
By Chris Kramer
The mother of a 15 year old girl from Juneau, Alaska was startled to learn that her daughter did not need her permission or identification to buy a plane ticket, nor to board a plane intending to travel to North Carolina.
Elise Pringle says she wants Alaska Airlines and the Transportation Safety Administration to reconsider their policies regarding allowing children to fly without the need for permission from their parents.
When Pringle awoke one morning and discovered that her daughter was missing, she was frantic to locate her. By logging in to her daughter's account at a social networking site she learned that the girl was attempting to travel that day to North Carolina to meet up with the boy she had met online.
Pringle's daughter used cash she had stolen from her parents to pay for her $733 one-way plane ticket. The ticket was purchased at Juneau International Airport a week before the flight.
When Pringle realized that her daughter had purchased a plane ticket and was at the airport trying to board a plane, she called for help. Family members arrived at the airport in an effort to try to stop the girl from boarding the plane, but employees of Alaska Airlines refused to give them any of the girl's flight information.
What Pringle didn't realize at the time was that the airport has a policy in which children aged 13 to 17 years old can board a plane without identification or parental consent. She was stunned to learn that her daughter was not only permitted to board the plane, but had flown to her layover in Seattle.
Pringle said, "They knew my daughter was on that plane but they would not remove my daughter from that plane," she said. "I did not authorize my daughter to leave Juneau."
Spokeswoman for Alaska Airlines, Amanda Tobin Bielawski, said "Under our policy, we do not release information of our passengers to members of the public who might call us," Bielawski said. "People have attempted to acquire passenger information under false pretenses in disconcerting ways."
Bielawski also said that the airline has an "unaccompanied minor service" required for passengers 5 to 12 years old who travel without a guardian. The program for children of that age group requires an escort to the departure gate and guardian contact information.
The same service is available for children between the ages of 13 and 17, but the person who purchases the ticket must request it. There are no restrictions as to who can purchase a ticket.
A spokesperson for the Transportation Safety Administration said that passengers 17 years old and younger are not required to have identification to fly, they only need a boarding pass. This is the policy because children do not generally have identification.
So, according to Alaska Airline and the Transportation Safety Administration's policies, if your 13 year old child somehow gets his or her hands on money for a plane ticket and can get to the airport they don't need your consent to travel. That sounds pretty dangerous, and that is exactly why Elise Pringle wants the policies changed. She feels that her daughter's safety was put in jeopardy because of these policies, and most parents would likely agree with her.
After Pringle realized her daughter had left Juneau, she contacted Port of Seattle Police. The Port of Seattle Police were able to find the girl at the gate of her connecting flight and convinced her to get on the phone and talk with her mother. Then Pringle was told that her daughter, who had boarded an airplane and crossed state lines without her consent, could not be forced to return home. She would have voluntarily go back to Juneau.
The girl was considered an unreported runaway and based on that, the police were unable to detain her. They did talk her into returning home on her own though.
Pringle had to pay the airline $400 for her daughter's flight home.
In an effort to spare her daughter from a life of self-destructive behavior, Pringle pulled out some tough love and filed charges against her for the theft of the cash that was used to buy the initial plane ticket. The girl appeared in juvenile court and remanded to a facility for youthful offenders.