American Airlines allegedly ‘lost’ a 12-year-old child in Miami International Airport after flight attendants waved her off a plane without a parent or guardian. The child’s mother has described AA’s treatment of her daughter as “complete abandonment” and an “utter failure”.
The incident occurred on Saturday after Monica Gilliam dropped off her 12-year-old child at Chattanooga airport in Tennessee to take an American Airlines flight to Miami where she would be picked up by her father.
Monica wasn’t traveling with her daughter but AA offers an ‘unaccompanied minor’ service for children under the age of 18 who are flying without a parent or guardian.
Part of the ‘unaccompanied minor’ or ‘UM’ service involves flight attendants or gate staff escorting the child to and from the aircraft. On arrival at the destination, a member of staff is meant to escort the UM to their guardian and verify their identity to make sure the child is being handed over to the correct person.
To make sure no one forgets or misidentifies a UM, the child has to wear a lanyard around the neck with a large label clearly marked UM in bold capital letters. On the reverse are the child’s name and flight details, as well as next of kin information.
On this flight, however, Gilliam says flight attendants simply “waved” her daughter off the plane without an escort after landing in Miami.
“Almost an hour after her flight landed, I got a call from American Airlines… it was the (American Airlines manager at Miami and he says ‘your child is missing, we’ve shut down the terminal, we don’t know where she is’,” Gilliam said in a TikTok video.
“It turns out that the flight attendants waved her off the plane and said ‘bye’ and she said she didn’t know what to do so she kept going because they were telling her ‘bye’ so she kept walking.”
“So she’s going through the airport with that billboard on her, that she was an unaccompanied minor in one of the largest human trafficking hubs in the country,” Gilliam explained in the short two-minute video.
“(The child’s father) finally got her but on the way out no American Airlines employee stopped her to see if she had an adult, not one Miami airport employee stopped her and even the TSA security agent before she left the secure area into baggage reclaim stopped her.”
Bizarrely, some commentators lashed out at Gilliam, accusing the mother of being responsible because she didn’t travel with her daughter. Others, however, jumped to her defense, saying she should be able to trust AA’s promises.
The flight was actually operated by Republic Airways which flies on behalf of American Airlines on regional services marketed as American Eagle. As way as the contract with AA, Republic Airways also services regional flights for Delta and United Airlines.
American Airlines says it is taking the allegations “very seriously” and has reached out to Gilliam to find out more about what happened.
In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the airline told us: “American cares deeply about our young passengers and is committed to providing a safe and pleasant travel experience for them.”
“We take these matters very seriously and are looking into what occurred. A member of our team has reached out to the customer to learn more about their experience.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.