The other day I put my ten year old on a Southwest flight going from LA to San Jose (an hour fight). He was going to visit his grandparents for a few days. The rules are that as the parent of an unaccompanied minor you have to stay in the airport until your child's flight actually takes off. So after he boarded I stood by the window and watched the plane as it slowly pulled away from the Gate. I then watched as a large Mylar balloon floated down onto the runway and then, in a blink of an eye, got sucked into the engine. And then the plane proceeded to head toward the main runway.
For a brief second I froze. I'm not an engineer but I have to assume that Mylars shouldn't be inside the engine of a plane. I rushed over to tell the attendant. She immediately radioed the pilot and the plane was turned around and brought right back to the gate where they did indeed find bits of Mylar and string threaded through the engine. They helicoptered some people in to check everything out and once everything was in working order the plane turned around again and went to San Jose. The whole thing kind of freaked me out. Clearly the balloon was problematic otherwise the airline wouldn't have made such a big production about fixing it but of course they wouldn't have done any of it if I hadn't seen what NO ONE FROM THE AIRLINE NOTICED and reported it.
But that said I'm sure that if they had taken off the pilot would have realized the problem quickly. They would have safely landed somewhere and the engine would have been fixed then. I don't think I prevented a major crash. I just minimized a potential danger.
But here's where things go from weird to infuriating. Apparently they made an announcement on board when they turned the plane around explaining that they had to check the engine or something. This, perhaps understandably, frightened my son. When they got back to the gate he asked if he could get off. I have no doubt that he was anxious and upset and that he may have expressed his request in a less than ideal manner. But the flight attendant responded by telling him that, "the only way you can get off this plane is in handcuffs."
Okay, seriously? I pay $50 extra for my son to fly as an unaccompanied minor. Considering the length of the flight that is a pretty hefty babysitting fee. I'd like to think that my money at least buys my son some common courtesy. Passengers who are nervous about flying freak out on planes all the time. A flight attendant should know how to deal with these people. They should be soothing and reassuring, not threatening; particularly if their passenger is a scared ten year old child who is upset because of an announced engine problem. I don't normally write letters of complaint and I have always had very good experiences with Southwest in the past but this is simply unacceptable.
Basically I'm just pissed off.
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