CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) – As summer vacations come to a close and schools begin to welcome students back, many young children are taking to the skies as unaccompanied minors.

The service offered by all the major airlines allows parents to send a minor solo under the mindful eye of agents, flight attendants, and ground personnel.

For Denisha Richardson, she thought the trip from Houston to Charlotte on United Airlines would be smooth. Richardson told Fox 46 the situation turned scary, quickly.

“My baby, my child, could have been kidnapped — anything could have happened to her. Anyone could have grabbed her. The day before school anyone could have grabbed my child.”

Richardson said United Airlines left her 11-year-old daughter alone after she arrived in Charlotte but before she could reunite at the gate, per United policy.

“When I was walking to the gate, I was in TSA for a while and all this time I was on Facetime with my daughter.”

It was when Richardson met her daughter near the gate, that she realized no one had followed her child when she left the holding area.

“I am so upset…when I finally got to the kiosk [in the airport] she was like ‘mama I see you.’ She runs to me. I know I have to sign something, I didn’t sign anything. She said — ‘mama they don’t even know I’m gone.’”

United Airlines told Fox 46 after an internal investigation they found all policies were followed by airline employees. The carrier made note that they require all parents to meet arriving children at the gate, with the exception of certain international destinations.

For parents considering using unaccompanied minor services, it is recommended you have a serious discussion with your child as to how serious flying is.

  • Talk to your kids and explain why it’s important to listen to airline employees and to never leave their sight, even for a brief moment.
  • Adults dropping off and receiving the children need to be in communication. Make sure the right adult is listed on the minor’s paperwork. If one parent is listed and the other shows up, the child cannot be released to them.
  • Pack things to stimulate your child’s attention. Delays can be long and airports are busy places.