Calgary mom alleges United Airlines staff mistreated teen daughter

A Calgary mom is outraged after she says her 14-year old daughter was mistreated by United Airlines during a trip south of the border last month.

Company denies the allegations, says the teen’s account doesn't match its records

Mother Tai Graham, left, is furious after she says her daughter Natalie was treated poorly on a United Airlines flight to Florida despite paying extra for the ticket. (Tai Graham)

A Calgary mom is outraged after she says her 14-year old daughter was mistreated by United Airlines during a trip south of the border earlier this month

"If they're going to force me to place my child into their care they have a duty and responsibility to care for that child," says Tai Graham.

Graham says her daughter Natalie often flies alone to Florida to see family. But this last time, United Airlines charged Graham a $200 unaccompanied minor fee, for one way, with the understanding staff would watch the teen and she would be fed.

Tai Graham paid an extra $200 to send her 14-year-old daughter alone on a flight to Florida. (Tai Graham)

"I knew something was wrong when Natalie told me they didn't allow her to buy food or feed her on the plane."

United's unaccompanied minor policy applies to children between the ages of five and 15.

It ensures only non-stop flights are booked and that the young passengers receive a free meal if food is being served on the flight. It came into effect in January, prior to that it only applied to children between five and 11 years of age.

Graham says when she booked her daughter's ticket on July 26, she registered her as an adult, not knowing the policy had changed.

When she got to the airport, staff explained the change and asked for the unaccompanied minor fee.

'She was pretty freaked out'

In all, Natalie was in United's care for about 16 hours.

Graham says when Natalie arrived in Florida she was essentially left alone in an office, and told not to move until her family arrived to pick her up.

Tai Graham says she was not pleased how her daughter was recently treated on a flight to Florida. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

"She was pretty freaked out by this point," said Graham. "It [the care] wasn't there at all."

A spokesperson for United Airlines, Maddie King, disputes Natalie's account of the incident.

"We kept the child in a safe location until her grandmother was able to retrieve her," said King. "I'm not sure if there was anyone in the room with her."

"I was not on board but I do know that from our investigation she was offered a meal, multiple times ... she refused to take it," King said.

King later added, by email, that Natalie "was always in a safe place and was constantly supervised."

The company has since reimbursed the family the $200 fee and they've also offered them a $500 flight voucher, which was declined.

A United Airlines spokesperson says their records don't match Tai Graham's description of the incident. (File Photo/David J. Phillip/The Associated Press)

"Clearly this mom is upset with the way her child was treated even though that doesn't necessarily match our records. We are going to do whatever we can to make it right for them so they can come back to United and have a better experience."

Graham says she'll be sending her daughter home on another airline and she would like the company to admit it made a mistake. She's also seeking an apology.