This airline kicked a 12-year-old off a plane because it said his parents hadn't paid an extra fee

It's tempting to focus on an airline's failures.

The ones we hear about are often the most glaring, painfully inhuman errors.

Sometimes, though, it's also worth focusing on how airlines explain -- or don't -- what happened.

Here is the story of a 12-year-old boy flying alone for the first time from Cleveland to Tampa.

The outward-bound flight went smoothly.

On the way back, however, he was kicked off the flight because Frontier Airlines staff claimed his parents, Desiree and John Ilg, hadn't paid an extra minor fee.

Airlines do so love their fees. They're normally very good at collecting them before they let anyone on a plane.

As WOIO-TV reports, his parents are furious.

They say they had no idea that they owed some extra fee. Indeed, if the outward bound flight had been fine, why would they ever think that their child would be removed from the one coming back?

And why would he have been let on the flight in the first place?

"The airline didn't contact us," said the boy's mom. "Our son had to contact us."

This seems marginally unhinged. It was fortunate that the Ilgs' son had a cellphone. What if he hadn't had?

As it was, the boy was left alone for two hours at the airport, until his grandma came back to pick him up.

But wait, there's more. When the Ilgs complained to the airline, they say they were offered a $50 travel voucher. And, John Ilg says, nothing resembling an apology.

I contacted Frontier to ask for its side and will update, should I hear.

The airline did, however, offer WOIO a statement that, well, deserves parsing.

It began: "We apologize to the parents for the inconvenience and confusion they encountered while their son was traveling with us last week."

Inconvenience? His parents must have been worried sick that their child had been left alone at an airport.

A delayed flight is an inconvenience. A bumped 12-year-old is far more than that.

Frontier's statement continued with this: "There was a customer service failure during this child's travel experience with us in Tampa. At the time, Frontier made every effort to contact the parents to notify them of this issue regarding fee collection, in the absence of a guardian with the child at the airport."

Some might find this painful.

If there was a customer service failure, how could Frontier have "made every effort to contact the parents"?

A failure rather suggests a shortfall in effort.

The boy's mom is clear that there were no efforts made at all.

And then there's "in the absence of a guardian with the child at the airport."

This reads like a dig at the boy's grandma for not sticking around at the airport, in case the boy was kicked off the flight because of a "customer service failure."

Because of course she should have anticipated that.

"We have coached airport team members and ensured compliance with Frontier policy regarding unaccompanied minor travel," concluded the statement.

A translation might be: "Oh, this was bothersome because it got out into the media, so we chatted with the staff and asked them not to do it again."

Frontier hasn't had the finest of weeks.

Last week, a 70-year-old man and his daughter said they were kicked off a Frontier flight because they talked to each other about how miserable the flight attendants looked.

I'm astonished that it wasn't because they hadn't paid the elder fee and the daughter fee.

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