Arkia Abandoned Lone 10-year-old, Charges Mom

The supervision for children service offered on flights from Israel to abroad is meant to ensure that the lone young passenger arrives safely at his or her destination. A complaint submitted to Arkia CEO Rafi Har-Lev by Kohava Hashai shows that such a flight can become a veritable nightmare.

Hashai's wrote that a round-trip tickets was purchased for her daughter from Arkia, leaving Israel in December and returning in January. In view of her age - the was 10 and a half - she needed supervision, a service provided by all airlines, "which we have previously used with El-Al," Hashai said.

Hashai says she filled out the required details for her daughter's trip and information on the receiving relatives in London. Hashai requested that her daughter be looked after by a Hebrew-speaking stewardess. The mother stressed it is important that her daughter be accompanied by a stewardess, and not a steward, since this would be the first time she child travels abroad on her own.

"Both sides were clear that the stewardess must accompany the child to her seat in the plane. Later in the flight the air crew was supposed look after the child until landing, immediately after which a ground hostess was supposed to arrive, meet her and entrust her, together with her belongings, to the relatives."

Despite this, Hashai says: "Throughout the flight not a single person from the air crew bothered to check on the girl, while this is precisely the service we have paid for, to make sure she is attended. Luckily, the passengers who sat next to her supported and encouraged her, and even gave her chocolate and played with her during the flight."

This does not conclude the complaint. After landing in London, at 9 P.M., the child was stranded in the plane for about 90 minutes until a British steward, speaking only English, took her with him on his way to pick up another child from a flight that landed at 11 P.M. Only later they left to claim the child's baggage and take her to the reception hall.

At the same time, the complainant's sister, who was supposed to pick the child up "was beside herself with worry, since two hours have gone by and no one knew where the child has disappeared to."

When the child arrived at the reception hall only a 14-year-old relative was there to meet her, her aunt, after reporting the child missing, was called to the immigration department, where they found a non-English speaking girl.

According to the complaint, when the complainant's daughter met her 14-year-old relative, the steward abandoned the scene without getting an adult's signature, as required, on an assignment completion form. The mother further complained of the "arrogant, angry and castigating treatment," as she put it, she suffered from Arkia's customer service representative when she contacted her to complain about the incident.

Arkia's CEO responded: "Such a complaint was indeed received. I have immediately called the complainant personally and promised that the chain of events will be examined and that she will soon be informed of our findings. Upon the child's arrival in Israel I have called Mrs. Hashai again and was informed that on her way back the child was treated impeccably by Arkia's personnel. The complaint is currently being investigated by London's airport authorities. When results are made available, Hashai will receive an appropriate written response."