Never book UM's [unaccompanied minors] on Continental, at least not ex Mumbai. Their agent Yatin - who "assisted" us, is arrogant and patronising, to the core. We had an awful experience handing over our nephews last night at Bombay airport.
To start with, no one answers CO's phones in Mumbai. I called their call centre at Houston and the agent there rudely asked me how she was supposed to know the procedure for minors at Bombay!
Eventually we contacted the Bombay airport manager who asked us to come to his office and he would page the airline rep. Civil works are in progress at the international airport and the departure area is chaotic, especially in the present inclement weather.
After somehow locating this office, we waited outside for a long while until an arrogant young Continental agent [Yatin] turned up. Yatin insisted that the children themselves fill up a US security form, and the UM form prior to entering the airport. He did not offer a desk or even his clipboard and we had to struggle to fill the forms on the kerb, in the rain. When I asked Yatin to assist, he said CO policy did not permit him to do so. I asked what if the kids were small or did not know English. He said: "oh, in that case..." So much for Continental's purported policy. Yatin also refused to give me any acknowledgment of CO taking safe custody of the children. He officiously insisted that we 'must' wait at the kerb and call CO 3hrs later to check if the flight had taken off. He declined to call us himself, as "it is against Continental's policy". Continentals policy on its website is that it will provide a permit to the guardian to enter the departure area, and in this case alone, the guardian 'must' wait till the flight departs. In the Indian airport context, only passengers are permitted inside, and obviously CO did not give us any such permit.
After our vehement protests, Yatin 'suddenly' discovered that he had to 'rush' to meet arriving business class passengers, and promptly fobbed us off onto another colleague Clayton. Good riddance. Im sure he was happier shining the shoes of his business class passengers.
Clayton was at least kind, sans the patronising attitude of Yatin. While all this was going on, as Yatin had told us not to unload the luggage, the parking security had been hassling us to move the car. Yatin declined to speak to them, and it was only after observing our plight that the parking guard patiently bore with us.
Clayton called his supervisor Cheryl who agreed to fax a copy of the acknowledgment after the flight departed. Clayton then took the boys inside, and gave us his mobile number. When we called 40min later, he put the kids on. They had been checked in but made to wait in the crowd, not separately.
Cheryl did fax through the acknowledgment. Peculiarly, the space marked "Origin airport agent" was left blank and unsigned.
The entire episode with Yatin left an unpleasant and unhappy atmosphere for us and for the children. I was left thinking, what if the children were smaller? Air India has been much maligned but for all their faults, they certainly look after minors and elders in a far superior way, with courtesy, kindness and respect.
I was so glad that I had persuaded my elderly parents - the childrens grandparents, not to come along.
So, please think twice about which carrier you book your unaccompanied children on.