Abandoned by au pair, left with plane ticket

by cv harquail on March 18, 2010

This just in from a Host Mom in London. I think she’s asking for two kinds of advice: how to manage the vacation childcare, and how to manage her feelings of being, um, irked:

Hi, we have a 19 yr old au pair from Sweden who has been with us for 5 months after committing to stay for 12 months.

201003180635.jpgShe has suddenly decided that au pairing is not for her.

This came 2 weeks after buying our tickets to our summer home in America (we live in London) She was fully aware of this trip and that we had purchased our tickets. Her ticket is unchangeable and unrefundable. Even though I purchased the ticket, it belongs to her.

She is leaving next Tuesday. She has offered to come back and go on that holday with us, we’re just so frustrated with her that we don’t want to ruin our own holiday with her coming for the free ride.

She is our fourth au pair in 4 years and we have never had something like this happen.

I need advice and quick! I have no back up help and don’t want to bring in another girl until the fall.

I don’t have a resolution to this trip, and her ticket has cost us £750 ugh. Ideas? Thanks— Left Adrift in London

I’m myself irked at the ‘generosity’ of the au pair— breaking her contract but being available for a free trip to the US. Right.

Heart adrift from soonerpa


AnonHM-Europe March 18, 2010 at 7:17 am

Sounds like to problems to me:
1. How to handle childcare
2. How to handle the ticket-matter

To your first problem: You will not be able to keep her from returning home. It’s a sad experience, hard to explain to the kids and it messes up your whole plans until summer. But you can’t change it. Try to get a summer au-pair (short-term) until your next scheduled AP will arrive – there is no other way to handle it.

The ticket/money problem is a different thing: I would make her refund (at least part of) the money – I would withhold any money she is entiteled to receive until her departure. I would try to convince her that she has to pay for it, also maybe talk with her parents. No way I would invite her to the trip! If she didn’t refund the money, I would make her hand out the ticket to you. (Just to make sure she will not be on the plane for free!)

In addition, I would never again pay for an au-pair trip like this. Just agreeing and maybe even having a written contract about refunding the money AFTER the trip, when she is still AP with us or even better: when she leaves on the previously agreed date. Things like this happened with less valuable matters to us before (paying for language course – about 300 USD and the Lady left before the course even started) and I made sure it will never happen again.

Finally, taking APs from “far away” countries in the future won’t help – they just move to “friends” they seem to be making in no time (Thanks to Facebook…) and are sometimes gone within hours. (Note: No Agency/Visa matters like in the US).

hostmom March 18, 2010 at 7:32 am

I would absolutely not take her on your trip. You have no assurance that she would help you at all and what a bonus for her, a free vacation. Maybe you could find some local babysitting help in whatever location you are going to. There are a lot of professional babysitting services, referrals that you can find by searching the web (or maybe posting the destination here?)

And as far as the ticket – you can’t even change with a change fee? I have never heard of that. cancel the ticket – get a credit, but then they charge you a crazy fee to use that credit later. If you haven’t i would definitely call and try to talk to someone at the airline about it.

sorry to hear about the problem. it basically just sucks :-( and hope everything works out. Most importantly have a great vacation!!!

Tulai http://aupair2be.com March 18, 2010 at 8:08 am

She broke the au pair contract and (has ) left you in a lurch. I assume she had no solid reason(s) for breaking the contract ( her health or that of a family member, death of a family member… etc)… and that you are an OK family who respected the terms of the contract and treated her well.
I think when an adult commits her/him-self to being a family’s au pair for a given period of time, s-he ought to stick to it and not just back out because s-he does not fancy it any more. As a matter of principle, you persevere through to the end of your agreed contract period….

In my humble opinion, throwing the plane ticket into the garbage bin would be better than letting the au pair have it. If you let her have the plane ticket, you’d actually be telling her that what she did is/was OK.
She sounds spoilt and immature and you wouldn’t be doing her a favour by letting her have the free ticket.; there is no reason to ‘reward’ her immaturity and selfishness with a free vacation!

Susann March 18, 2010 at 8:54 am

Argh, I wrote such a long comment and now it’s gone. 2nd try:

I had a very similar situation while being an au pair in Switzerland (second family, transition after 5 months). When I handed in my termination after being with the family four 4 months (personal contract, no agency involved) I knew full well that a vacation was planned to their summer house in Sweden for the Dad’s birthday party. I also knew I was meant to come on the vacation and help the Mum watch the children. However, I terminated 3 months before this vacation, no ticket had yet been booked and I helped as much as I could to find a new au pair. I also stayed longer than the 4 weeks I had to after giving notice, to make transition for them as easy as possible. I did not leave the family in limbo, Mum had a house cleaner, she was stay-at-home, one child full time in school, the other one in creche. In my case, the parents asked me to come along to Sweden for the “free ride”. Granted, they did like me and I had done a good job with the children, especially the older one who was not very easy. They asked me to come along because they still needed help watching the children and also because I already knew the children, I could handle the older one better than previous au pairs and I knew how to help the family. I did go along and did do a fair amount of work whilst being in Sweden and we did enjoy this vacation together as a farewell vacation.
If you still part on good terms with your au pair as it was the case with me and you think you might need her during your vacation, then I’d take her, seeing that the ticket has already been booked in her name. She knows the children, they probably love her and she knows how to help your family. However, if you feel that she might ruin your holiday or you would not really need her and it would very much just be a free ride for her, then don’t take her along and see if you can void the ticket.

Elle March 18, 2010 at 9:38 am

I’d call the airline. Most airline reps are actually pretty helpful and may be able to change the ticket (with a ridiculous fee.) Charge your ap the change fee and send her on her way.

My 2 cents March 18, 2010 at 9:51 am

Host mom makes a great point. Investigate the change fee penalty. At least call the airline and discuss what options there are for you as the purchaser of the ticket but whose name is not on it. I don’t think realistically you are going to be able to make the au pair repay you the money. It’s a lot and she doesn’t have the incentive or enough time left to take it out of her stipend (something that is against the rules with our agency anyway). So maybe if the airline says you can’t change it or whatever without her consent since it is in her name, you can offer her the option to purchase it to use at her discretion based on whatever the penalty or whatever YOU decide you want for it.

No matter what happens do not take this woman with you and do not just give her the ticket so she can make her own arrangements or arrange to pay the change fee herself so she can use the ticket for something else. She has no motivation to help you and even if were to “help” you will be stuck paying for all her necessary expenses — like the luggage fee to and fro, the food, the drinks.

If you absolutely need the help while on vacation try a website like sittercity.com or hook up with a nanny agency in the area. Also, since this is your vacation home, maybe you know some neighbors that can make a recommendation or that have older children happy to earn the babysitting money??

Karin Six March 18, 2010 at 11:14 am

According to some of my au pairs who have also au paired in England, it is a lot different there than here. They have said that they are more like paid help and less like family members. (For instance, they are allowed to do the cooking and cleaning for the entire family. They do not necessarily eat with the family either.) This family may be different though as apparently they were fond enough of their au pair to include her on vacation. If it was me, I would try to find a niece or nephew who wouldn’t mind a free vaca and also wouldn’t mind helping watch the kids for a date night! Might not be an option for this host family though…

TX Mom March 18, 2010 at 11:39 am

This sounds callous, but be glad that she left before ruining your vacation. We had to pay an additional $150 to change the name on an airline ticket in a similar situation, although we initiated the rematch. It was an unfortunate expense but better than sticking in a HF/AP relationship that wasn’t working.

PA au pair mom March 18, 2010 at 11:53 am

I think the change fee in November was $175 (US).

Hula Gal March 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Don’t bring her on the trip. Find someone else who can help with the children who wants a free trip to the US and inquire about getting the name changed on the ticket with the airline. It will cost extra though. We had the same thing happen to us. We bought a ticket for our au pair to come to Ireland with us. She had agreed to pay for half of the ticket. She arrives and decides after two days with us that she does not want to be an au pair and wants to go home. We ask her to pay us back half the ticket cost and she refuses. So we make the best of it and pay to get the name changed to my daughter (an infant) so she can have her own seat. Ended up working well for us despite the extra expense. That was a lesson learned. We now will not pay for an au pair’s plane ticket for a family vacation unless she pays for half and we get it in advance.

Hula Gal March 18, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I should add that I recall it took a lot of sweet talking and lengthy explanation to the ticket agent as to why we had to change the name. I think there maybe some requirements about the ticket belonging to that person (whose name is on the ticket) and they own it blah blah but somehow my husband convinced the ticket agent to do it.

franzi March 18, 2010 at 3:59 pm

quick question: how long would your stay in the US be? i wouldn’t mind some time in the US with some childcare help on the side… (this is a serious question btw)

i do think that you will get money back/be able to exchange the ticket. do NOT give it to her. if she already has the flight key i suggest you contact the airline anyway because she might just print the ticket off herself and then show up at the airport. so in any case, you need to cancel the ticket or change it but you cannot leave it the way it is unless you are prepared for her to show up at the airport for “her” flight.

Other pa mom March 18, 2010 at 4:25 pm

When and where in the US? I may uniquely able to help. We have our new aupair and the previous one is here still because her travel plans did not work out. Oddly the new one is from Sweden, but the previous is from England. If things worked out perhaps she could help til the Fall when she plans to go to University? Just a thought. She did a great job with my 4 children.

Radhika March 19, 2010 at 7:44 am

Hi OP,
I am a 29-yr au pair in London, in Ealing. I have been working in UK for the past 1.5 years and have great references. I am looking for a summer job (from July) and if you are looking for a summer au pair to travel with you, I am very interested! I have a long term visa to USA, and if it’s an issue, can bear the cost of name change fee in the plane ticket. Email me if you want to talk!

Anonymous March 19, 2010 at 9:05 am

Sorry to hear of your troubles. Also if you are coming to the states there is a website that can be very helpful for childcare http://www.care.com

I use it for babysitters in between au pairs, etc. If you don’t find a “summer au pair” through and agency (and the US au pair agencies may be willing to help – I presume you know them all like AuPairCare, Cultural Care, AuPair in America and a few more, as they sometimes offer “summer” opportunities. The economy is still soft enough that you may find an American teenager who needs a summer job and would welcome the opportunity to work for you. Good luck and we all feel your pain (both in the pocket and the heart). Another PA Mom

JJ March 19, 2010 at 11:10 am

I’m surprised at those of you who suggest an au pair should pay for part of the ticket for a family vacation. I vehemently disagree. If she’s coming along to work, the family should pay, not the au pair. After all, when we go on a company trip, the company pays, not us.

As for the original situation, call the airline and see what they can do. Maybe you can get a rematch au pair to go with you on the trip, and change the ticket to be in her name for some sort of change fee.

That doesn’t change the fact that you’re frustrated though – I certainly hear that. It was a crappy thing for this au pair to do.

Hula Gal March 19, 2010 at 11:29 am

I think it depends on the nature of the trip. My husband and I do not really “need” our au pairs to provide childcare when we go on vacation. If they choose to join us they know that the majority of the week will be free time for them and they will still be getting paid. So in that situation, I see no problem with them paying for half of their plane ticket. If they do not want to pay for half of the ticket than they do not need to come with us. We do not require them to come. If we did, then we would pay for the entire ticket.

Euromom March 23, 2010 at 6:32 am

I also agree that a au pair should pay some costs before they are invited on a vacation – if only to avoid situations like the one above and HF’s are not left high and dry – with no au pair and a paid ticket in their name! Here in Europe, on the airline – it is next to impossible to cancel or change names, etc so for me a situation like above is a very real possibility.

Asking an au-pair to share the costs means that if they make a decision on a whim not to go – they are also loosing a little, and this in itself may cause them to reconsider.

And it must be stated that although I have no difficult in asking my au pair to share the costs of her ticket/accomodation, everything else is paid for by us including day trips, meals out and alcohol (within reason) – so my au pairs have been more than happy to contribute to the costs and funny enough I have never had one opt out!

Shannon April 4, 2010 at 11:00 am

start making contracts!!!!!! Take it out of their pay contractually next time, a plane ticket.
Also, as an incentive to stay, offer bonus’ at the end of their 1 year etc, long contract. like one month severance pay at end — somehting along those lines.

Katie April 5, 2010 at 6:56 am

maybe she has been unhappy for awhile and just hasnt been able to tell you and finally got the courage to do it. Sure the timing sucked but you have to look from her side too. She probably offered to go on the holiday with you because she felt guilty for leaving you with that ticket and knew you would be pissed which you are.

chantel March 31, 2011 at 6:33 am

hi.. im treuly sorry about your situation!!! you didnt ask for that!! well I want to do AU Pair work next year in Holland!!! and I really do love children….. i come from a childrens home….but id like to make a difference ain childrence lives!!!! have a wonderfull holiday!!!

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