Girl briefly lost during plane trip to be driven home

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 22, 2011 8:53 PM

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - The parents of a nine-year-old girl who flew unaccompanied to New York and was allowed to deplane in Baltimore, said they will drive to get her after the holidays rather than risk another flight.

Chloe Boyce will not be flying again in the foreseeable after her Southwest Airlines flight to LaGuardia Airport wasrerouted and her parents were not told when she was allowed to exit the plane in Baltimore.

The scheduled 4 1/2-hour trip turned to nine hours and her parents are steaming they were not notified. Chloe's relatives were frantic when her aunt and grandmother from Danbury, Connecticut went to the gate to pick her up and even went on the plane to discover she was gone.

"It took them about an hour to locate Chloe and get her on the phone where she could talk to her mom," said the little girl's stepfather Sgt. Joseph Kerr.

While airline staff stayed with her, no one called relatives to say where she was.

"She has concern about flying by herself again, so we're not going to allow her to fly for the return trip," Kerr said.

Kerr said Chloe's Tennessee family will make the 18-hour drive to Connecticut to pick her up after she spends the holidays with her biological father and her other relatives.

Chloe had flown as an unaccompanied minor often, and there had been no previous problems.

Southwest Airlines policy does not require that parents be notified in the case of such a travel disruption, but an effort is made to do so, a spokesman said.

"Our Unaccompanied Minor policy aims to minimize these kinds of situations for our youngest customers, traveling alone, by only ticketing them on itineraries that don't require an aircraft change," said Brad Hawkins.

Weather difficulties forced the itinerary to change. "In this case, the unscheduled change of planes resulted in the connection, a delay and distress for the family which we certainly regret and have apologized for in our conversation with the family of our customer," Hawkins said..

The airline is refunding the ticket and giving the family a $275 travel voucher, according to Kerr. But the family wants a change of airline policy to require that family be notified of any change in the flight.

(Editing by Greg McCune)