Southwest Airlines Leaves 9-Year-Old Stranded For Hours

‘Tis the season of travel and, for some parents, that means sending your child alone on an airplane as an unaccompanied minor. That was the case with Chloe Boyce, a 9-year-old girl from Clarksville, Tennessee, who headed to New York from Nashville to visit an aunt. When the plane arrived in New York, Chloe wasn’t on it much to the dismay of her family.

Southwest Airlines is now apologizing to the family for the oversight. What happened, apparently, is that the flight which had scheduled stops in Columbus and Baltimore made an extra stop in Cleveland because of  foggy weather conditions. That means Chloe missed her flight to New York from Baltimore, and so she was re-booked on another flight while killing time in the Baltimore airport.

But nobody bothered informing her family. So when Chloe’s aunt arrived at the New York airport and couldn’t find her niece at the gate, she got concerned. As Chloe’s mother Elana Kerr explains, “The flight arrived and my daughter didn’t get off. Someone went on the plane to see if she was there and my sister called me and said, ‘Where’s Chloe?’ The Southwest guys told her there were no unaccompanied minors on that flight.”

A frantic Kerr said it took more than an hour for the airline to contact Chloe, who it turns out was well taken care of. ”At BWI, the flight attendant took her off the plane, walked her to Hudson News to get her a drink and some snacks and the pilot bought her dinner,” Kerr told ”But while she was there no could tell us where she was.”

Kerr is furious that nobody called her, and the airline has since apologized and offered to refund the cost of Chloe’s ticket. But Kerr is traumatized. “I’m going to be driving the 17 hours to New York to get her,” she said.

By the way, Kerr told ABC News that Chloe often flies by herself to visit her grandparents in Connecticut or her father in Rhode Island, and they always use Southwest.

This story reminds me of a similar one we published in October, in which Qantas Airlines lost track of an unaccompanied 11-year-old boy. The airline not only lost the boy but also the paperwork stating this child was in their care. Like Chloe’s story, the kid was totally fine and it was more a case of his mother freaking out than anything else. (But unlike Chloe, this boy really did wander around on his own for hours.)

When I first heard Chloe’s story, it sounded like a case of a mother overreacting. But then I really thought about it, and I realized that I would have freaked out, as well, if my child was missing for even 10 minutes, never mind an hour. Your mind can travel to dark places in that hour. I’m sure that Kerr is nothing but grateful that her daughter was and is totally fine, but I still don’t blame her for getting hysterical. I actually can’t think of a single parent who wouldn’t.

That said, lots of people have been commenting that the parents are irresponsible for sending their child unaccompanied in the first place (others are wondering why they didn’t just give their daughter a cell phone).

What do you think? Should parents have a right to send their young children on a flight without them, or should the whole unaccompanied minors setup be nixed in this post-9/11 world (because, let’s face it, flying’s not what it used to be)?

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