Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tennessee: Airline flub panics Clarksville girl's family. Plane rerouted, but parents not told

Chloe Boyce flew to see her grandmother.
 NBC Connecticut / Associated Press

A 9-year-old Clarksville, Tenn., girl flying by herself to visit her grandmother had to change planes unexpectedly and Southwest Airlines did not tell her parents, sending relatives into a panic when she arrived late.

Chloe Boyce took off from Tennessee on Tuesday, bound for LaGuardia Airport in New York. Bad weather forced her plane to detour, and then she had to change planes. When the plane she was initially on arrived at LaGuardia, family members said, it took close to an hour to find her on another flight.

“When I got the text (from her mother) that she wasn’t on the plane, and Southwest doesn’t know where she is, I started freaking out,” said Joseph Kerr, the girl’s stepfather.

Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said the airline apologized to the family for not letting them know she had changed planes and would be delayed.

Chloe was accompanied by Southwest employees during her trip, but she said she was a little nervous because nobody told her why she had to get off the plane in Baltimore.

“I was like ‘I’m supposed to be getting off at LaGuardia. I’m not supposed to get off this plane,’ ” she said.

Chloe’s journey started in Nashville. She was rerouted to Cleveland, then went to Columbus, Ohio, before landing in Baltimore. From there, she made it to New York, 3½ hours later than scheduled.

Her stepfather is an Army sergeant based at Fort Campbell, so she is used to traveling, her family said.

“She was definitely more calm than we were,” said Elena Kerr, her mother, who reached Chloe by cellphone at the Baltimore airport when she did not show up on time in New York.

Southwest gave the family a $250 flight voucher and refunded the girl’s ticket, but Chloe’s family has not received an explanation for why the airline did not tell them about the changes.

Hawkins, the Southwest spokesman, said the airline tries to notify parents of “irregular operations,” even though it is not mandatory. He also said the airline tries to avoid such situations by booking unaccompanied minors on itineraries that don’t require changing planes.

For the return trip, Joseph Kerr said, they will be driving back.

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