Spirit Puts Six-Year-Old On Wrong Plane

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A Florida grandmother said Spirit Airlines offered her gas money after her six-year-old grandson Casper ended up on the wrong flight. The little boy, on his first plane trip, was supposed to head from Philadelphia to Fort Myers but ended up in Orlando, and she had to drive the 160 miles to retrieve him. The boy’s luggage went to Fort Myers, however. The airline said the boy was never in any danger and was with a Spirit employee at all times after being “incorrectly boarded” in Philly. “We take the safety and responsibility of transporting all of our Guests seriously and are conducting an internal investigation,” the statement said. “We apologize to the family for this experience.”

Although Spirit said it immediately contacted the family after realizing their mistake, grandma Maria Ramos said she found out from Casper himself, who phoned her from Orlando. Ramos told local media that when she got to Orlando, the airline offered to cover her gas but she’d like an explanation. “I want them to call me,” Ramos told WINK-TV. “Let me know how my grandson ended up in Orlando. How did that happen? Did they get him off the plane? The flight attendant—after mom handed him with paperwork—did she let him go by himself? He jumped in the wrong plane by himself?”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

44 COMMENTS

  1. They “offered to cover her gas”? They should have popped him in a limo with a boatload of snacks and a couple of DVD movies. Oh wait, this is Spirit, grandma was probably half-way to KMCO before they figured it out …

      • Actually, bar codes are not sentient and require that a at least semi-intelligent human with a modicum of motivation utilize the barcode information to prevent this from happening. Unfortunately Spirit doesn’t employ either.

  2. Perhaps the parents should have done a little research on Spirit before putting the kid on it.

    No, don’t do that. The 6 year old will be fine on his own…..

    • He was not on his own, he was an Unattended Minor who received special treatment/tracking (for $150 extra). As stated in the story, the kid was never unattended.

  3. I’m a triple grandpa and that story just breaks my heart. Aren’t we all exhausted from hearing companies’ bs slogans right after their actions directly contradict their claims?

  4. The comments about the apparent disinterest in the kid are germane.

    But what about the utter failure of the security system? Passengers on one aircraft, bags on another?

    • When I had to fly as a passenger on a somewhat regular basis, I rarely could fly direct. I discovered the hard way that if I had layovers less than about 45 minutes, approx 33% of the time my bag would not arrive with me. It didn’t matter which airline or what destination. I scheduled trips with 1 hour or longer layovers and problem solved.

      • Considering the number of flight delays any more, one hour is probably not enough, especially in a major airport. Ironically, on one delayed flight, my connection was so tight that Continental actually put me in a ramp pickup and drove me across the airport to my connection. Even at that, I still was too late, they had already closed the plane door. I caught a flight about two hours later. When I arrived, my bag was sitting in the bag claim office. Somehow, it had made the earlier flight that I missed!

  5. Who sends a 6yo alone on a plane? A lot of people wouldn’t send them next door; they can barely communicate. SMH

  6. It appears that the crapshoot played by Spirit when faced with something outside the typical went wrong. But they won the crapshoot regarding the kid’s bags. Airlines are pretty poor at Taking Requests. This kid’s experience and Spirit’s failure would be good to remember when faced with a gate clerk or cabin crew “taking charge” and flexing their “expertise”. Somebody or -bodies on Spirit’s payroll screwed up and the internal investigation needs to result in significant consequences.

    • I don’t know about Spirit, but most airlines will give the parent a gate pass that will allow them to take the child through security and down to the gate, where you would hand the child off to the gate agent. That way you can be sure that the kid winds up at the proper gate and actually see them board the plane. You can do the same with an elderly or disabled relative. But you have to make the request, the airlines do not typically make the offer.

  7. What kind of parent would put a 6 year old on a long journey by himself?
    Most SCHOOLS won’t allow a 6 year old to cross the street without a crossing guard!

    Parents of a 6 year old LEFT AT HOME ALONE can be investigated or charged with child abuse by school “social services.”

    • The length of the flight is immaterial, as long as long it is a ‘direct or through flight with no change of aircraft’. This is a requirement for passengers traveling under Spirit’s Unaccompanied Minors program (ages 5 and up). Said minors wear a lanyard with a photo ID throughout the flight, are escorted off the flight on arrival, and and are only allowed

      • [Dang, hit the Send key]

        …are only released to a specific adult whose name is on the Unaccompanied Minor form that the kid has.

        Current charge – $150/flight.

    • Unaccompanied Minor Program (UNRS) has been incorporated for decades by most airlines, worldwide.
      I had numerous UM’s onboard my aircraft.

      • Yes, the child was sent to Orlando but, as the story says, he was NEVER unattended with this program. I was an A&P with a regional airline years ago and remember that there were such passengers with no sweat. Yes, mistakes happen. However, some of these commenters need to get a grip.

  8. such outrage! such righteousness! without taking into consideration the context of how rare this sort of event is. AND no one was injured. And yes, Spirit could have done a better job of offering to deliver the kid to his intended destination.

    • Second this. Also, it would be interesting to know how common unaccompanied 6-year-olds are in the first place. Certainly, they would represent a disturbance in the Force, so to speak; airport operations are controlled chaos in the first place.

    • Agreed. This has been a safe and common practice for decades. Parent walks kid and papers/boarding docs right up to boarding gate, waits while boarding begins, hands him over to a FA and watches him go down the jetway escorted by a FA, who seats him near the FA station on board where everyone watches him and looks after him. Upon arrival a FA walks him off the airplane where other parent/guardian is waiting and he is handed off. Being watched the entire time.

      It’s been done for decades and it’s safe. This was an isolated case of wrong location (Newsflash – adults board the wrong flight all the time). The kid’s safety was never in jeopardy.

      I do think Spirit could have done more than offer Grandma gas money though. I’m guessing a letter from the kids lawyer will shake things up.

  9. Agreed. This has been a safe and common practice for decades. Parent walks kid and papers/boarding docs right up to boarding gate, waits while boarding begins, hands him over to a FA and watches him go down the jetway escorted by a FA, who seats him near the FA station on board where everyone watches him and looks after him. Upon arrival a FA walks him off the airplane where other parent/guardian is waiting and he is handed off. Being watched the entire time.

    It’s been done for decades and it’s safe. This was an isolated case of wrong location (Newsflash – adults board the wrong flight all the time). The kid’s safety was never in jeopardy.

    I do think Spirit could have done more than offer Grandma gas money though. I’m guessing a letter from the kids lawyer will shake things up.

  10. Spirit Airlines allows unaccompanied minors ages 5 to 14 on select flights for a fee of $150 each way.

    Flights must be domestic, nonstop flights. Unaccompanied minors receive a lanyard with their information on it and a snack, and drinks during their travels.

    The drop-off parent or guardian must provide a valid ID and escort the child all the way to the gate (with a gate pass) and wait for 15 minutes after the flight takes off. The child will be preboarded and introduced to the flight crew.

    The pick-up parent or guardian should request a gate pass at the ticket counter with a valid ID and be waiting at the arrival gate so that the flight attendant can release the child to the adult listed on their Unaccompanied Minor form.

  11. There will be a lawsuit most likely against Spirit, as has occurred in the past when other unaccompanied minors were shuttled to the incorrect destination by other airlines.
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  12. I disagree with the assertion that the concept and practice of sending unaccompanied minors on airlines is safe. Perhaps the incidence of errors and actual damage is statistically miniscule, but I have no respect for a parent who would do this. If you don’t care about your kid , give him up for adoption by people who will. A six year does not need to be travelling by himself. This is pure vanity. Did the kid have a court date he was going to miss or something? I doubt it. Grandma wanted to see him for Christmas – so they put him in the charge of people who they’d never met before and wouldn’t see. It’s absolutely insane. The kid’s six!

    To be fair when we start getting into teenagers and those of an age and mental position to be able to look after themselves, it’s a different story. Just because you’re not 18 doesn’t mean you’re incompetent. But six? I don’t understand why there’s so few of us that are riled up about this.

    • Let me remind you, Bill, that in December 1960, when there was a most unfortunate and tragic midair collision over New York City; between a TWA L-1049 Constellation and a UAL DC-8-21; there was initially one survivor amongst the 128 + deceased:

      Stephen Baltz of Wilmette, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. He had been flying alone; aged 8, traveling as a UM, on the UAL DC-8-21 out of Chicago to meet his mother in NYC.

      In the end, Stephen was too badly burned to survive. He remained the crash’s sole survivor for only a night, dying at 10 a.m. Saturday morning. But for that one night, he was the source of hope for a city where two planes had gone down.

      UM’s have been flying in this fashion since before Wilbur Wright passed away… (1948).

    • I disagree with the assertion that the concept and practice of leaving unaccompanied minors at day care centers is safe. Perhaps the incidence of errors and actual damage is statistically miniscule, but I have no respect for a parent who would do this.

      Or who would leave unaccompanied minors at home with a babysitter […]

  13. Since it’s the parent/guardian’s responsibility to personally take the child to the gate and insure he gets on the plane, and to even wait to ensure the plane actually departs, it would seem there is a bit more to the story. It’s not like they dropped him off at the curb with a “here’s my kid”, with Spirit handling everything. Was it wrong flight on the paperwork, or that no one looked at it? Or even could they have purchased a ticket to the wrong destination?

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