Parents say airline never notified them about unaccompanied children's diverted flight


Two parents in Orlando are upset after they say their children were stranded in Atlanta without their knowledge while the children were flying as unaccompanied minors on a Frontier Airlines flight from Iowa.

They say no one contacted them after the plane carrying their children was diverted to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport due to weather and that Denver-based Frontier should have called them to ask if it was okay to drive the children to a hotel before they decided to make that move.

>> Read more trending news

Etta, age 7, and Carter, age 9, were flying July 22 from a visit to see their grandparents in Des Moines, Iowa, back home to Orlando, scheduled to arrive at 10:46 p.m. 

It was their kids' first flight alone, and didn't go as planned.

Posted by WSB-TV on Thursday, August 9, 2018

But storms in Orlando caused a ground stop, and the flight diverted to Atlanta late at night.

The children stayed at a hotel with an airline worker and shared a room with four other children. It was the children’s first flight without their parents.

The incident highlights what can go wrong when children fly unaccompanied -- even on a nonstop route -- if a flight is diverted to an unfamiliar city.

While the Frontier flight diverted to Atlanta, sometimes flights get diverted to an airport in a small town where the airline may not even have staff.

“This was the first year I said okay, they’re old enough to fly on their own, they know their phone number, they know their address,” said Etta and Carter’s mother Jennifer Ignash. But when the flight got diverted, “it was like, okay, panic.”

Frontier charges a $110 unaccompanied minor fee per child and does not allow unaccompanied minors on connecting flights.

The airline said in keeping with its policy, “the children were attended to at all times by a Frontier supervisor, placed in a hotel room overnight, and provided with food. Our records show that the children were in contact with their mother before being transported to the hotel and with their father the following morning before leaving on the continued flight. We understand how an unexpected delay caused by weather can be stressful for a parent and our goal is to help passengers get to their destinations as quickly and safely as possible.”

Ignash, who was waiting at the Orlando airport for her children that night, said multiple flights were diverted from Orlando, and “when that happens, it’s just a madhouse.” She got word that the children’s flight was diverted, and tried calling Frontier’s customer service line but says they couldn’t get her information about her children.

Ignash says she didn’t get a call from a Frontier employee until the next morning.

But an older unaccompanied minor on the flight let the children use his cell phone to call and text their parents.

“Without that child, we would have had zero idea where our kids were,” Ignash said.

Ignash says an employee using a personal vehicle took the children to a hotel, where six kids from the flight stayed in adjoining hotel rooms. The parents say they do not know who the employee was who drove the children or stayed with them in the hotel room.

“We never gave approval for that to happen,” Etta and Carter’s father, Chad Gray, said.

Alan Armstrong, an Atlanta aviation attorney Gray contacted, said he thinks there should be procedures and personnel at the airport to handle the problem.

“They just make it up as they go along,” Armstrong said.

Ignash said if parents decide to let their children fly as an unaccompanied minor, they should “understand what the airline’s policy and procedure is and get a direct contact.”

Gray said the worst part was not knowing what was happening.

“It was a bunch of circumstances that came into play all at the same time. I just don’t think Frontier is prepared to handle all those at once,” Gray said. “You like to minimize the risk that your kids have and you want to protect them. And not having any control over the process whatsoever, I think, is really, really frustrating.”

WSBTV.com contributed to this report.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Nation World

Cancer expected to surpass heart disease as leading cause of death in US, study says
Cancer expected to surpass heart disease as leading cause of death in US, study says

Cancer will soon be the leading cause of death in the United States, according to a new report.  Researchers recently conducted a study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, to explore data that suggests cancer will surpass heart disease as the leading cause of death in America. To do so, they examined the...
CDC still perplexed over cause of rare polio-like illness
CDC still perplexed over cause of rare polio-like illness

Federal health officials on Tuesday reported an increase in cases of acute flaccid myelitis, the polio-like illness that is affecting children around the nation. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 90 confirmed case of the illness in 27 states. That number is included in the total of 252 reports of patients under investigation...
Opinion: How blue states help red states

Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress love to demonize government handouts. But their own red-state supporters depend on these handouts. And the handouts are increasingly financed by the inhabitants of blue states. The federal program Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — what we used to call “welfare” — is now tiny....
Opinion: The GOP’s woman problem

WASHINGTON — It has been long rumored that the Republican Party has a woman problem, so much so that a few years ago GOP congressmen sent aides to classes on how to talk to and about women. Republicans didn’t learn much. Their articulation issues just got much worse, and there’s a name for it: Donald Trump. In addition to his many...
Pike County murders: Tight-knit community expresses relief over arrests
Pike County murders: Tight-knit community expresses relief over arrests

A husband, wife and their two sons are behind bars Tuesday night, indicted in a mass murder, along with two grandmothers accused of helping them cover up the crimes. At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Ohio Attorney General and Gov.-elect Mike DeWine announced the arrests and indictments of parents Billy and Angela Wagner and their sons George...
More Stories