All Chloe Boyce, nine, wanted was to spend Christmas at her grandmother's house in Danbury. So, as she had many times before, she boarded her Southwest flight in Tennessee with strict instructions.
“The lady at checkout, she said, 'Do not get off this plane, only when you see LaGuardia airport,'” said Boyce.
But then the clouds rolled in, and her Southwest flight got detoured, touching down in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, before getting to Baltimore.
“The flight attendant says the people who are going to LaGuardia have to get off in Baltimore and go to customer service to get another ticket. And I was like, 'What do I do?' The flight attendant said, 'You'll be coming with me,' and I said, 'But I'm not supposed to get off the airplane,’” said Boyce.
Under Southwest's policy, unaccompanied minors can only be booked on flights that don't include plane changes. But Boyce had to get off the plane and had to book another ticket to LaGuardia for a flight hours later. She says she was nervous that her family who were waiting for her at the airport wouldn't know where she was because Southwest hadn't called them.
“I was kind of scared, but at the same time, I knew I was going to be able to get home,” said Boyce.
For her grandmother, it was a different story.
“It was really scary. It was a scary situation not knowing where she is just for a few minutes,” said Maryann DiShuk, Boyce’s grandmother.
Now that she is finally home safe, the family is hoping to have a nice, relaxing holiday.
“It's a lot calmer now. We're happy that she's here. She'll be with me till Christmas morning, and then she'll go to her other grandparents,” said DiShuk.
Then it's back to Tennessee — but this time by car, because Boyce doesn't know the next time she'll board a plane.
“I'm going to be a little worried. I hope it will never happen again,” said Boyce.
Southwest apologized for the mix-up and is investigating the matter internally, said Boyce’s parents. They were refunded the cost of Boyce’s ticket and given a $250 voucher.
However, Boyce’s parents are more upset over the fact that Southwest didn’t call them to let them know there had been a change in the flight plan. They have hired an attorney and plan to pursue a proposal with the Federal Aviation Administration that would require all airlines to notify parents of a minor when a flight plan change occurs.