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US airline puts 6-year-old flying alone on wrong flight

A six-year-old’s first flight alone to visit his grandmother ahead of Christmas went awry when a US airline flew him to the wrong airport, about 270km away from his destination.

Ms Maria Ramos told US news outlet Wink News that her excitement to meet her grandson Casper at Southwest Florida International Airport on Dec 21 turned to horror when she was told he had not boarded the plane – even though his bag had arrived.

“They told me, ‘No, he’s not on this flight. He missed his flight,’” said Ms Ramos, who did not give her age.

But the grandmother had a check-in tag, which suggested that Casper did enter Philadelphia International Airport.

She said: “So I ran inside the plane to the flight attendant and I asked her, ‘Where’s my grandson? He was handed over to you at Philadelphia.’ She said, ‘No, I had no kids with me.’”

As Ms Ramos’ stomach tightened in fear, Casper called her on the phone.

“He said ‘Mum, where are you? I don’t see you, I got out of the plane’. I said, ‘What do you mean you got out of the plane’. He said, ‘Yes, I’m here, I’ve landed, I’m at the airport,’” Ms Ramos said.

It then dawned on her that the boy had landed in the right state, except that he was in the city of Orlando, which was a four-hour car ride from where she was.

Ms Ramos said budget carrier Spirit Airlines has since offered to reimburse the cost of her drive, which she did not disclose, but all she wants are answers as to how the boy was spirited away to the wrong airport.

She said: “I want them to call me. Let me know how my grandson ended up in Orlando. How did that happen? Did they get him off the plane? Did the flight attendant – after mum handed him with paperwork – let him go, and he jumped in the wrong plane by himself?”

In a statement, the airline told Wink News it was investigating.

It said: “The child was always under the care and supervision of a Spirit Team member, and as soon as we discovered the error, we took immediate steps to communicate with the family and reconnect them… We apologise to the family for this experience.”

The New York Post reported that the oversight happened on the day holiday travel was said to have peaked, according to the US Federal Aviation Administration.

Nearly 50,000 flights took off around the US on Dec 21, packed with those travelling during the holiday season.

In an attempt to cheer Casper at the airport, Ms Ramos suggested to him that the experience had been a Christmas adventure, akin to the box office hit Home Away 2 when the movie’s young protagonist also boarded the wrong flight.

But the incident appeared to be more of a misadventure for Casper, who replied that he does not want to get on a flight alone again.

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