Florida: Spirit Airlines has apologised to the family of a 6-year-old boy who was placed on the wrong flight and landed more than 160 miles from where his grandmother was waiting to pick him up. But the airline has yet to explain how it happened.
Grandmother Maria Ramos told television station WINK News that it was the boy's first time on a plane on Thursday and that he was headed from Philadelphia to Fort Myers, Fla. She said that his bags arrived in Fort Myers but that the boy didn't. Ramos panicked, she told the station.
"I ran inside the plane to the flight attendant, and I asked her, 'Where's my grandson?'" she said. Her grandson called her from Orlando, WINK reported, and she drove to pick him up.
"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," Spirit said in a statement shared by the TV station, adding it was conducting an internal investigation.
The Transportation Security Administration ensures that each passenger has a boarding pass before entering the secure area of an airport and wouldn't be involved in the Spirit incident, Daniel Velez, a TSA spokesman, said Monday. He referred questions to the airline.
Spirit didn't respond to requests for comment Monday. Efforts to reach Ramos were unsuccessful.
Such mishaps are uncommon, but when they have occurred, they have raised serious questions about safety and security and occasionally prompted litigation and regulatory inquiries.
In 2016, Maribel Martinez sued JetBlue Airways, alleging it mixed up her 5-year-old son's flight details with those of another boy who was also flying out of the Dominican Republic. When Martinez arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to pick up her son, a boy she didn't know was brought to meet her at the gate, according to the suit.
Her son, meanwhile, "was escorted to an unknown woman" at Logan International Airport in Boston, the suit says, "and was told he was being reunited with his mother." The mother and son said they experienced emotional distress as a result. The litigation was settled in December 2016, an attorney for the plaintiffs said at the time. JetBlue didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
In 2017, two brothers boarded a Tokyo-bound flight from Los Angeles on All Nippon Airways. Both had valid passports and boarding passes, but one of them had a United Airlines ticket and wasn't supposed to be on the ANA flight. The plane returned to the United States midflight, and the incident gained widespread attention after the model Chrissy Teigen, who was on board, tweeted about the "flight to nowhere."
A TSA spokesman said at the time that the FBI was looking into the incident, and ANA said it was working to determine how it happened. The airline didn't respond to a request for comment Monday.
In 2019, a 14-year-old boy traveling alone from North Carolina stopped in Newark for a connecting flight to Sweden, but United Airlines placed him on a Eurowings flight to Germany instead, his mother tweeted at the time. The Eurowings flight returned to the gate before taking off, United said at the time, after the crew realized the boy was on the wrong plane.
A Eurowings spokesperson said then that boarding for the flights to Sweden and Germany took place simultaneously at neighboring gates and was handled by "an external service provider," and that the teen mistakenly received a boarding pass for the wrong flight.
A federal judge is weighing whether to allow JetBlue to acquire Spirit, after the Justice Department objected to the merger, forcing a trial in Boston.