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Rerouted Flight Leaves Two Siblings, Traveling without Parents, in Hotel Room with Strangers

A pair of siblings who were traveling without their parents were left stranded in a different city after their Frontier Airlines flight had to be rerouted. Now their parents are seeking legal action against the airline after finding out an employee drove their children to a hotel without their permission, NBC News reports.

On July 22, Carter, 9, and Etta, 7, were supposed to take an evening flight from Des Moines, IA, where they had stayed with their grandparents, to Orlando, FL, where their mom would be waiting for them at the airport. It was the siblings' first time flying as unaccompanied minors. Unfortunately, their travel plans took a turn for the worse when their evening flight was diverted at 2 a.m. to Atlanta due to severe weather.

The kids' father, Chad Gray, claims that once the kids arrived in Atlanta, a female Frontier Airlines employee used her own car to drive his kids to a nearby Holiday Inn—without his permission, NBC News reports. The siblings ended up sleeping in one of the rooms with several other unaccompanied minors, in addition to the female airline employee who brought them there. Chad says his son had to sleep on a bed with a boy 5 years older than he was.

The dad told CBS New York the only reason he found out about all this was because his son contacted him—not the airlines. Since neither of his children carried a cell phone, his son sent him a text message using another unaccompanied minor's cell phone at around 4:30 a.m. to update him on their whereabouts. "We did not hear from a Frontier Airlines employee throughout this whole process."

The children's mother, Jennifer Ignash, told the the Altanta Journal-Constitution she found out her kids' flight was rerouted, and tried contacting the airline's customer service line but couldn't get info about her children. She said she didn't get a call from a Frontier airlines employee about the rerouted flight until the morning after their flight, and also only knew about her children's whereabouts because another child let her son use his or her cell phone. “Without that child, we would have had zero idea where our kids were,” Jennifer said.

According to CBS New York, since the incident, the family has hired attorney Alan Armstrong, who is also a pilot. Commenting on the incident, Armstrong said, "Negligence, poor communication, no communication really, poor judgment by the pilot."

The airline, however, has a very different take on how they dealt with the situation. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, Frontier released a statement saying, "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.”

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