6-year-old flying alone for Christmas put on wrong plane, family outraged

Click to play video: '6 year old travelling alone for Christmas put on wrong Spirit Airlines flight'
6 year old travelling alone for Christmas put on wrong Spirit Airlines flight
A 6-year-old boy who left on a flight for the Christmas holiday to visit his grandmother in southwest Florida instead was put on the wrong plane and ended up 160 miles (about 257 km) away in Orlando, Fla – Dec 28, 2023

UPDATE: Spirit Airlines stated Thursday that a gate agent at Philadelphia International Airport escorted the child in question to the incorrect flight.

“This agent is no longer working with Spirit, and any individual whose actions resulted in the incorrect boarding will be held accountable for failing to follow our procedures,” the airline wrote.

The boy’s grandmother, Maria Ramos, told WINK News that she’s “happy about getting answers after seven days.”

ORIGINAL: A family in the U.S. is still searching for answers after a six-year-old boy travelling alone for the Christmas holiday was put on the wrong flight and ended up 250 kilometres away from where he was supposed to land.

Maria Ramos was supposed to pick up her grandson Casper on Dec. 21 at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers after the six-year-old flew out from Philadelphia International Airport to join her for the holidays. When Casper’s plane touched down she was informed that her grandson wasn’t on the Spirit Airlines flight.

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Split screen image of a Spirit Airlines plane and a 6-year-old boy named Casper who was put on the wrong flight while travelling alone on Christmas. His family is still waiting for answers about how the mistake happened from Spirit Airlines. WINK-TV/CBS

“They told me, ‘No, he’s not on this flight. He missed his flight.’ I said, ‘No, he could not miss his flight because I have the check-in tag,’” Ramos told WINK News.

“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.’”

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Ramos said it was one of the scariest experiences she had ever lived through. For 40 minutes, she had no idea where her grandson was.

Finally, she got a call from Casper telling her that he had landed.

“He goes, ‘Mama, I’m in the airport.’ I said, ‘Give me an adult, Casper, that is with you.’ He said, ‘No, grandma, I don’t have anyone with me,'” Ramos explained to Fox 4.

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An adult at the airport told Ramos that her grandson was in Orlando, a four-hour drive from where he was supposed to land in Fort Myers. His luggage still made it to Fort Myers, however.

Ramos made the late drive to Orlando to pick up Casper, but a week after the incident, she says her family is still no closer to figuring out how the six-year-old ended up on the wrong flight.

Ramos provided a photo to Fox 4 of a lanyard that was around Casper’s neck showing that his final destination was RSW, the airport code for Southwest Florida International Airport. The outlet reports that Casper’s mother handed off the six-year-old to a flight attendant in Philadelphia.

“I asked him, ‘Once they put you in the seat, did you get off the plane?'” Ramos said. “He said, ‘No Grandma, I got on the plane and I went to sleep.'”

Spirit Airlines wrote in a statement that the child was “incorrectly boarded” but “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 take the safety and responsibility of transporting all of our Guests seriously and are conducting an internal investigation. We apologize to the family for this experience,” the statement adds.

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Ramos says Spirit Airlines offered to reimburse her for the drive from Fort Myers to Orlando to pick up Casper. On Tuesday, the airline reached out again to offer to pay for Casper’s return flight to Philadelphia and a roundtrip flight for Ramos to accompany him, WINK News reports.

Despite Spirit Airlines conducting an internal investigation, Ramos says she still hasn’t received word on how the mistake happened.

“How did he make it on another flight? How did he end up in Orlando? They have no idea,” Ramos told WINK. “Come on, you have cameras all over this place. You have cameras in your plane. You have cameras all over.

“That makes me think that he didn’t have a flight attendant. Somebody took over him once they realized he was on the plane by himself. That’s when they tried to take charge of him, you know?”

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Ramos says she’s looking into legal help to get more answers. She further claims that she never got a call from Spirit Airlines the night Casper went missing, despite her being listed as an emergency contact.

“I tell you, nobody called me. I had to call Casper again to be able to talk to flight attendants,” she said.

Most U.S. airlines permit children over age five to travel unaccompanied, though kids ages 5 through 11 are typically required to travel pursuant to special “unaccompanied minor” procedures, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

— with files from The Associated Press

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