David Zalubowski / Associated Press
Two children flying alone were taken in a vehicle to a hotel room with other children and a Frontier Airlines employee last month after severe weather diverted their flight to Atlanta, according to the parents of the minors who spoke to the Orlando Sentinel.
The two children, Carter Gray, 9, and Etta Gray, 7, traveled unaccompanied on Frontier Airlines flight 1756 on July 22 from Des Moines, Iowa to their hometown of Orlando, Florida, where they were returning from a visit with their grandparents. The flight, which was scheduled to arrive at 10:46 p.m. on July 22, circled the Orlando International Airport for 45 minutes before diverting to Atlanta because of the stormy weather.
The children's mother was left waiting at the airport in Orlando, completely in the dark as to what had happened to them.
"This was the first year I said okay, they're old enough to fly on their own, they know their phone number, they know their address," said Etta and Carter's mother Jennifer Ignash, to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Once the flight got diverted, the mother said, "it was like, okay, panic."
Ignash told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she was not able to learn anything about her children's whereabouts from Frontier's customer service line that evening and did not receive a call from a Frontier employee until the next day.
The parents only heard from their children when shortly after midnight on July 23, an older unaccompanied minor on the flight let Carter borrow his cell phone to call his father.
"Without that child, we would have had zero idea where our kids were," Ignash said to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Ignash said her two children were then taken by a Frontier employee using a personal vehicle to an Atlanta hotel room, where four other unaccompanied children from the flight stayed in adjoining rooms.
"We never gave approval for that to happen," Etta and Carter's father, Chad Gray, said in an interview.
The parents retained an aviation attorney, Alan Armstrong of Atlanta, who has been handling their public statements. Armstrong's would not confirm in a call with Business Insider if the children's parents are seeking legal action against Frontier, but he did say he hopes to bring attention to a neglected issue.
"The real thrust of this is to make Frontier and the entire airline industry aware of the gross deficiencies in their procedures for dealing with unaccompanied minors and children," Armstrong told Business Insider.
For Frontier Airlines, the parent's reaction to go to the media has been surprising as they said their employees followed standard protocol.
"It has been more than two weeks since the flight diversion but the family never contacted us," said Frontier spokesperson Jonathan Freed to Business Insider. "The first we learned of their concerns was as a result of their lawyer calling media."
Freed said in a statement to Business Insider that, in keeping with Frontier's "standard procedure" for unaccompanied minors, the children were accompanied at all times, placed in a hotel room overnight, and provided with food.
"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."
After providing the children with a breakfast voucher to McDonald's, Frontier continued the flight to Orlando the following morning and the children landed safely in Orlando at 1 p.m on July 23.
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