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Unaccompanied Kids on Diverted Flight Taken to Hotel Without Parents' Knowledge

Photograph by Twenty20

Jennifer Ignash was waiting for her two kids at Orlando International Airport on July 22, when she found out on an app that the Frontier plane had been diverted. But no one from the airline had called her, and she had no clue where her children were. Her kids were unaccompanied minors traveling from their grandparents' place in Des Moines, Iowa, and were scheduled to arrive in Orlando at 10:46 p.m.

The mom tried calling the airline's customer service line, but representatives said they couldn't get her information about her kids, 7-year-old Etta and 9-year-old Carter, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"A lot of emotions were going through my head. I mean, most of all, I think I just felt helpless. I felt guilty for even putting them on the flight," she told NBC News. "I thought, 'Are they scared? Are they warm? Do they have food?' I do not blame Frontier for the flight being diverted. I fully understand that. But I do expect communication."

It wasn't until Carter borrowed an older unaccompanied minor's cellphone and called his dad shortly after midnight that the parents knew what had happened. Ignash said she didn't get a call from a Frontier employee until that morning.

I thought, 'Are they scared? Are they warm? Do they have food?'

Apparently, Etta and Carter's flight was diverted to Atlanta due to weather. The children stayed in a room at the Atlanta airport with four other kids for about four hours, the parents said. Then, at about 5 a.m., a Frontier employee used a personal vehicle to take the kids to a hotel, where all six children from the flight stayed in adjoining rooms. The kids were reportedly only given Rice Krispies treats and water.

The parents are upset that they were kept in the dark for so long and that the airline didn't ask them if it was OK to drive the kids to the hotel. They had no clue who the employee who drove their children and stayed with them in the hotel room was.

"I think there needs to be set policies and procedures put in place," dad Chad Gray told the Orlando Sentinel. "I think they probably escaped this incident with very little damage, but that may not be the case if it happens again."

Jonathan Freed, a spokesperson for Frontier, said in a statement that the family never notified Frontier about their concerns. The airline only found out when media outlets contacted them about the incident.

"In keeping with Frontier's policy, 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," the statement said.

According to Frontier's website, the airline charges a $110 unaccompanied minor service fee per direction, per child for children ages 5 to 14. The airline requires an unaccompanied minor request for carriage form to be completed by the person bringing the child to the airport, including filling out information on the pickup party name, number and address.

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