While traveling alone to Charlotte, an 11-year-old girl's flight was delayed for hours and then diverted, and her mother says she was never notified. The girl’s mother, Corinne Chausse, said American Airlines didn’t even know where her daughter was.
Chausse said she would never have known that her daughter's plane from Syracuse was diverted if she didn't have a cellphone.
Her daughter, Maggie, was spending time with family and supposed to arrive at Charlotte-Douglas airport at 8:50 p.m. Monday, where Chausse and her husband were waiting.
American Airlines confirmed the flight was delayed because of weather. At 1:30 a.m., Maggie called to say she was in Columbia, her flight was canceled and someone was taking her off the plane.
“I’m getting frantic, because I have no idea who took her off (the plane), where she is, what she’s thinking,” Chausse said.
Maggie’s parents lost contact with her for more than an hour. They started driving to Columbia and called American Airlines in an attempt to get information. Halfway to Columbia, American Airlines said the flight wasn’t canceled and Maggie’s plane would land in Charlotte.
Her parents drove back to Charlotte, only to get a terrifying call from the airline.
“The agent comes on and is apologetic (and says), ‘I’m sorry ma’am, that flight was canceled. Your daughter is in Columbia,’” Chausse said.
As they drove back to Columbia around 2 a.m. Tuesday. Chausse said a representative for American Airlines told her Maggie was in a room for minors in the Columbia airport.
Five minutes later, her daughter called to say she was still on the plane.
“They lied to me about where she was,” Chausse said.
Late Wednesday afternoon, an American Airlines representative told WSOC the flight was canceled because of a maintenance issue on the plane that was discovered when it landed in Columbia.
Chausse said Maggie was on the plane for nine hours and flight staff didn’t feed her. She’s upset and said the airline never once called her to let her know the flight was diverted and then canceled.
“I think parents need to know," she said. "Maybe this is ill-placed trust. It certainly is ill-placed money."
American Airlines required Chausse pay an additional $300 on top of Maggie’s flight cost because she was an unaccompanied minor, the mother said. The airline’s website states a mandatory $150 fee each way is required for any child traveling alone age 14 and younger. She had green tags on her bags, so airline staff knew and would be with her.
“I don’t want another parent to go through this. They need to look at this system they have in place. They’re charging people $300 for and they need to examine where it failed because it failed drastically,” she said.
Chausse thinks American Airlines should refund the $300 for extra care for her daughter, but said she’s more concerned about the damage to her daughter, who said she never wants to fly again.
Chausse still hasn’t heard back from the airline.
The following is a statement from American Airlines:
As I mentioned on the phone, the flight had to divert to Columbia due to bad winds and ice here in CLT. Upon landing in Columbia, an indicator light went off that caused a maintenance issue. The customers stayed on the plane for a while after they landed in CAE because they thought they were going to be able to fix the maintenance issue. The customer service team did bring the customers water at that point. When the supervisor came on to bring the water, the flight attendant called Miss Chausse up to the front so she could call her mother. The mother offered to drive down to CAE and the supervisor said that would probably be the best course of action since we weren’t sure if or when the plane would be fixed.
The flight finally had to cancel when the issue wasn’t able to be fixed at 2 a.m. Miss Chausse was brought into one of the manager’s offices with a female agent to wait for the mother, and the agent brought her to the mother when she got there. All concessions were of course closed at that hour, but the station manager did send his shift manager out to buy snacks for the passengers and was able to get some refreshments for them.
Weather and maintenance are certainly never things that we want to affect our operations, but we always have the safety of our customers as the top priority, so we were unable to fly the aircraft back out that night. We did send another aircraft out to get the passengers in the morning, but know that the parents picked her up around 4 a.m. We apologize to the Chausses for the diversion and inconvenience of having to drive to Columbia. Our customer relations team is reaching out directly to the customer.
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