It sounds like the improbable plot of a Disney Channel movie. On a lazy summer day in Florida, three bored kids hatch a crazy plan: take their babysitting money and get on a plane for a little adventure. Mayhem ensues. But it’s not a TV movie. This really happened. The question is “how?”
Apparently, it all started with a text message exchange.
“Hey do you want to go 2 Tennessee today,” one kid wrote.
“Sure,” the other responded. What happened next is unbelievable.
Too young to drive themselves, they took a taxi to the airport, purchased tickets (with money earned babysitting!) and boarded a Southwest Airlines flight from Jacksonville to Nashville, according to the Associated Press.
Even though the kids were only 15, 13 and 11, nobody questioned them along their journey. With only $40 left when they landed in Nashville, their goal of reaching Dollywood seemed futile, so they finally phoned home.
“I just wanted to fly,” 15-year-old Bridget Brown, told WJXX-TV in Jacksonville. “I had the money.”
Their parents are wondering how the airline allowed three unaccompanied minors to travel. Not to mention the fact that Homeland Security is supposed to be alerted when a passenger pays in cash. In these days of terrorist threats and heightened security, how did such a thing happen?
In a statement, Southwest Airlines said that the company’s policy on minors covers children ages 5 through 11 traveling alone, and that in this case, the 11-year-old in this case was accompanied by two older companions. The Transportation Security Administration does not require anyone under age 18 to show identification.
But how did these kids buy tickets in the first place?
Apparently 15-year-old Brown used her $700 in babysitting earnings to purchase tickets for her 11-year-old brother Kodie and her 13-year-old friend Bobby Nolan III. Amazingly, the ticket counter clerk didn’t question her. Neither did anybody at security.
“We just took our stuff out of our pockets, took our shoes off and walked through it,” Nolan told the TV station. “And they didn’t say nothing.”
Meanwhile, the kids’ parents had no idea they had gone missing until they received the phone call from them at the Nashville airport. The three children were immediately booked on return flights. Southwest refunded the kids’ airfare.
“I never would have dreamed my kids would have got on a plane without me or their mom,” James Brown said. “But they did. It was very scary, very scary. Luckily, they’re OK.”
Who is to blame? The parents, the airline, or Transportation Security Administration? And do you predict a movie of the week inspired by the incident?
Photo: Photographer Clayton