Delta Sends 9-Year-Old Boy to Wrong City

The airline also sent a young girl to Boston instead of Cleveland.

ByABC News
June 10, 2010, 11:50 AM

June 10, 2010— -- It's a grandparent's worst nightmare: They arrive at the airport to pick up their grandchild only to find another kid waiting for them.

Thanks to a paperwork mix-up at Delta Air Lines, that's exactly what happened Tuesday night when a girl bound for Cleveland ended up in Boston and a Boston-bound boy landed in Cleveland.

Nine-year-old Kieren Kershaw first knew something was wrong as he exited his jet and saw a sign welcoming him to Cleveland. Then the agent accompanying him out of the plane told him that his grandmother was waiting. But Kieren said he was expecting his grandfather at the airport.

Then he met the woman.

"She's like where's my granddaughter?" Kieren told ABC News. The Delta employee said, "This isn't him?"

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Apparently Kieren and the unnamed girl independently traveled as unaccompanied minors on a flight from Spokane, Wash., with connections at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The girl was supposed to go to Cleveland; Kieren to Boston.

"They actually walked them to the wrong gates, wrong planes," said Larry Kershaw, Kieren's grandfather. "They never asked them their name or where they were going."

Kershaw learned of his grandson's mishap when Delta called him as he drove to the airport.

"I was like: you've got to be kidding," he said. "But there's nothing you can do."

Kieren was placed on another airline's flight to Boston and arrived four hours later than expected.

The boy, who lives in Washington state, came east to see his aunt graduate from Revere High School and to spend some time with his grandfather.

"I'm glad I'm in Boston," Kieren said this morning. "Me and my grandpa are probably going to go to a Red Sox game."

He also hopes to have crab and shrimp on the beach.

The Kershaw family paid an extra $100 each way to have Kieren escorted to his flights.

"We understand that mistakes happen," Kershaw said. "But as Kieren said: She's a girl, I'm a boy. How can this happen?"

Delta spokesman Paul R. Skrbec told ABC News that they were "inadvertently boarded on incorrect connecting flights as a result of a paperwork swap."

"The children were under airline supervision at all times. Upon learning of the situation, we immediately contacted their guardians to advise them that their children had been rerouted to their final destinations and were en route," Skrbec added. "We sincerely apologize to the families involved for this mistake."

The airline got the children to their final destinations at no cost, fully refunded their tickets, gave the families credits for future travel and refunded the $100 unaccompanied minor fee.

The Department of Transportation gets anywhere from 40 to 70 complaints, on average, each year from people upset about how the airlines handle unaccompanied minors.

Last year, there were 43 such complaints. So far this year, there have been 13. (Just because a complaint was filed, it doesn't mean that a child didn't get to their proper destination. Somebody might just be upset about the quality of the service.)

"I think it actually happens more often than we hear about because a lot of these don't make the news," said George Hobica, president of "Honestly, once is too many times."

The last high-profile case happened last June when Continental Express on back-to-back days sent two young girls, ages 8 and 10, to the wrong destinations.

"If I were shipping a dog by itself and it had been misdirected, I would be frantic. I could not imagine what it would be like to have a child misdirected," Hobica added. "Sure Delta has refunded their fees, but there's no excuse for this happening."