Delta steps in to help fifth graders stranded at airport

PHOTO: Delta Airlines sent an empty plane to Oklahoma City June 2 when it heard that a group of 41 students and chaperones were stranded in an airport and unable make trip to Virginia and Washington D.C.PlayCourtesy Shantell Barbour
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Forget Superman, it was Delta Airlines to the rescue for a group of students and their chaperones who recently found themselves stranded in an airport before the first leg of a long-awaited summer trip to Virginia and Washington D.C.

On June 2, fifth graders, parents and teachers from Centennial, Washington Irving and James L. Dennis elementary schools arrived to Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport at 3 a.m. for a 5 a.m. American Airlines flight to Richmond, Virginia.

Shantell Barbour, a teacher at Centennial, said the group was aware that the flight had been canceled prior to arriving at the airport. When they arrived, however, American Airlines said it would rent a bus and drive the group to Dallas, Texas, so they could catch a connecting flight to Richmond, according to Barbour.

But, two hours later, she said, the airlines told them, "There's nothing we can do."

Barbour told ABC News on Wednesday that the group had been preparing for trip for a year, and planned to visit Williamsburg, Virginia, Yorktown and other sites before driving to Washington, D.C.

"I basically told them that, that wasn't an option," she said. "These kids had been expecting and were prepared for a lot of the history of our United States and why we have the freedoms and liberties that we have today," she said.

PHOTO: The students, parents and teachers of fifth-graders, parents and teachers from Centennial, Washington Irving and James L. Dennis elementary schools said they had an amazing trip to Virginia and the nations capital.
Courtesy Natalie Tracy
The students, parents and teachers of fifth-graders, parents and teachers from Centennial, Washington Irving and James L. Dennis elementary schools said they had an amazing trip to Virginia and the nation's capital.

After American Airlines gave her a customer service number, Barbour said she then checked with Delta agents about their options. She said Delta agents were able to find seats on different flights out of Oklahoma City, but the group would be separated.

One of the supervising agents called Delta corporate to see whether the airlines could upgrade one particular flight to a larger plane to accommodate the entire group. Within 10 minutes, according to Barbour, corporate had called back with news that a plane and a crew was on its way from Atlanta to get them to Richmond, Virginia.

"Being able to get all three groups on the same plane to start our trip was prayers answered," said Centennial teacher Natalie Tracy of Edmond, Oklahoma. "After being in the airport for six to eight hours, trying to find a way for us to get out of [Oklahoma City], it was so nice to sit back and rest."

"Nobody else was on there except us," Barbour told ABC News. "The kids were absolutely amazed...I also have to say that for fifth graders, that eight hours of waiting in the ticket departure portion of the airport, they were amazing. Not a single one complained...They were ecstatic they got a private plane...They finally got to eat."

PHOTO: The students, parents and teachers of fifth-graders, parents and teachers from Centennial, Washington Irving and James L. Dennis elementary schools said they had an amazing trip to Virginia and the nations capital.
Courtesy Natalie Tracy
The students, parents and teachers of fifth-graders, parents and teachers from Centennial, Washington Irving and James L. Dennis elementary schools said they had an amazing trip to Virginia and the nation's capital.

American Airlines said in a statement that the original cancellation was due to weather on June 1 and June 2, and that the airlines had canceled more than 300 flights that weekend.

"We do apologize for the cancellation, which was the result of inclement weather that was out of our control," American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein told ABC News on Wednesday.

These kids had been expecting and were prepared for a lot of the history of our United States and why we have the freedoms and liberties that we have today.

Delta said in a blog post on its website that its decision to send a jet to Oklahoma City for the group was based on its philosophy to "do what's right, no matter the specifics at hand."

"When we see people in a bind, we don't see customers of one airline or another -- we see people," said Jeff Trainer, a duty director who approved the aircraft reassignment. "We're here to help everyone we can. That's what makes moments like these possible."

Barbour said Wednesday that the students had a wonderful time visiting Virginia and the nation's capital, despite the travel hiccup.