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After Flight Diverted, Teen With Special Needs Goes Missing


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While flying from Idaho to Florida, a teen with an Asperger’s-like condition found his plane unexpectedly diverted to an unfamiliar city and wound up wandering the streets all alone.

Joshua Arvin, 15, was on his way home from his boarding school when his flight to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. instead stopped in Tampa. Rather than follow the rest of the passengers to a bus for the remainder of the journey, the teen attempted to make his own way.

Arvin’s mother, Tracy, frantically called the airline and airport police with no luck tracking down her son. She later learned that the teen tried to charter a bus before taking a cab to a local bus station. He was ultimately found on a downtown street corner after 11 p.m by a good Samaritan who called police.

The airline — US Airways — says it does not accept responsibility for unaccompanied minors on connecting flights, reports WTSP, the Tampa CBS affiliate.

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Comments (14 Responses)

  1. Nanaymie Kasmira Godfrey says:

    We need federal guidelines to TELL large organizations and corporations HOW to screen for disabilities and then require accommodation under ADA. With $$$ as the bottom line, extra care for passengers with “special needs” will continue to remain off the radar until government (the only potentially equalizing force) makes it necessary!!!

  2. ecb says:

    maybe when taking kids with these disabilities (I have a son, 17, with Aspergers), that they be given a card with directives as to what to do in case their plans are changed. IE, to explain step by step what they should do, who they should go to, etc.

  3. Kh Williams says:

    OMG…Just when I was anticipating my grandson flying alone relying on the airline attendants to monitor unaccompanied minors…this happens. Hope this is not the norm for ALL airlines, but I cannot afford the risk.

  4. PBMom says:

    I have a child with autism, and I would never let my NEUROTYPICAL 15-year-old take a flight by themselves. I would most certainly never let my child with high-functioning autism take a flight by himself either. I flew myself at age 14 several times unaccompanied, and even took a bus halfway across the country with my sister at age 13 (and she herself was just 16), it was an entirely different world back then AND I was scared. One time I got stranded in Chicago because my flight was cancelled due to a snowstorm. I had no money and had been traveling for 12 hours and had had nothing to eat. My family could not get information about me, or my flight, and this was at a time of no cell phones. It was scary. Then they decided to board my flight but when I arrived in New York at 2-3 a.m., no one was there to meet me. Again, very scary. I don’t know what this mother is thinking letting her child get on a plane without adult supervision. The airline is not responsible for our kids. This is not something that is covered under ADA.

  5. Rene Thompson says:

    There’s a lot of information that one could use to make a more well rounded opinion on this story.

    1 How often had the boy travelled to anfrom school before this?
    2. Had the airlines been made aware of the boy’s disabilities prior to the flight?
    3. Did the young man not have a cell home in case of emergencies?
    4. Did the airlines not notice when a minor child that they took money to transport was not on the manifest of the second plane arriving at their destination?

  6. Dolores says:

    In my opinion, the parents are responsible for this mishap. This young man should not have been traveling alone. My sister is disabled, and I, or another trusted adult, is always with her because emergencies arise and someone must be there to help her. Obviously this boy is very intelligent but needs guidance in unexpected situations as any other minor would. I don’t think any minor should be traveling alone in the world we live in today.

  7. Michelle7252 says:

    As the mother of an Aspie, I have had nothing but trouble when my daughter needs to fly alone. The unaccompanied minor is only for young kids, not teenagers, and if you attempt to do it for an older child, it is quite a hassle. The other issue is that she needs to be accompanied to the gate and picked up at the gate, as she wouldn’t never be savvy enough to navigate through the airport on her own. The airlines are generally not very understanding or helpful with these issues and make it harder than it has to be. I think EVERYONE under 18 should have to have an adult to pick them up and drop them off at a gate, and if any flights are diverted a text or call should be made to the adult registered to pick them up. This applies to anyone under 18, not just those with disabilities.

  8. marie camp says:

    Unfortunately the airline is right. The parents should of notified the airlines of his disability and let them be aware of a possible situation should arise the airline would gladly accommodate . If they weren’t willing take it up with president of the airline.

  9. Lorre Leon Mendelson says:

    For those of us with disabilities, accomodations level the playing field. While standard policies do not include some personal safety practices, accomodations requests can be submitted to the airlines. They allow people with disabilities to bring our service dogs, they will greet passengers with wheelchairs who request them. Preventative plans for all of us, wether we have a disability or not, are always a good idea. I suggest in writing, keep documentation of who you speak to and when and always, ALWAYS, ask for supervisors if you cannot get your situation resolved. Everyone has a supervisor except God. It is a learning process for all of us.

  10. holly says:

    You will find information about disability under gov.disabilities.airlines. I will be flying with my very disabled daughter soon. In a nutshell its not the airlines responsibility to screen for a disability. ( That would be a disaster. Its all ready become a disaster}. If a person acts like he/she cannot function safely on a plane (evacuate/seat belt off and on. etc) per the perception of the airlines and that person states they can. The airlines has to either get him/her a safety attendant or if none available can kick him off. If a person has a obvious disability (like my daughter who is 18) its not up to the stew to take care of her but its not a free ticket for a caregiver. Airports today are 9 ways of crazy and a person who supposedly has it together may be running across the airport and back again trying to find what gate to go to that changes a lot. And if this young man was supposed to get on a bus I doubt if anyone was counting passangers or reminding or helping anyone. He could of stopped in the restroom or anything. Its unfort not that safe to fly alone because I just wouldn’t expect help if things change. And people at the ticket counter can get quite nasty if you ask for help. About the last thing you want is to be screened for disabilities by TSA or the airlines. They will be having us touch our noses or spelling test. Just more delays and not their jobs. I would not send anyone that is not mentally up to speed by themselves on any flight now-a-days. Airlines have become way to unreliable. And yes they do have to follow certain ADA laws as far as wheelchairs and service animals and not charging for extra medical stuff. But not their responsibility for one to one.
    mom of special needs in mi

  11. Paul M. says:

    I side with Rene and Delores (and the airline) on this one. Additionally, what is “an Asperger’s-like condition” and how do the boy’s symptoms manifest? I’m not an attorney but assuming that the airline would serve in loco parentis without prior arrangements and notification is parental negligence in my book.

  12. Amy says:

    I have a 24 year old cousin with Aspbergers and we would NEVER expect him to take a flight alone, to many things could get him off track and into trouble. The only places he goes alone are places he can walk to that he is already familiar with. This situation is crazy, why was this kid alone?

  13. dena says:

    My teenagers and I were on a Virgin America flight from Chicago to San Fran. The 15-year old boy sitting next to us was an unaccompanied minor. He wore a wristband with his information (required by the airline) and the flight attendants were very accommodating to him. He got free food and drink and they constantly were checking with him to see how he was doing. I was impressed. So if you have to put a minor on a flight by themselves, choose Virgin America. No, I don’t work for them!

  14. brenda cix says:

    I traveled with my grandaughter to florida on the airlines and we were treated like royalty. I could not take her wheelchair on the plane. We were offered a flight chair but the pilot carried her to her seat and was extremely polite and so were all the staff. When we were ready to get off the plane, the pilot waited for us to have her chair delivered, helped me put her in it. We have traveled to Hawaii and never had an issue. I would travel anywhere with herby air. I would never let a minor travel alone anywhere today.

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