EXCLUSIVE: Hawaiian apologizes after Oahu child not allowed on Honolulu-bound flight

Published: Aug. 12, 2013 at 8:59 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 24, 2013 at 6:34 PM HST
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Shelby Jordan
Shelby Jordan
Eric Jordan
Eric Jordan

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaiian Airlines has apologized to an Oahu couple more than a month after their 11-year-old daughter was barred from boarding a flight back home to Honolulu in Los Angeles and ended up being sent back to Dallas, where her voyage started.

After Hawaii News Now's started asking questions, the family got an apology and a refund.

"It was awesome because it was my first time ever flying by myself and I was like, really excited about it," said Shelby Jordan, 11, of Salt Lake, talking about the beginning of her air trip back to Oahu.

Her trek started at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where her grandmother had checked her in after a seven-hour drive from Arkansas.

Shelby's parents, Eric and Dana Jordan, had already arranged for her to travel as an unaccompanied minor on two flights back to Honolulu.  They paid $100 extra to Virgin America airlines for a Dallas to Los Angeles flight and Hawaiian Airlines another $100  extra because she was also flying by herself from LA to Honolulu.

But when Shelby and an escort from Virgin America got to the Hawaiian counter in LA, they were told she could not board the flight back to Honolulu.

"And then I was like, 'Oh great, looks like I'm gonna spend the night here.,'"  Shelby Jordan said.

The Virgin America escort took Shelby back to the plane she arrived on and sent her back to Dallas.

That's when she sent an email to her parents that said, "Dad, I'm scared.  Please help me.  I'm ready to see you, mom and sis."

Her father, Eric Jordan, got an urgent call from Virgin America, telling him Shelby had been denied entrance onto the Hawaiian plane, so he called Hawaiian Airlines to try to sort things out.

"Next thing I was on hold and I stayed on hold for about 40 minutes before anybody came back on," Jordan said.

Dana Jordan, Shelby's mother added: "They (Hawaiian Airlines) did not contact us to let us know that 'Hey, we're not taking your daughter.'  We feel like that they should have contacted us then and that didn't happen. They rejected her, didn't let us know they rejected her."

Her parents quickly arranged for a close family friend in Dallas to leave work early and meet Shelby at the Dallas airport. Virgin America airlines put them up at an airport hotel for the night, the Jordans said.

The next day, they said, Virgin paid for Shelby and her parent's friend to fly to LA, where the girl got on the Hawaiian flight for Honolulu 24 hours later than the flight she originally wanted to catch.

"That's an 11-year-old child just left out.  No where to go, really.  She's put on a plane to go back to somewhere where nobody was there to pick her up," Eric Jordan said.

Jordan said he called Hawaiian several times to try to get answers, submitted a complaint on its web site, and even went to Hawaiian in person in the month since the July 9 incident but heard nothing back.

"Nobody's even said 'I'm sorry.' Nobody's come forward and said, 'Hey we screwed up.'  It's just been, I've gotten nothing.  And to me, that's unacceptable," Eric Jordan said.

A Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman admitted the airline mistakenly sold an "unaccompanied minor" ticket to Shelby Jordan, because its policy is to not  accept reservations for children traveling alone on "code share" flights.

"When two airlines are involved and there is a delay of any kind, it gets difficult to sort out which airline is responsible for the supervision of the child," said Hawaiian's Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications, Ann Botticelli.

"We accept responsibility for the error and will definitely work with our staff to ensure the policy is clearly understood," Botticelli added.

On Friday, shortly after Hawaii News Now asked Hawaiian about the Jordan family's ordeal, Hawaiian sent Eric Jordan an email that said:

"… we apologize for the inconvenience you and your family experienced due to our agent's error and for the long hold times while contacting our Call Center."

Hawaiian is refunding the family the $100 unaccompanied minor fee and claimed its delay in responding to their complaints happened because the airline's consumer affairs office was switching to a new database and off-line for a few days.

Asked if she wants to fly alone again soon, Shelby Jordan said,"It makes me kind of nervous because, after what happened, it makes me think, 'Do I ever want to do this again?"

Her father Eric said, "I would hate to see somebody else's kid have to go through what my daughter had to go through."

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