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Airline loses 11-year-old girl on chaperoned flight

DETROIT, Michigan (CNN) -- AmericaWest Airlines is investigating how an 11-year-old girl traveling with an airline chaperone from Los Angeles to Detroit wound up on the wrong flight, arriving 18 hours late.

William McDaniel of Detroit said his daughter, Aunnalise Woods, was put on a plane by her mother in Los Angeles on Saturday evening. She was to arrive at Wayne County Metropolitan Airport on a connecting flight from Phoenix, Arizona, at 6:40 p.m. EDT, McDaniel told CNN.

When she didn't arrive, an attendant told him his daughter was flying standby and would arrive at 10 p.m. on the next flight, but she wasn't on that flight either.

Woods' mother, Alacia Blake, who lives in Los Angeles, had paid AmericaWest a $60 fee for an airline chaperone to accompany her daughter to and from her connecting flights to Detroit. But the attendant put his daughter on the wrong connecting flight in Phoenix, McDaniel said.

"She brought it to the attention of the attendant. He told her this was the right gate. She recognized she was on the wrong flight when the plane landed and the pilot welcomed everyone to Orlando."

Jim Sabourin, vice president of communications at the airline, said a station manager in Orlando had tried to contact the father, but had only a pager number, and no one returned the page. McDaniel said no one contacted him.

Without parental consent, AmericaWest could not put Woods on another airline that had a direct flight to Detroit, Sabourin said. So Woods was flown on an AmericaWest flight that connected through Las Vegas. That flight arrived in Detroit at 7 a.m. EDT Sunday, more than 18 hours after her original flight left Los Angeles.

McDaniel said his daughter was in tears on the plane and now does not want to fly alone.

McDaniel said no one from AmericaWest could tell him where his daughter was until 3 a.m. EDT, and that representatives at the company's Phoenix headquarters were rude to his family when they called trying to find daughter's whereabouts.

The airline is also looking into those claims, Sabourin said.

"This is an unfortunate situation," he said. "There are literally thousands of minors who travel by themselves on airplanes every year, and this is an extremely rare occurrence."

Normally, a chaperone accompanies a minor throughout his or her flight to their destination, taking the minor to the outgoing gate.

"We're uncovering all the details to determine exactly what happened to prevent it from occurring again," he said.

McDaniel was given a ticket voucher for $400 by the AmericaWest attendant at Metro Airport, but said he has contacted an attorney to pursue legal action.

Sabourin said the airline has still been unable to contact McDaniel, but would like to refund the price of the child's ticket and give each of Woods' parents free tickets and a vacation package, in addition to the $400 ticket voucher.

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