Southwest Airlines Flies Sleeping Teen To Wrong City

ST. LOUIS (AP) – An Arizona teenager said he overslept on a plane, missed a stop and ended up St. Louis, where a security guard he approached refused to help him. But an airport spokesman said Wednesday that surveillance video didn’t back up the boy’s account.

Erik McBee, 15, of the Phoenix area, was traveling to Tulsa, Okla., on a Southwest Airlines flight on Dec. 28. He told KPHO-TV in Phoenix that he overslept and wound up in St. Louis.

He and his mother told the TV station that Erik told his story to a Lambert-St. Louis International Airport security guard, but the guard said he couldn’t help.

But Lambert spokesman Jeff Lea told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that video surveillance shows Erik leaving the airport terminal, but does not show him seeking help.

“It doesn’t appear that he asked for any assistance before leaving the building,” Lea said.

Airport police started a search the next day after receiving a call from one of Erik’s grandparents asking about his disappearance. Later that day, a woman brought Erik to the police station in Florissant, a St. Louis suburb, police Sgt. Kevin Boschert said. Officers contacted Erik’s family, took him to the airport, and Southwest put him on a flight home at no charge.

Erik said he spent his 24 hours in the St. Louis area without money or a cellphone. He was able to call 911 to ask for help.

“(They said) they’re not a taxi service and hung up,” he told the TV station.

Erik’s mother, Keena McBee, told KPHO her son went to a police station, but no one was there. It wasn’t clear which station that was. She said he was eventually able to get a stranger to help him.

A spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines said Erik’s flight arrived in Tulsa about 1:33 p.m. on Dec. 28 and took off for St. Louis about 40 minutes later.

Spokeswoman Ashley Dillon said Southwest crews do a head count to make sure they have the right number of continuing passengers before letting others board. The head count was correct before departing Tulsa, Dillon said. The airline is investigating.

Southwest had no record of Erik approaching an airline agent in St. Louis.

“We did everything we could to locate him right away,” Dillon said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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  • Chanel

    Although I do have sympathy for the boy he is 15 years old, which is old enough to take on responsibility. He overslept on a plane where they make a ton of noises when its time to get off the plane?? Really?? NO! Video tape says it all. He did not ask for help like he said. He walked straight out of the airport. There is something more to this story then what’s in this article. Is mom looking for a payout and using her son?

  • FedUpTxn

    What irresponsible parent sends a teenager alone on a flight with no cell phone and no money, not even enough for a pay phone? Doesn’t even sound like this kid had enough sense to call home. I might have believed this story until it got to the part of the police station with no one there! Sounds like this kid just wanted an adventure. I have teens, you have to listen very carefully to what they say because it often isn’t the whole truth, or even half of it!

  • wind

    That wouldn’t have happened to a Kardashian.

  • kbTexan

    I’m calling ‘bogus’ on the whole story. I’ve been on a lot of Southwest Airlines flights and they are meticulous about passengers who continue on to the next stop. They do multiple passenger counts, and if the counts don’t add up they check the manifest. Any passenger still on the plane has to show identity. There’s no way they would start boarding the next flight until the passenger count was correct. This kid isn’t telling the truth.

  • susan

    kb texan is correct..i too have flown on southwest and they are excellent at doing head counts and making sure no new passengers come onboard a thru flight until the onboard count is correct..they do not issue specific seats however and you are allowed to sit wherever a seat is available..i think the boy (since hes a teen) took it upon himself to have adventure and blame the airline.his mother,not wanting to seem uninformed, has blamed the airline as well….15 is old enough to be responsible.and i might add..airline personnel do not ignore anyone if they are told the person is lost, or has to make a phone call..i worked for american and i assisted many teens and elderly as well as unaccompanied minors with phone calls to relatives, rebookings , and even food!

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