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Manchester couple angry at airline's response to daughter's privacy invasion in the sky

By KEVIN LANDRIGAN
New Hampshire Union Leader

August 15. 2018 11:11AM
A Spirit Airlines airplane is seen in September of 2014. A Manchester couple is angry and disillusioned after their daughter felt violated by a "creepy" male passenger taking pictures of her on a Spirit Airlines flight, and they said they remain unable to get even basic information about the incident. (Spirit Airlines file photo)

Correction: An earlier version of this story used the wrong last name for the Booth family.

 

MANCHESTER - When Mark and Amy Booth of Manchester placed their 13-year-old daughter alone on a flight from Boston to Orlando, Fla., last Monday, they paid Spirit Airlines an extra $200 to ensure that she was safe.

Now the Booths are angry and disillusioned after their daughter felt violated by a "creepy" male passenger taking pictures of her, and they said they remain unable to get even basic information about the incident.

And when they tried to arrange a safer seat assignment for her flight back to Boston on Saturday night, Spirit officials told them it would cost another $45 for that special spot.

"What I was pursuing was finding out who this was to press charges so that eventually he could be put on a no-fly list," Mark Booth said in an interview.

"The lack of reporting and any accountability is both concerning and egregious."

Every year, their daughter goes to Florida to visit friends who used to live in their North End Manchester neighborhood.

Her father found an affordable, non-stop flight on Spirit to Orlando and the parents decided to pay an additional $100 each way to give her special treatment as an "unaccompanied minor." The fees were almost equal to the cost of the plane ticket.

The Booths asked that their daughter's first name not be used for this story.

After she landed in Orlando, a "freaked out" daughter called her parents to report what had happened.

"She had noticed that there was a man over the age of 40 taking pictures of her on the plane and she was concerned," Mark Booth said.

"She got the flight attendant's attention and told him and asked what the hell was going on. They had moved her to the front of the plane and supposedly the flight attendant asked (the man) for the phone to have the pictures deleted and he not be served alcohol."

The parents said they couldn't get any answer to their queries until Amy placed in view of the airline's Twitter feed a critical summary of the incident.

Why the rear of the plane?

The Booths couldn't fathom why their daughter, as a protected minor, had initially been placed near the rear of the aircraft.

"Call me crazy, but I'm not sure what makes the back of a plane safer than the front!!" Amy Booth posted online.

"Please share this!!! It might help someone else that is having a minor fly solo. It might also make Spirit Airlines step up to the plate and change their policies on unaccompanied minors. Word to the wise, don't fly Spirit!!!"

At that point, Spirit officials responded. A guest relations representative identified as Natty apologized for the incident. She said in an email to the couple that an accommodation would be made for their daughter on the return trip.

"We truly apologize for the recent experience your daughter had with us. As previously mentioned, the safety and comfort of each guest is always our top priority," Natty wrote.

"With that said, I am glad to see our flight attendants were able to move your daughter to a more suitable location on the aircraft.

"Please know our Big Front seats do require an additional charge and are based on availability per flight. Our records show, as a courtesy, we have selected seat 5C for your daughter's return flight."

The couple had asked for the first row and that's why the $45 charge came in.

"Where is the incident report?" said Mark Booth. "This is bizarre to say the least. According to the airlines, the flight attendant asked him to delete the photos. You can always recover photos from your trash."

Frustrations echoed

Spirit Airlines officials said the incident has been logged.

"If at any moment your daughter needs assistance during the flight, our crew members will make sure to address her concerns accordingly, especially in the event that she would need to be moved to another seat, as done during the outbound flight," Natty wrote in an email to the Booths.

"Rest assured, our crew will do all that they can to ensure your daughter has a pleasant and safe flight experience from beginning to end. This incident has been recorded in our system and will be sent to the corresponding department for further review."

Mark Booth said they decided to go public in the hope that all airlines will evaluate their own practices so that they always emphasize safety and transparency.

"What I am looking for is a policy change, a procedure so that when an incident like this happens, there is a record, there is an action step that needs to be reported to senior management," he said. "If something is against the law they should be prosecuted accordingly."

New Hampshire residents echoed the couple's frustrations and ire with their comments on Facebook about the controversy this week.

"I was contemplating letting my 14-year-old daughter fly to Seattle solo. Definitely not happening now! Hope your daughter is ok," posted Kristynn Rolla of Bow.

Nancy Clayton of Manchester said the airline's actions were indefensible.

"That is unbelievable!" Clayton wrote. "What moron thought the BACK of the plane was a safe place for a young girl travelling alone??"

Spirit Airlines in a statement defended the actions of its crew.

“Spirit Airlines takes the safety of all guests, including unaccompanied minors very seriously.  As with this case, our crew acted quickly to reseat the minor.  We will continue investigating the circumstances surrounding this incident, and we will continue to reach out directly to the minor’s parents to resolve any further concerns,” they said.

klandrigan@unionleader.com


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