Three Jacksonville Kids, 11, 13, and 15, Use Babysitting Money to Take Off on Southwest. Destination? Dollywood!

Kids Fly Solo to Nashville, Parents Want Answers

Trio of Kids, Oldest 15, Fly to Nashville Alone, Never Stopped By Airline or TSA

By STEVE OSUNSAMI and BRET HOVELL, ABCNews.go.com

Aug. 13, 2010 —

"We're going to Dollywood! I'd like three tickets to Butcher Holler please. Or is it Pigeon Forge?

It must’ve been an idle day for three youngsters Tuesday when one had a novel idea: Let’s go to Dollywood. The trio from Jacksonville, Fla., had no drivers licenses — the oldest was 15 — and no car, but they did have cash.

They also never told their parents.

After a quick round trip to the nation’s country music capitol, the kids’ parents are asking why no one, from the ticket counter to the gate, ever asked the kids what they were doing.

The 15-year-old, Bridget, said it was all her idea. She had been saving money from babysitting for a new car, but changed her mind and suggested — via text to a friend — that her brother and friend fly with her to Dollywood.

The trio paid for a cab to the airport, bought tickets from Southwest Airlines — around $700 in all — and passed through security to the gate, all on their own.

“We went through security — they didn’t say anything to us,” Bridget said Thursday. “We went over there and picked up our stuff and got on the plane.”

They enjoyed a nice, comfortable flight from Jacksonville to Nashville. But when they landed, they had a small problem — Dollywood is in Pigeon Forge, more than 200 miles from Nashville. Stranded and scared, the kids decided to call home.

“He said, ‘For real, I’m in Nashville, Tennessee, and I’m ready to come home,” Heather Nolan said of her son Bobby’s phone call. “‘We want to come home.'”

“It was scary, very scary,” Bridget’s father, James Brown, said.

Southwest, TSA Defend Actions

Southwest Airlines and federal officials both released statements about the incident.

The Transportation Safety Administration wrote that “kids under 18 don’t need to show an ID” so the children were let through without one. Southwest told “Good Morning America” that “two of the passengers were over the age of 12, and therefore could travel without a parent.”

“I never would have dreamed my kids would have got on a plane without me or their mom,” James Brown said. “But they did.”

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1 comment for “Three Jacksonville Kids, 11, 13, and 15, Use Babysitting Money to Take Off on Southwest. Destination? Dollywood!

  1. August 13, 2010 at 8:26 am

    This story has me grinning from ear to ear. Imagine these kids, eyes wide open, emptying their pockets going through security, huge smiles, maybe a giggle or two. No baggage, carry-on worries, or laptops. Living in the moment, not a care in the world.

    They took a cab to the airport!!! LOL!!! That’s too funny. Wonder if they tipped the driver?

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