Alaska Teen Flies to Seattle Without Parents' Consent, I.D.

A 15-year-old Juneau girl was allowed to board a jet Wednesday and fly south to Seattle without her parents' permission.

Elise Pringle said she wants Alaska Airlines and the Transportation Safety Administration to reconsider their rules after her daughter left to meet a "boyfriend" in North Carolina whom she met over the Internet.

Pringle awoke Wednesday to find her daughter missing. Nearly a week earlier, the girl bought a $733 one-way ticket with cash at the Juneau International Airport. On Wednesday, she was able to board a plane without identification.

"I thought, unbeknownst, that my child would not only have to have permission, but I thought she would have to have identification, at the very least," Pringle said.

According to policies at the airport, children between 13 and 17 may board a plane without identification or parental permission.

"It's been a nightmare," Pringle said. "This has been an absolute nightmare and I didn't believe in my wildest dreams that this could happen."

Alaska Airlines has an "unaccompanied minor service" required for passengers 5 to 12 years old who travel without a guardian, said spokeswoman Amanda Tobin Bielawski. The program requires an escort to the departure gate and guardian contact information, she said.

The airline offers the same service for children between 13 to 17 — if the ticket purchaser requests it, Bielawski said.

"We don't have any age restriction for purchasing a ticket," she said.

TSA spokeswoman Jennifer Peppin said airline passengers 18 and older are required to present photo identification before boarding. Travelers 17 and younger need only a boarding pass.

"What type of photo identification does a 15-year-old have?" Peppin said.

TSA agents thoroughly screen all passengers, she said.

"Our responsibility is through the screening process," Peppin said. "It sounds like the child had a boarding pass, so that would not raise a red flag for us."

A minor without photo identification purchasing a ticket with cash and without parental consent should have raised a red flag somewhere, Pringle said.

"How are we supposed to protect our children when Alaska Airlines can just fly them out of here?" she said. "There is a precedent that needs to be set."

Pringle learned her daughter had purchased a ticket and was trying to leave town. Family members arrived at the airport trying to stop the girl from leaving. Airline employees refused to give them any of the girl's flight information, she said.

"They knew my daughter was on that plane but they would not remove my daughter from that plane," she said. "I did not authorize my daughter to leave Juneau."

"Under our policy, we do not release information of our passengers to members of the public who might call us," Bielawski said. People have attempted to acquire passenger information under false pretenses in disconcerting ways, she said.

The policies jeopardized her daughter's safety, Pringle said.

After her daughter's flight left Juneau, Pringle contacted Port of Seattle police. She gave them her daughter's social networking Web site log-in information and password, which provided a recent photograph and more information about the girl's online boyfriend.

Sea-Tac Airport spokesman Perry Cooper said Port of Seattle police were able to find the girl at the gate of her connecting flight.

"They spoke with her and convinced her to get on the phone and talk with her mother," Cooper said.

Pringle's difficulties continued, however.

"They found her, and here's your catch: Not only was my daughter transported across state lines without my authorization and without identification ... they said she has to volunteer to come home," Pringle said.

Because the teenager was considered an unreported runaway, police were unable to detain her, Cooper said. However, officers helped persuade her daughter to return to Juneau that evening.

Pringle said she had to pay roughly $400 for an Alaska Airlines ticket to return her child Wednesday night. With the initial ticket, she and her husband are out nearly $1,200, she said.

Pringle said she wants to save her daughter from a life of destructive behavior and has filed theft charges against her. The girl was in juvenile court Friday and remanded to the Johnson Youth Center, she said.

Pringle said she is determined to let parents know that their children can get on a plane without permission or identification. A law needs to be put in place to protect children from unnecessarily putting themselves in harm's way, she said.

"I'm beside myself," Pringle said. "We have a risk to our children in this town and nationwide."