British mother ‘livid’ after airport incident saw autistic son left behind in Greece

An incident at Heraklion Airport in Crete caused a British mother boarded her flight without her son, as he was taken away by TUI airline staff without her knowledge.

By Rhona Shennan
Monday, 10th June 2019, 3:54 pm
Despite having been assured her son would be a priority on the flight, Nicola's son was left behind (Photo: Shutterstock)
Despite having been assured her son would be a priority on the flight, Nicola's son was left behind (Photo: Shutterstock)

Now that they have been reunited, the family is seeking compensation.

What happened?

Nicola Purdy, 48, went on holiday to Greece with her three children - Jack, 24, Alex, 12 and Daci, 11.

On their return to Cardiff, Nicola’s son Jack, who has autism, took ill with a migraine prior to boarding the flight and was vomiting. The staff at the airport phoned a doctor who came to check him out.

Speaking to Wales Online, Nicola said, “The doctor came and took him, and his boarding pass and said they would put him on the flight in priority seating.”

Having been assured that Jack would be specially assisted onto the plane, Nicola and her two younger children boarded their flight back home.

‘Where is my son?’

Seated at the back of the plane, Nicola did notice that Jacks assigned seat was empty, but assumed he had been relocated to priority seating up the front.

“There was no reason he would not be on that flight,” Nicola said.

When they landed in Cardiff, it wasn’t immediately obvious that something was wrong.

“I was perfectly oblivious and we arrived at Cardiff and went to get the luggage,” the mum went on.

“We waited a while, and there was nobody left in arrivals or departures and I thought, where is my son?”

What happened when they landed in Cardiff?

At this point, the family realised that Jack was nowhere to be found.

Undertaking a three and a half hour search to locate her son, Nicola enlisted the help of airport security, police and the British Consulate.

It was then revealed that Jack had not been on the flight and was, at this point, still in Crete without the use of his mobile phone, or access to his passport or money.

“He must have been thinking we had all abandoned him. He had no means of communication with anyone and was in another country. It was awful,” Nicola said.

Regarding why she didn’t question why Jack’s seat on the plane was empty when they took off, Nicola said, “Why would I, after what I was told?”

Getting Jack home

Meanwhile, Jack was still in Crete - he had been taken to a public hospital to treat his symptoms for free. He was then returned to the airport, by himself, where the TUI manager was waiting.

Nicola said, “I spoke to the British Consulate and they got him on the next available flight the next day, accompanied by someone from TUI and he was then put in a taxi home to Swansea.”

“He was tearful. When he got home he was still not well at all.”

Seeking compensation

“I believe TUI should compensate us and ensure it does not happen to anybody else,” Nicola said.

“I am livid. This caused so much distress to all of us, especially my youngest children, who were inconsolable.”

What does TUI say?

A TUI UK spokesperson said to Wales Online, “We are sorry to hear that Mrs Purdy’s son was taken ill in the airport lounge before his flight

“Once we were made aware that he had returned from the hospital and was still at the airport, we fully supported them by arranging both a flight back to the UK and onward travel home, covering the entire cost.”

TUI UK stated that they “have tried to make further contact” with the Purdy family following their return to the UK, and had been in “direct contact” with Nicola whilst they were arranging Jacks travel home.