HOLBROOK, N.Y. — Teen-age airplane passenger Jarret Halker says he screamed in panic, banged on windows and punched the seats after waking up on a commuter jet--dimly lighted, empty and far from the terminal.
"Get me off this plane," yelled Jarret, then 13, but no one heard him. In the distance out the window, the Long Island teen-ager said he could see the terminal building at Boston's Logan International Airport after the first leg of a journey from Long Island-MacArthur Airport to see his grandmother in Mobile, Ala.
Jarret, now 14, and his mother, Eva, who had paid a small escort fee to Delta Airlines, are suing the company and its contract commuter carrier, Business Express, for $21 million over the trauma caused to Jarret by the July 15 flight. The mother said Delta arranged the flight with Business Express.
A spokesman for Business Express, which flies passengers from MacArthur and other airports to Delta hubs, declined to comment.
Delta spokesman Todd Clay said his airline is not responsible for what happened because the incident occurred in a Business Express aircraft.
But the Halkers' attorney, Andrew Siben of Bay Shore, N.Y., said because the mother paid an escort fee to Delta, "Delta was clearly negligent. They breached their duty."
Jarret, who has traveled alone with escort service since age 5, said he handed the captain a note from Delta to shepherd him from his seat to the connecting flight, part of Delta's $25 escort fee. The captain seemed puzzled by the note, but accepted it, Jarret said, and the teen-ager took his seat near the back of the plane.
To the sounds of Weird Al Yankovic on his portable CD player, Jarret fell asleep. He woke up when the plane landed, but because escorts had always told him not to leave until someone got him, he fell asleep again.
Minutes later, he woke up.
"I ran up and down scared to death because I didn't know what was going to happen," Jarret said. "The door was closed and my heart felt like it was going to explode. I saw the baggage people outside, and I was banging on the windows and no one heard me."
After kicking the plane's door, he got it open by reading the door's instructions. He walked around the plane for a short time before a baggage handler drove over in a cart and asked, "What are you doing here?" The baggage handler took him to Delta personnel, who got him on the connecting flight.