Sometimes kids have to embark upon a cross-country adventure via airplane by themselves. They might be flying out West to visit grandparents or heading to the East Coast to spend some time with a parent. No matter the circumstances, it’s nervewracking for the child and the parents alike.
Most airlines allow children age five and older to travel unaccompanied. The federal government has specific rules in place for what’s called unaccompanied minors. Most airlines will allow a minor age 15 and older to fly alone on domestic flights without any unaccompanied minor procedures put in place; some allow restrictions to be lifted at age 12.
When mom Alexa Bjornson bought her seven-year-old son Landon a ticket from Las Vegas to Oregon so he could visit his dad, she was fretful because he had to fly alone. It wasn’t just because Landon is only seven, but because he’s also autistic and has trouble traveling sometimes.
To put her mind at ease, she crafted a note for Landon to hand over to whoever he sat next to on the plane.
She also attached a $10 bill to the note in the hopes it would help Landon’s seatmate be compelled to help the little boy feel safe and secure when flying alone, she shared with CNN affiliate KATU.
“I thought, how do I make it so whoever’s sitting next to him won’t look at him as a burden but more of like, I can help this kiddo get through the day.”
Little did Alexa know but a guardian angel ended up seated next to her little boy. Ben Pedraza was Landon’s neighbor. The nervous boy handed his mom’s note and money over to Ben, who was caught completely off guard by Alexa’s gesture.
No note or $10 was needed for these two to bond thousands of feet up in the air, Ben told CNN affiliate KATU.
“We were cracking jokes, and after a while, he asked me to quit making dad jokes.”
Ben reached out to Alexa after the flight and shared a photo of the two goofing around, smiling and having a terrific time.
“(Landon) did ask if we were there yet several times but he was a great travel buddy. We had a good time and played a few rounds of rock-paper-scissors. He’s a great kid and you’re a lucky mom.”
Alexa took to Facebook and shared how impressed she was with Ben’s kindness and couldn’t believe how this stranger treated her son.
“Today my son took his first flight to Oregon to see his dad. I sent Landon with a letter to give to whoever sat next to me saying he has high functioning autism so he might be nervous and ask you ‘are we there yet’ a lot, and please just make him feel safe and comfortable…”
The stranger told Alexa that the money was unnecessary and after spending quality time with Landon, he decided to donate it to The Autism Society in Landon’s honor.
Ben’s note brought tears to Alexa’s eyes. She was so grateful that fate sat Ben next to Landon on his flight.
“I am so grateful to this individual, and that there are still kind people in the world who make a difference, like I try myself to do as well. Thank you so much Ben!!!!”
Mom Susie Cregg has an autistic son who is 5.5 years old with ADHD. She related to Alexa’s Facebook post and shared in her message thread that her son, too, has triggers that can prompt unprovoked meltdowns that can last minutes or hours. She related to how nervous Alexa felt with her autistic son flying alone.
“I can only imagine how stressed out his mom must have felt leaving him on his own amongst strangers-even in a safe environment. How wonderful to find a seatmate who could understand that and offer her some peace of mind. It is so wonderful to know there are still kind people in (what seems like) and increasingly mean society.”
Landon taught everyone a lesson about how wonderful kids with autism are and Ben showed us to not judge a book by its cover. Watch their special bond unfold in the magical story below.