Mom Whose Son, 11, Went Viral for Southwest Airlines Experience Details the Pre-Teen's Epic Trip

Alison Hardebeck and her husband agreed on their son's very first solo flight for a special reason — his cousin's birthday. "I grew up in California, I

now live in Washington State. So my whole family is still in California, and my sister calls and says that for my nephew's birthday that was coming up, all he wanted for his

birthday was for his cousin to come to his birthday party," Hardebeck tells PEOPLE of the situation that led to a once-in-a-lifetime experience for her son. While

11-year-old Jacoby was free, the rest of the family wasn't. "My husband coaches our other son's soccer team, so he was not able to go for the weekend. I couldn't go either, and so

we decided to go ahead and go for it and let him fly on his own for the first time." After talking to her husband about it, the couple — who have flown countless times with

all three of their kids — felt comfortable letting Jacoby go alone, dropping him at the gate in Seattle and having family members retrieve him from San Francisco. "Our son,

he's a typical firstborn son and he when he sets his mind to do something, he goes for it. But he is very curious and has a tendency to be a little bit more cautious," Hardebeck

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