JetBlue has dropped the ball and presented at least one parent of two unaccompanied minors (UM) with the wrong child after mixing them up and flying them to a wrong destination.
The situation was eventually resolved the same day when at least one 5 year old boy was flown back from Boston to New York and presented to his mother who was already on the brink, waiting for her son.
Apparently handling Unaccompanied Minors isn’t the easiest thing for an airline or maybe they simply don’t have enough professional staff dedicated to this service which they offer for a fee to parents who have to send their children traveling without the company of a guardian.
New York Daily News (see here) spoke to the mother of the 5 year old.
A 5-year-old returning home alone from a family visit in the Dominican Republic was placed on the wrong flight — and ended up 214 miles away in Boston while his panic-stricken mom waited at Kennedy Airport.
Maribel Martinez said she lost her mind while it took more than three hours to locate her son, Andy Martinez Mercado.
“I thought he was kidnapped,” Martinez, 38, told the Daily News. “I thought I would never see him again.” Clueless JetBlue staffers, meanwhile, had presented a different 5-year-old boy to Martinez they thought was her son. …
It turns out that little boy — who was carrying Andy’s passport at the time — was supposed to be on the flight to Boston, and he was mistakenly placed on the plane to New York City.
Martinez has now retained high-powered lawyer Sanford Rubenstein to take legal action against JetBlue for their negligence, which caused her family so much emotional distress this summer.
Handling children traveling alone is a common occurrence and the airline should have dedicated staff to look after these kids. How can these kids end up with their passports mixed up and be put on incorrect flights?
Andy’s trip started innocently enough on July 28 — flying with his mom to the Dominican Republic for vacation. Martinez returned to New York after a week, leaving Andy with relatives. She purchased a ticket for him to return on Aug. 17, and paid an extra $100 fee for a JetBlue representative to escort him onto the plane. …
Martinez did not know the identity of the other boy presented to her. He was safely returned to Boston, the airline says.
When JetBlue finally tracked down Andy in Boston, Martinez was put on the phone with him.
‘Mami, they put me on another plane,’ ” she recalled Andy telling her.
The boy was placed on the next flight to Kennedy Airport that same day to be reunited with his mom.
Who knows how long it took them to actually identify the second child before or after flying the boy back to Boston. Maybe they are playing some sort of passport shuffle in the playroom area which airlines usually keep for kids while they are waiting for their next flight.
A JetBlue spokeswoman said in a statement Wednesday: “Two unaccompanied children of the same age traveling separately from Santiago, Dominican Republic, one to New York JFK and one to Boston — each boarded a flight to the incorrect destination. Upon learning of the error, our teams in JFK and Boston immediately took steps to assist the children in reaching their correct destinations. While the children were always under the care and supervision of JetBlue crew members, we realize this situation was distressing for their families.”
But Martinez said she has never received an apology or explanation for how the mixup occurred — noting that Andy was wearing a wristband with his name on it.
JetBlue refunded her $475 for the flight and also gave the family $2,100 in credit for future flights.
I wouldn’t be too surprised if this wristband had been attached after the fact before the boy was flown back to JFK.
$2,100 in flight credits are likely peanuts considering what the compensation will be once a lawsuit is filed against JetBlue and a settlement has been reached.
JetBlue and airlines in general really have to review and if necessary update their operational procedures when it comes to dealing with unaccompanied children on board their flights. Children traveling by themselves under (hopefully) the watchful eyes of airline employees is nothing new but since the early days of air travel operations and airports became larger and more complicated.
Back in June we wrote about an incident where a 13 year old girl traveling by herself was sexually molested by another passenger (access our article here) where it also turned out the airline in question (American Airlines) missed early warning signs that could have averted the situation from the get go.