JetBlue Puts Unaccompanied 5-Year-Old On The Wrong Plane

by Valerie Williams
Originally Published: 
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A mom panicked when her 5-year-old was sent home on the wrong JetBlue flight

A mom experienced every parent’s nightmare after a mix-up resulted in her young son flying to the wrong city. He was traveling on a JetBlue flight as an unaccompanied minor and although his family followed all the right protocol, he still ended up on the wrong plane.

Holy shit.

It was JetBlue’s fault entirely that little Andy Martinez Mercado landed in Boston instead of JFK airport in New York City. The 5-year-old was apparently mixed up with another child of the same age also departing from the Dominican Republic, where Andy had been visiting family.

NY Daily News reports that the boy’s mother, Maribel Martinez, feared the worst. “I thought he was kidnapped. I thought I would never see him again.” She was waiting for her son at JFK when JetBlue staff members brought her the wrong child.

They brought her the wrong child. Can you even imagine that brand of panic?

Somehow, the other kid had Andy’s passport by mistake and was supposed to be in Boston instead of NYC. Meanwhile, Andy was in Boston wondering where his mom was. Once Martinez finally spoke to her son he told her, “Mami, they put me on another plane.” The other boy was safely returned to Boston and Andy was sent to JFK that same day.

Afterward, Martinez started to investigate to try and figure out what went wrong. She and Andy originally traveled down together on July 28th with Martinez returning home before her son. He was to return a few weeks later as an unaccompanied minor, a service his mother paid an extra $100 for, so a JetBlue employee would escort him onto the plane.

She spoke with the family members who put her son on the plane in the Dominican Republic and they said all went as planned. They waited around an extra 30 minutes after his flight took off to make sure all was well for the little boy before leaving the airport. The child even had a wristband with his name on it and the family followed all appropriate protocol for boarding him as an unaccompanied minor.

Martinez has retained attorney Sanford Rubenstein to take legal action against the airline for the mistake, which caused the mother considerable emotional distress. Rubenstein says, “Any parent can understand the terrifying fear a mother goes through knowing that her child is missing. This never should have happened and the JetBlue employees should be ashamed of themselves.”

JetBlue released a statement saying, “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.”

Martinez says she has yet to receive an apology or explanation for how her son got switched with another child. Although the airline refunded Andy’s ticket and gave her an additional $2100 in flight credit, it doesn’t matter — she doesn’t ever plan to fly with them again. And can anyone blame her?

Mistakes and accidents happen, but this isn’t a lost piece of luggage we’re talking about. It’s a 5-year-old child who landed in an airport over 200 miles from where his mother was anxiously awaiting his return. This is the stuff of parental nightmares and JetBlue needs to do better than a few thousand in flight credit and a lame public statement.

A parent allowing their child to travel as an unaccompanied minor is a huge leap of faith, and JetBlue messed up in the worst way possible. Let’s hope they’ve learned their lesson so no one else has to experience this terrifying situation.

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