It's every nervous mom's worst nightmare come to life — you're anxiously waiting for your child to walk off of an airplane and into your arms, but when the plane lands, your 5-year-old isn't one of the passengers. And what's worse, there's a little boy holding his passport who's not him.
Such was the frightening case for Maribel Martinez as she waited for her son Andy Martinez Mercado to arrive home last month. Andy had been on a family vacation in the Dominican Republic and was supposed to fly home to his mother in New York as an unaccompanied minor. But while at the airport in the Dominican Republic, he and his passport were somehow mixed up with this other young boy who was traveling to Boston. JetBlue sent Andy on the flight to Boston and the other little boy was put on the plane to New York, both with the wrong passports.
JetBlue has given Martinez a flight credit of $2,100 and a $475 refund for her trouble, but at this time she is still seeking legal damages against the company for negligence and emotional distress. She says she first believed her son was kidnapped when he didn't arrive as scheduled. The other family involved in the incident has not been identified.
The airline has issued a statement acknowledging the situation must have been distressing for the family and saying the airline took steps to correct their mistake as soon as they realized the error. While saying "I'm sorry" is always nice, it's still shocking that two kids were supposedly under the watchful eye of airline staff throughout their entire flights and no one on either flight in all those hours ever thought to ask either of the boys their name and realize that it didn't match the name on the passport or ticket.
Names aside, no one thought to ask Andy if he was excited to go to Boston, and presumably he would have said he was going to New York and vice versa for the other young child. How well are kids on flights monitored exactly?
When you're entrusting a minor to an airline, you do so thinking they will first and foremost make it on the right plane, but also that they will checked in on during the flight. It doesn't appear like that happened at all, since this massive mistake wasn't uncovered until Mom herself was presented with the wrong child. Sorry JetBlue, you may have the most legroom in coach, free Wi-Fi and televisions in the seat-backs, but all the free bags of chocolate chip cookies in the world can't make up for this one.
Luckily, both boys are safe and unharmed. And while this is in no way their fault, it's a good lesson for parents too.
As much as we want to teach our children to be quiet and respectful, there are times when we should encourage our kids to use their voices to speak up for themselves. If your child is ever in a situation in which they will be traveling unaccompanied, make sure they know which adults are there to help them, and tell them it's absolutely OK to tell those adults their name loudly and proudly, just to make sure everyone's on the same page... and the right plane.
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