By Alana Romain
Putting your 5-year-old child on a flight alone would be a scary enough prospect for most parents, but New York mom Maribel Martinez was in for a huge shock when she went to the airport to meet her son last month, only to find that the child who’d arrived wasn’t actually hers. She soon learned that JetBlue staffers mistakenly put her son, Andy, on a flight from the Dominican Republic to Boston, instead of sending him to JFK as indicated on his ticket. (Yes, really.) After the early September mixup, Martinez told the New York Daily News that Andy had been visiting family and was scheduled to fly back home to her with the help of a JetBlue escort, but somehow his passport and ticket got mixed up with another little boy who was sent to New York in his place.
The worst part? Martinez told the paper that at first, no one at JetBlue even knew what had happened, or where her son actually was.
“I was freaking out,” Martinez said. “I didn’t know if he was alive. I still haven’t stopped crying.”
Then her mind started to race.
“I thought he was kidnapped,” the 38-year-old mother told the paper. “I thought I would never see him again.”
When the airline finally realized Andy had accidentally been sent to Boston, they were able to put him on the next flight back to New York to be reunited with his mother. But needless to say, the experience was completely harrowing.
Following the incident, Martinez filed a lawsuit against JetBlue for unspecified damages. In response to the case, Martinez’ lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein, told the Daily News that it “never should have happened,” and that “JetBlue employees should be ashamed of themselves.”
In a statement, JetBlue emphasized that despite the mix-up, the two boys were still safe and “always under the care and supervision of JetBlue crew members.” JetBlue also acknowledged that the situation “was distressing for their families,” and offered Martinez a refund for Andy’s flight along with a $2,100 credit. The airline later offered her a $10,000 “gift” for her troubles too, but she reportedly rejected it.
Unsurprisingly, Martinez said she doesn’t ever intend on flying JetBlue again. And that’s not all — according to an update by the Daily News, she’s now suing the airline over the mix-up, seeking an unspecified amount in damages.
— ALM (@AlbertMendonca) October 1, 2016
Though stories like this one may be rare, it’s a terrifying scenario Texas mom Wendy Babineaux unfortunately knows first-hand. In 2009, Babineaux’s daughter, Taylor, was placed on the wrong Continental Airlines flight from Houston and ended up in Fayetteville, Arkansas. According to USA Today, Taylor’s father was waiting to pick her up in Charlotte, North Carolina when Taylor failed to show up — much to the panic of both parents. And then — get this— the very next day, a 10-year-old named Miriam Kamens was also sent to the wrong destination after a Continental flight mix-up. In that case, she ending up in Newark, New Jersey instead of meeting her grandparents in Cleveland, Ohio.
In a statement released shortly after, Continental Airlines explained that the error occurred from a miscommunication between staff members as two flights were simultaneously boarding from a single doorway. Spokeswoman Kelly Cripe was careful to explain, however, that sending unaccompanied minors on the wrong flight isn’t something that happens often.
“We fly thousands of unaccompanied minors every year and the procedures work when followed,” Cripe said. (Of course, that line of reasoning won’t really feel comforting to any parent whose child gets sent to the wrong city.)
While the notion of putting young children on planes by themselves might seem daunting and even pretty rare, it’s a common reality for many kids whose family is spread out across the country. Parents who pay extra to airlines to ensure that their children are supervised and safely delivered to the accurate city likely don’t even consider that they could be sent elsewhere by mistake. And honestly, given that the mistake could have been avoided with more vigilant double-checking, they really shouldn’t have to.
This article originally appeared on Babble. For more like this on Babble, try:
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