Airline mixes up 5-year-olds, flies them to wrong cities

A woman in New York says she hasn't stopped crying since an airline mistook her 5-year-old for another child and flew him to the wrong city. (Sept. 1) AP

A New York mom says JetBlue mistakenly flew her 5-year-old son to the wrong airport, a story that puts the subject of unaccompanied minors back in the news.

Maribel Martinez tells the Daily News of New York the mix-up happened after the family decided to send the boy by himself on a flight to New York from the Dominican Republic, where the family had been on a week-long visit earlier this summer.

Martinez returned to New York but left her son Andy with relatives there for an extended stay. Martinez says the family paid JetBlue’s $100 “unaccompanied minor” fee to have JetBlue workers help take the solo 5-year-old through the airports before and after the 3-hour, 40-minute flight on Aug. 17.

But somewhere at the Santiago airport in the Dominican Republic, JetBlue seems to have mixed up Andy and another similarly aged boy who was supposed to fly solo to Boston.

Martinez says she learned of the mix-up after JetBlue officials brought the other boy to her at New York JFK as she waited there for Andy's arrival.

The Daily News says that boy “was carrying Andy’s passport." That perhaps explains the mix-up, though the Daily News -- known for colorful, often over-the-top stories -- never specifically mentions that possibility.

Still, Martinez claims it took the carrier up to three hours to locate her son in Boston.

“I thought he was kidnapped,” Martinez, 38, is quoted as saying to the Daily News. “I thought I would never see him again,” she added to the tabloid.

JetBlue acknowledge the situation, but says it moved quickly to fix the situation by getting the children onto the next flights to their originally intended destinations. The airline adds the children were never left unattended.

JetBlue says in a statement to Today in the Sky:

“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.”

JetBlue adds: "We are also reviewing the incident with our leadership and Santiago airport team to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future."

JetBlue says it refunded the $475 fare for Andy’s round-trip ticket and gave the family a $2,100 travel credit for JetBlue flights. Martzinez, however, says she doesn’t intend to fly JetBlue again.

In fact, it appears she may want to sue the airline. The Daily News writes 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.”

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