Virgin Australia Apologizes After 9-year-old Unaccompanied Minor Had to Sleep Overnight in Airport Lounge
There are lots of rules in place when it comes to unaccompanied minors at airports, but every so often, a perfect storm of mishaps ends up causing a world of trouble for both the children and their parents.
According to USA Today, a 9-year-old boy had to spend a night in an airport lounge in Melbourne, Australia after his Virgin Australia flight from Brisbane to Sydney was diverted.
The boy, John Meredith, was on his way to visit his grandparents in Sydney last week, reported USA Today. When he was returning home, his flight ran into some bad weather, which caused a diversion to Melbourne Airport. But, since the F1 Grand Prix was in town that week, the airline was not able to find accommodation for most of the passengers on such short notice, according to News.com.au.
One of those passengers ended up being John, who ended up sleeping in the airport lounge overnight. John was actually one of three unaccompanied minors on the flight who ended up in the lounge that night, according to News.com.au.
To make matters worse, John’s family was not notified about the diversion when it happened. At Sydney Airport, his grandparents were still awaiting his arrival at the normal time. Back in Brisbane, John’s mother, Katie Meredith, had to check a flight tracker app in order to find out about the diversion when her parents told her that John’s plane hadn’t arrived.
“My parents were sitting in an empty airport,” Meredith said. According to News.au.com, she had to use her Find My iPhone app to track down John’s iPad at the Melbourne Airport to confirm he was there.
After some confusing back and forth with the airline, John’s family was finally given his new flight details. John was put on a new flight the next morning and made it to Sydney to see his grandparents.
The airline has since apologized to Meredith for the confusion, saying in a statement, “We take the utmost care when transporting unaccompanied minors and aim to ensure their nominated guardians are aware of any developments as they arise.”
The airline added, “We apologize for any breakdown in communication between our team and the child’s guardian during the course of the evening.”
Meredith told News.au.com that she was more concerned about not being able to track down her child rather than him sleeping in an airport lounge.
“I couldn’t get onto anyone all night, I was on hold for an hour or so with Virgin,” she said “They need to have a 24-hour emergency number so parents and guardians can get in touch at all times about unaccompanied minors.”
She added, “It isn’t so much about where he stayed, it’s about not knowing where your child is 100 percent of the time.”
Unaccompanied minors can make many travel situations complicated, which is why both families and airline employees should take great care in making sure the child is looked after if an issue comes up during their trip.
However, airlines can still make mistakes, like when Virgin Atlantic ended up kicking an unaccompanied boy off a flight because there were too many on the flight.
But some airlines are trying to combat blunders with unaccompanied minors with new technology, like Air New Zealand’s wristbands that help parents track their kids while traveling.
In the end, peace of mind for parents benefits everyone.