Mother Scolds Airlines for Forcing Her Unaccompanied 9-Year-Old to Sleep in Airport Lounge

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
March 21, 2019 Updated: March 21, 2019

A 9-year-old was forced to sleep in an airport lounge amidst boxes after his flight from Brisbane to Sydney was diverted due to bad weather.

Katie Meredith sent her son, John Meredith, on a Virgin Australia flight unaccompanied to meet his grandparents, but the flight was diverted to Melbourne. Thousands were stranded at the Melbourne airport overnight, reported news.com.au and the airline staffers tried to find room for the passengers in the nearby hotels.

However, the staffers set up space for the 9-year-old in the airport lounge, providing John and two other children with pillows and blankets.

John’s mom Katie Meredith told News.com.au that for hours his family was not informed if he was OK.  The family came to know that the flight has been diverted only through a flight tracker app.

John’s flight was scheduled to reach Sydney at 9:10 p.m. and his nominated guardians, his grandparents, were to pick him up from the airport.

“My parents were sitting in an empty airport,” said Meredith. “I got in touch with them and told them, and they went to the desk and got it confirmed.”

John’s grandparents got a call at 11:40 p.m. Sydney time and were told that a Virgin staff member would be receiving John when his plane lands in Sydney.

“At 12:15 a.m., they called to say John was going to a hotel and the kids were having a snack of McDonald’s, and we’ll call you tomorrow.

“My mother said, ‘No, I want to know where you’re taking him, please let me know,’ which they agreed to. And then we didn’t hear anything again until 2:30 a.m. when they said, ‘John’s OK, here’s his new flight details,’” said Meredith.

John boarded a Sydney flight at 10 a.m. the next day and until then he was forced to sleep in a meeting room in the Virgin Australia lounge. Meredith only found out about this later.

“He was happy, he’s a pretty happy-go-lucky kid, but he just had heart surgery last month and I would never have allowed him to sleep on the floor of an airport,” Meredith said.

“It isn’t so much about where he stayed, it’s about not knowing where your child is 100 percent of the time.”

Virgin Australia told News.com.au that they made the child “as comfortable as possible” during the night and apologized for not being able to inform John’s grandparents.

“In times of weather disruption, we do our best to accommodate guests onto other flights or provide accommodation when their flights have been diverted,” a Virgin spokesman said.

The airlines said its staffers take the utmost care when transporting unaccompanied minors and ensure that the guardians are informed in such situations.

“In this instance, our ground crew supervised the child and made him as comfortable as possible in a room in our Melbourne Airport Lounge ahead of his flight the following morning.

“We apologize for any breakdown in communication between our team and the child’s guardian during the course of the evening,” the airline spokesman said.

Meredith meanwhile wanted better procedures for unaccompanied minors like her son.

“They should always call both parties and when you’re dealing with a minor you should always call the parent,” she said.

Meredith said she was clueless the whole night and could not get in touch with anyone and was on hold for an hour with Virgin.

“They need to have a 24-hour emergency number so parents and guardians can get in touch at all times about unaccompanied minors. I’m a little upset (Virgin is) saying there was adequate communication because not 100 percent knowing where your child is is not good enough,” she said.

Follow Venus on Twitter: @venusupadhayaya
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