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Switched at Berth: JetBlue Puts Two Unaccompanied 5-Year-Olds on Wrong Flights

by Daniella Silva /
JetBlue placed Andy Martinez on the wrong flight, his mother says.Courtesy Maribel Martinez

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A distraught New York mother says airliner JetBlue sent her 5-year-old son on the wrong flight last month as the airline company said it was investigating the incident that ended with two children in the wrong cities.

Maribel Martinez was presented with the wrong child after waiting for her son Andy to return from a family vacation in the Dominican Republic on August 17, she told the New York Daily News on Thursday.

“I thought he was kidnapped,” Martinez told the paper. “I thought I would never see him again.”

Martinez said she was greeted at John F. Kennedy airport by a child she did not recognize — but who was carrying her son’s passport.

 JetBlue placed Andy Martinez on the wrong flight, his mother says. Courtesy Maribel Martinez

Jet Blue said in a statement Thursday that “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.”

The company said “our teams in JFK and Boston immediately took steps to assist the children in reaching their correct destinations” after learning of the mix-up.

“While the children were always under the care and supervision of JetBlue crewmembers, we realize this situation was distressing for the families,” the company added in the statement.

Martinez told the Daily News that she and her son had flown together from New York City on July 28 for a vacation in the Dominican Republic. She said she returned after a week and left her son with relatives, purchasing a ticket for him to return on August 17 and paying the $100 fee for unaccompanied minors.

The boy was dropped off at the airport by relatives, Martinez said, who recorded video at the Cibao International Airport of Andy passing through the airport gate with other children.

 An airport worker fuels a JetBlue plane on the tarmac of the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Lucas Jackson / REUTERS file

Martinez said to the newspaper that it took the airline more than three hours to locate her son and that he had ended up on the wrong plane despite wearing a wristband with his name on it.

"Any parent can understand the terrifying feeling of fear a mother goes through knowing her young child is missing,” her lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein, said in a press release. "This should never have happened. Jet Blue’s employees should be ashamed of themselves."

Rubenstein added in the release that Martinez will be seeking "appropriate legal action."

At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Rubenstein said he and his client were requesting an individual investigation from the Federal Aviation Administration "so it doesn't happen again to another family."

"Right now the issue is not a lawsuit, the issue is an investigation by the FAA about what actually happened here, and then we'll explore the lawsuit," he said.

JetBlue said in their statement that they refunded the flights and offered future flight credit to the families of both children involved and were reviewing the incident.

When asked at the press conference what the company could do to right the incident, Martinez said through in Spanish through an interpreter, "I don't want to see a mother go through that bad moment that they've caused me."

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