A 9-year-old boy’s mother is not happy that her unaccompanied minor had to spend the night in an airport lounge in Melbourne, Australia.
Katie Meredith’s son John was on his way from Brisbane to Sydney to visit his grandparents when his Virgin Australia flight was diverted. He was one of many passengers stuck at the airport due to poor weather. The airline was unable to offer accommodations to passengers because the Grand Prix was held in Melbourne over the weekend.
John and two other children were given blankets and pillows to sleep in the Virgin Australia Lounge and cardboard boxes for entertainment.
Meredith told Australia’s News.com.au that she was not told her son’s flight was diverted in a timely manner which left his grandparents waiting at the airport for his flight to arrive. “My parents were sitting in an empty airport,” she said. “I got in touch with them and told them, and they went to the desk and got it confirmed.”
John’s flight was meant to land in Sydney at 9:10 p.m. but Meredith was not told of the diverted plane on her flight tracker app until 11:12 p.m. At 11:40 p.m., a Virgin staff member called John’s grandparents to say they would receive John when his plane landed, and at 12:15 a.m., they were told that John was going to a hotel and having a snack at McDonald’s. The airline tried to say they would call Meredith’s mother the next day.
Meredith said, “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 2.30am when they said, ‘John’s OK, here’s his new flight details.’”
John’s mother is now calling on airlines to have better protocols in place when it comes to unaccompanied minors and situations such as these.
“It isn’t so much about where he stayed, it’s about not knowing where your child is 100 percent of the time,” Meredith said.
Virgin Australia says that John was under constant supervision throughout his time in the airport lounge and that they tried to make him as comfortable as possible but apologized for “any breakdown in communication.”
“In times of weather disruption, we do our best to accommodate guests onto other flights or provide accommodation when their flights have been diverted,” Virgin Australia said 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.
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