NEW YORK — Maribel Martinez got the surprise of her life at the airport last month when airline employees brought her a boy who had just arrived on a flight from the Dominican Republic. They thought he was her son. He wasn’t.
The 38-year-old mother waited last month at John F. Kennedy International Airport for Andy, 5, to arrive from a visit to his family in the Dominican Republic. But the child never got off the designated JetBlue flight.
“She was petrified” and feared an abduction, said her lawyer, Sanford Rubenstein.
According to Rubenstein, Andy’s aunt had put him in custody of JetBlue at the Santiago airport and waited until the flight took off. Despite being paid an extra $100 for Andy to be accompanied by a JetBlue representative, the airline confused him with a different boy and Andy was put on a plane to Boston, the family says.
“On August 17, 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,” Tamara Young, a spokeswoman for JetBlue, said in a statement. “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.”
An hour and a half after landing at JFK, the other boy was presented to Martinez, holding Andy’s passport and luggage. “I was crying, looking at the passport of my son, looking at the suitcase with my son’s clothing, and I was desperate. I was sitting next to a boy that wasn’t mine,” Martinez told CNN affiliate Univision on August 22.
After three nerve-wracking hours of waiting, Martinez was finally able to speak over the phone with her son, who was located in Boston. It took another three hours for Andy to be reunited with his mother. CNN was unable to learn more about the other boy, but JetBlue said he was safely returned to his family.
Rubenstein said he planned to write a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration asking it to investigate the incident.
JetBlue said it was reviewing what had happened in order to “prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.”
“We don’t want them to investigate themselves, and that’s the end of it,” Rubenstein said.
JetBlue has refunded Martinez for the flight and offered a credit of $2,100 for future flights. But Martinez is not interested. “I don’t want it. I don’t want it. The damage is too far done,” she said.