Nine high school students and their 11 adult companions were forced to sleep on the floor of Chicago O'Hare International Airport's baggage claim after American Airlines canceled their flight home on Sunday. According to one of the students' coaches on the trip, the airlines only offered them a "discount" on accommodations.
The Trevor G. Browne High School students traveled from Phoenix to Washington, D.C. to compete in the National Marshall-Brennan Moot Court Competition. A coach, KC Stockbridge, who is an Arizona State University law student, said that they performed well all weekend, only to have a disappointing and frustrating experience on their way home.
On Sunday, the group boarded a connecting flight from Chicago to Phoenix at 9pm, The Arizona Republic reports, where they waited on the tarmac for two hours. At 11pm local time, the flight was ultimately canceled.
"American Airlines won’t help us with accommodations for the night with anything other than a 'discount', even though we have 9 kids in our group, and we literally sold hoodies to pay for the trip. Meaning we’re broke," Stockbridge shared on Facebook.
According to Stockbridge's account, the group was forced to leave the terminal to retrieve their baggage, as some students needed access to medication stored there.
"We had no choice but to go to baggage claim, which then locked us out of the terminal and put us right next to the street — in Chicago," Stockbridge shared in a follow-up post. "That meant there was no security check between us and the rest of the city and anyone could come creep around or try to prey on our kids. There are signs posted all over everywhere warning about the dangers of human trafficking."
Near 2am, Stockbridge wrote, a man with no luggage and wearing sunglasses started to lurk around their group and refused to leave, even when warned by a security guard to step away. The man allegedly told a female in the group "he was going to punch her in the face." The group phoned the police and Stockbridge said that security informed them that the man was arrested. An official with the Chicago Police Department told The Arizona Republic that the man was not taken into custody, but was asked to leave the airport.
American Airlines provided the following statement to Yahoo Lifestyle: “Unfortunately we had some challenging weather in Chicago on Sunday night that led to the cancellation of this group’s flight. We do not provide hotel rooms for weather cancellations, since it is not within our power to control the weather. We never like it when our customers’ travel plans are disrupted and we sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.”
But, Stockbridge noted on Facebook, "I'm just disappointed that when we explicitly told the employees that we were concerned for our kids, they wouldn't even listen to us. We weren't asking for special treatment." He added that he understood the realities of inclement weather. "We are teaching these amazing kids about the law, their rights, and how to make real change in the world around them. I have a strong feeling they’re not going to forget last night as they make that change."
The group returned home to Phoenix on a 10am Monday flight.
Stockbridge did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: