Mom sues American Airlines, claims kids were kept in ‘jail-like room’ at airport

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) — A Florida mother is suing American Airlines after claiming her two children, both under the age of 16, were left in a cold “lost children’s room” overnight, with no food or water, at Charlotte Douglas International Airport after several flight delays, court documents state.

According to court records, the two children live with their mother in Jacksonville, Florida. They were flying as unaccompanied minors with American Airlines on July 30, 2022, from Missouri, where they visited their father, to Syracuse, New York, to see family.

The flight to Syracuse had a connecting flight with a layover in Charlotte, documents state. The flight from Missouri to Charlotte was delayed, and then the flight from Charlotte to Syracuse was delayed several times before it was finally canceled.

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Court documents say someone with American Airlines had notified a specific family member because they were listed as the person for pick-up in Syracuse, and said that the children would be on a flight from Charlotte to Syracuse the next day at 9 a.m.

Then, American Airlines reportedly sent an email to the children’s mother at 11:38 p.m., saying the two children would be on a 5:21 p.m. flight on July 31, 2022.

The family was told that the two children would “be in a nice room for unaccompanied minors where there were beds and their own bathroom.” The family was also given a phone number that was supposed to be a direct line to where the children would be.

Due to conflicting information about the flight on July 31, the mother states in court documents that she had no idea what flight her children would actually be on.

When the children’s mother tried to call the direct line given, there was no response, according to the documents. The mother was reportedly not able to get in touch with anyone and had no idea where her children were at the CLT Airport.

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Records state that the mother was finally able to reach an airport employee who helped her get in touch with her children. Once in contact with her kids, she discovered that they hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since the night before.

The children were reportedly placed in a room “akin to a jail cell, without any blankets, pillows, or toiletries” and “freezing,” and they “spent the night on the sofa with the lights on.”

The children were eventually given food and water by an airport employee. Documents say the children were able to board a flight to Syracuse where they were picked up by family.

Following the ordeal, American Airlines apologized and said they would refund $150 that had been paid for a chaperone, according to the lawsuit.

“[American Airlines] violated their own policies and procedures when they misplaced the plaintiff’s children. Particularly offensive is that after learning of their clear failures, the defendant merely offered a hollow apology and a refund, in essence telling the plaintiff, ‘sorry we lost your kids lady but here is your money back,'” the lawsuit states.

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The lawsuit claims American Airlines launched no investigation as to how this happened, how to avoid this from happening again in the future, or how to improve the unaccompanied minor service.

Since the incident, the children have reportedly become afraid of flying and intend only to fly on direct flights.

In a statement to News 2’s sister station, WJZY, American Airlines said, “The safety and comfort of our customers, including unaccompanied minors in our care, are our highest priorities and we’re committed to providing a positive experience to everyone who travels with us. We have been in touch with [the mother] directly and we are reviewing the details of the lawsuit.”

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