Mom Says American Airlines Held 8-Year-Old & Friends Overnight -- Without Food or Contacting Parents

Kristie Hoyt

Kristie Hoyt is speaking out after she says her 8-year-old son Hudson was recently stranded -- along with eight other unaccompanied minors -- on a flight home from summer camp. The mom from Beaverton, Oregon, documented the entire experience in a series of furious Facebook posts last week, as she publicly begged and pleaded with American Airlines to tell her when her son would come home. According to Hoyt, delayed flights, mechanical issues, and staff problems not only left the campers stranded -- they were also denied meals and had no contact with their parents throughout the entire ordeal.

  • Hudson was on his way back from Camp New Friends, a weeklong program for kids with neurofibromatosis, a condition where tumors grow on nerve tissue.

    The Washington Post reports that Hudson's summer fun came to an abrupt end on August 9, when he boarded an American Airlines flight home from camp and encountered a series of unexpected setbacks. 

    The first came when their flight into Charlotte, North Carolina, was delayed, causing the kids to race through the terminal to catch their connecting flight without stopping for food or to use the bathroom. 

    Sadly, the next flight would also prove to be a problem, as mechanical problems stalled the plane from leaving the tarmac for hours. In addition to a fuel spill, there was also an issue finding a pilot and co-pilot to cover the flight after the original airline workers were found to have worked too many hours. 

    All the while, the nine kids were unable to contact their parents.

    “I felt scared,” said Hudson, who suffers from anxiety, and says the delays only made it worse. “When the plane stopped moving, I was afraid I was never going to see my mom again.”

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  • Meanwhile, Hoyt said none of the kids' parents were even notified of the delay.

    In fact, she claims that she'd previously reached out to the airline for some kind of contact number where she could be kept abreast of her son's flight, but received little to no help. 

    “Not one parent was contacted by the airline," Hoyt told KATU. "The only contact that happened was me calling a 12-year-old and having her hand the phone over to flight attendants."

    And yet, the American Airlines website clearly states that “if a flight changes or is cancelled, or if schedule irregularities occur at any city and it’s likely that the minor won’t make a connecting flight, we'll call the contacts on the unaccompanied minor form and arrange an alternate flight if necessary.”

    After hours of waiting, the flight was officially pushed to the following morning, at which point the kids were taken to an unaccompanied minors room in the airport to spend the night. It wasn't exactly the best of situations, though. 

    According to the Post, some of the kids had to sleep on the floor because there weren't enough beds and furniture. What's worse, Hoyt later told the newspaper that the kids didn't have access to real food.

  • While Hoyt claims her son had money to buy a full meal, he wasn't allowed to do so. Instead, the kids ate small snacks.

    “The only thing we had were crackers and soda, which isn't good because we need real food to be able to take our medication,” camper Kelley Phillips told KATU. And although most of the campers had medication they needed to take daily, they weren't able to take it because they had been told to check their carry-on bags. 

    “So we've got these kids who need to take medicine but they're unable to because it's on their carry-on and it's under the plane and they wouldn’t go get us them,” she continued.

  • The situation left many of the campers shaken and stressed -- and with good reason.

    “One of the older kids, he's got problems, it's harsh for him to deal with a lot of stress,” Phillips continued. “He could end up having a seizure if he gets over-stressed. His seizure medication was on one of the carry-ons we had to put under the plane, so we tried to keep him calm.”

    Without any details from officials at the airline, Hoyt then took to Facebook to put the company on blast and express her anger. 

    "American Airlines how are you ok with leaving 9 unaccompanied children all with medical needs on a plane for over 5 hours and not giving their parents updates? Or allowing the kids access to electricity to charge their phones to talk to their parents? How are you ok having the paid ($300 per child) additional fee flight attendant walk off because her time was done and not replacing someone else assigned to the kids? You are disgraceful! And harming these children!"
  • Finally, Hudson and his friends were put on a flight home at 6 a.m. the next day.

    But even on their final flight, the nightmare wasn't over. The kids were reportedly denied breakfast and the flight was delayed even more because “the catering service wasn’t delivered.” 

    Hoyt told the Post she finally received a text from Hudson at about 5 a.m., informing her that “[Our] plane has not take off yet I [have] not had lunch dinner or breakfast."

  • The debacle didn't end there, though. When the plane finally touched down in Portland, Hoyt said she was asked to sign for a child who wasn't hers.

    American Airlines has since spoken about the incident in a statement, attempting to reassure the public that the kids were kept “safe and comfortable" by airline workers.

    “Our team is in the process of reaching out to the families involved and sincerely apologizes for this travel experience," the statement read. "We will be reviewing with our teams internally to understand how we can do better next time."

    But the experience might have been too much for Hudson. His mom said that after his adoption, he suffered from anxiety and abandonment issues. Hudson said he wants to return to camp, but now he is scared to fly.

    “We’re just trying to work through the trauma of it,” said Hoyt.

    Hopefully, Hudson and the other campers can put the upsetting experience behind them soon.

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