A Queensland mother claims her nine-year-old son, who was travelling unaccompanied on a Virgin Australia flight, slept at an airport without her knowledge when the aircraft was diverted.
Katie Meredith said her son, John, spent last Thursday night in a room at Melbourne Airport with two other unaccompanied minors after their Brisbane to Sydney flight landed in the Victorian capital.
We had no control. I would have had him picked up … from the airport by a family member Mrs Meredith said.
She said Virgin Australia had called her this morning and “profusely apologised.
They said protocol was not followed at all. And they are very upset with what’s happened.
Mrs Meredith said she put her son on a flight leaving Brisbane Airport at 6.30pm last week so he could spend the weekend with his grandparents in Sydney.
But the aircraft was diverted to Melbourne because of bad weather.
She said John and two other children were made to sleep at the airport because the Grand Prix was on and everything was booked out.
We didn’t hear much at all but once he landed, my mother who was the recipient on the paperwork got a phone call to say they were giving John a snack and that they would be taking him to a hotel Mrs Meredith, from Redcliffe, said.
My mum asked them to call her as soon as they found out where he was going and to keep her informed. We didn’t get a text message until 2.30am saying John is okay and his flight details.
My mum quickly responded with, ‘Where is John?’ And it was never answered back and so we didn’t know where John was until turned his iPad on and I got his location.
John said he and the other two children played on iPads to pass the time.
I felt kind of scared at the start because I didn’t know where I was going to go he said.
And then when I saw that I wasn’t the only one who this has been happened to, I wasn’t as scared because I’m not the only one going through this at the moment. So these other two kids were scared at the start like me.
John said he was given the option to call his mum but went to bed. Images show him in a room at the airport, surrounded by boxes.
Mrs Meredith said she was angry that John didn’t stay in a hotel and that she didn’t know who to get in touch with about her son.
Obviously I was terrified. There where so many things running through my mind she said.
There’s no-one to call and I think that is the biggest problem. The 13 number was on hold for hours during to the storm and the weather. There is no number for us as parents to find or locate our child.
We thought we could call him at the hotel when he got there and they called on private numbers so we had no way of calling back at all.
John was put on a 10am flight to Sydney the next day.
A spokeswoman from the airline earlier said crew members communicated regularly with John’s guardians on Thursday night, including before buying him McDonald’s for dinner.
We take the utmost care when transporting unaccompanied minors and aim to ensure their nominated guardians are aware of any developments as they arise a spokeswoman said in a statement.
We apologise for any breakdown in communication between our team and the child’s guardian during the course of the evening.
The spokeswoman dismissed reports that John and the other children were kept in a storage room saying they stayed in a private meeting or function room in a Virgin Australia lounge at Melbourne Airport.
She said crew had cleared out the room for the boys so that they could be safe, comfortable and have privacy.