STERLING, VA (WUSA9) - A Virginia family’s nightmare: a man said United Airlines took his child, an unaccompanied minor, off the flight and left him stranded in upstate New York.
The minor was supposed to arrive to Dulles on Tuesday night, but he won’t be arriving on Wednesday either. A relative drove from Sterling, Virginia to pick him up because she didn’t trust the airlines to him back safely.
“I figured hopefully I could talk to somebody. That’s why I called him and then it just went into calming him down and letting him know it’s going to be okay,” said Martin O’Connor. “That it’s not his fault. He didn’t do anything wrong. This is totally on United. He doesn’t need to be upset.”
“Oh he was totally panicking,” O’Connor said.
The 13-year-old, Logan O’Connor, is Martin O’Connor’s younger brother. Martin took custody of Logan when their father passed away last year.
Still hurting from this, Martin flew Logan to Albany, New York to be with his mother this Christmas. But Martin said getting Logan back to Virginia turned out to be another traumatic event.
“I spent more time talking to people than his flight would’ve taken,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said because of a weight-balance issue, United Airlines decided to remove a few people from the Tuesday night’s 7:30 p.m. flight to Dulles.
Logan texted, “What should I do?” asking Martin if he should volunteer.
O’Connor texted his brother to stay on the plane and that he’s in a protected seat. Still, United staff removed Logan.
Logan texts his brother, “No, they took [me] off the plane.”
When O’Connor asked why and if he volunteered, the 13-year-old responds, “NO I DON’T F----- KNOW.”
O’Connor said the gate staff didn’t know Logan’s ‘unaccompanied minor’ status.
He then said, “My request to speak to a supervisor went unanswered and then, from what I can tell, everyone from the airport went home because no one from the airport could contact anyone from United when I called them.”
O’Connor has had his fair share of stress as a Dale City volunteer firefighter but called this infuriating.
“They need to look back at how they actually handle the unaccompanied minor program and make sure nobody else’s kids get left behind or lost,” he said. “I mean, my brother, had he not had his cell phone, no one would’ve know what was happening.”
This was said to be Logan’s first time in an airport and on a plane.
Wednesday afternoon, a United Airlines spokesperson apologized for the mistake. In a statement, they wrote:
“We apologize to the O’Connors for letting them down. We have refunded the flight and as a gesture of goodwill, we offered additional compensation to reimburse them for this experience. We are working with our vendor who operated this flight to ensure this doesn't happen again."
O’Connor said United is also planning to reimburse the required $150 unaccompanied minor fee in addition to paying the travel expenses his wife is incurring. She’s the one who drove to Albany, New York to pick Logan up. They’re expected to return late Wednesday evening.