It was JetBlue’s plane stupidity that got a Manhattan boy lost.
A 5-year-old returning home alone from a family visit in the Dominican Republic was placed on the wrong flight — and ended up 214 miles away in Boston while his panic-stricken mom waited at Kennedy Airport.
Maribel Martinez said she lost her mind while it took more than three hours to locate her son, Andy Martinez Mercado.
“I thought he was kidnapped,” Martinez, 38, told the Daily News. “I thought I would never see him again.”
“No, this is not my child,” the shocked mom recalled telling JetBlue employees.
It turns out that little boy — who was carrying Andy’s passport at the time — was supposed to be on the flight to Boston, and he was mistakenly placed on the plane to New York City.
Martinez has now retained high-powered lawyer Sanford Rubenstein to take legal action against JetBlue for their negligence, which caused her family so much emotional distress this summer.
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“Any parent can understand the terrifying fear a mother goes through knowing that her child is missing,” Rubenstein said. “This never should have happened and the JetBlue employees should be ashamed of themselves.”
Andy’s trip started innocently enough on July 28 — flying with his mom to the Dominican Republic for vacation. Martinez returned to New York after a week, leaving Andy with relatives. She purchased a ticket for him to return on Aug. 17, and paid an extra $100 fee for a JetBlue representative to escort him onto the plane.
Andy’s relatives even recorded a video at Cibao International Airport in Santiago of the boy — seen wearing a backpack and baseball cap — passing through the gate with other kids.
The flight Andy was supposed to be on arrived at JFK Airport shortly before 8 a.m. on Aug. 17.
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In regards to booking a seat for an unaccompanied minor, JetBlue says on its website: “Photo identification is required for both parties who will be dropping off and picking up the child. The child will not be accepted or released without the guardian’s photo ID. . . . Additionally, it’s important for the person dropping off the child that they give a JetBlue airport crew member their phone number before leaving the airport so that we can contact them in the event of a gate return.”
Despite the family doing all the right things, Andy wasn’t on the JFK-bound plane. The unidentified boy they thought was her son was questioned by Port Authority police in New York, while JetBlue tried to find out what happened to Andy.
“I was freaking out,” Martinez recalled. “I didn’t know if he was alive. I still haven’t stopped crying.”
Martinez did not know the identity of the other boy presented to her. He was safely returned to Boston, the airline says.
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Martinez, who lives in Hamilton Heights, called her relatives in the Dominican Republic who said nothing unusual had occurred at the airport — and that they even waited there 30 minutes after the flight left for New York just to make sure he’d taken off.
When JetBlue finally tracked down Andy in Boston, Martinez was put on the phone with him.
“ ‘Mami, they put me on another plane,’ ” she recalled Andy telling her.
The boy was placed on the next flight to Kennedy Airport that same day to be reunited with his mom.
A JetBlue spokeswoman said in a statement Wednesday: “Two unaccompanied children of the same age traveling separately from Santiago, Dominican Republic, one to New York JFK and one to Boston — each boarded a flight to the incorrect destination. Upon learning of the error, our teams in JFK and Boston immediately took steps to assist the children in reaching their correct destinations. While the children were always under the care and supervision of JetBlue crew members, we realize this situation was distressing for their families.”
Andy Martinez Mercado’s family took photos of the boy as he prepared to board a plane out of the Dominican Republic.
Andy Martinez Mercado’s family took photos of the boy as he prepared to board a plane out of the Dominican Republic. (COURTESY MARTINEZ FAMILY)
But Martinez said she has never received an apology or explanation for how the mixup occurred — noting that Andy was wearing a wristband with his name on it.
JetBlue refunded her $475 for the flight and also gave the family $2,100 in credit for future flights.
They shouldn’t have bothered because Martinez says they will never use JetBlue again.
After the airport nightmare, Andy went to the D.R. with his father, Rafael, and they flew with Delta Airlines. They plan to return before he starts kindergarten next week.
The JetBlue spokeswoman said the incident is being reviewed “with our leadership and Santiago airport team” to prevent it happening again.