Maribel Martinez arranged for her 5-year-old son, Andy, to fly home to New York unaccompanied on JetBlue on Aug. 17. But when she went to pick him up at Kennedy International Airport, she got the shock of her life.
Airline employees presented her with a boy who was clutching Andy’s passport and luggage. But he was not her child.
“Is this your son?” Ms. Martinez said she was asked, according to news reports on Thursday.
She replied, “No, this is not my child.”
The airline eventually found her son in Boston. JetBlue said it had put Andy on the wrong plane in a mix-up with another child who had also flown out of the Dominican Republic.
“I thought he was kidnapped,” said Martinez, who said she had not stopped crying since the incident on 17 August. “I thought I would never see him again.”
Ms. Martinez had been on holiday with Andy in the Dominican Republic, but had to return to New York early. Her relatives took him to the airport in Santiago for his return flight.
JetBlue is reviewing how the mix-up occurred.
“Upon learning of the error, our teams in JFK and Boston immediately took steps to assist the children in reaching their correct destinations,” the airline said in a statement. “While the children were always under the care and supervision of JetBluecrew members, we realize this situation was distressing for their families.”
According to Ms Martinez, it took more than three hours for the airline to track down Andy in Boston. When it put her on the phone with him, he said, “Mami, they put me on another plane,” she told the newspaper.
The airline put Andy on a flight to Kennedy Airport that same day, and JetBlue refunded Martinez $475 (£358) for Andy’s return ticket and also gave the family $2,100 (£1,583) in credit.