United Accidentally Seats Unaccompanied Minor On Flight To Wrong Country

An unaccompanied minor in the care of United Airlines was in for a surprise when he ended up on a Eurowings flight to Germany. The problem was, he was supposed to be on a SAS flight to Stockholm. The blunder happened yesterday at Newark Liberty International Airport.

Untied Airlines Unaccompanied Minor Eurowings
An unaccompanied minor in the care of United Airlines was placed on a flight to Dusseldorf by mistake. Photo: United Airlines

Thankfully, the boy eventually reached his destination, although he ended up with an additional stop in Denmark. This was because he missed his booked SAS flight. The unnamed boy was placed on Eurowings flight EW-1113 as opposed to his booked SAS flight. The most worrying part of this incident is that the Eurowings flight reached the runway before the incident was realised. The incident was first reported  by View From The Wing.

What happened?

Brenda Berg needed to get her son to his grandparents in Stockholm for a camp. She wasn’t able to travel with him, so booked United Airlines’ unaccompanied minor service at New York’s Newark Airport. Unfortunately, what should have been a fairly simple operation turned out to be a nightmare.

Via Twitter, Ms Berg let the world know that instead of the flight to Stockholm, the unaccompanied minor had been placed onto Eurowings flight EW1113. This flight was going to Dusseldorf. As the mother was unable to contact United Airlines, her son was forced to tell the crew that he was on the wrong flight.

Unfortunately, this didn’t occur until the aircraft was holding short at the runway. As such, it was forced to return to the gate. Rather than being concerned about the poor boy’s welfare, it is reported that passengers onboard heckled the lad. Additionally, some are reported to have demanded he apologize. The flight eventually departed around 2-hours and 30-minutes late.

While he missed his flight to Stockholm, he was placed onto a flight to Copenhagen. From here he transferred onwards to Stockholm. United Airlines informed Simple Flying that he has finally reached his destination.

Issues raised

This incident raises a number of significant issues with United Airlines and Eurowings. Firstly, on the part of United Airlines, as the boy’s mother was unable to contact them directly. Thankfully, the boy was able to alert the crew and did not end up in Dusseldorf. However, had he been younger or less experienced in travelling, the outcome could’ve been very different.

United Airlines Unaccompanied Minor Eurowings
The Eurowings flight was forced to return to the gate once they realised the unaccompanied minor was on board. Photo: Eurowings

The second issue lies with Eurowings and their agents at Newark Airport. Somehow, it went completely undetected that this boy had boarded the aircraft. It shouldn’t be possible for any person to board a flight that they are not supposed to. However, it is especially alarming that this has happened to a passenger who should’ve been under the watchful eye of United Airlines.

United Airlines’ response

Simple Flying reached out to United Airlines and Eurowings regarding the unfortunate unaccompanied minor incident. United Airlines told us:

The safety and well-being of all of our customers is our top priority, and we have been in frequent contact with the young man’s family to confirm his safety and to apologize for this issue.  Once Eurowings recognized that he had boarded the wrong aircraft in Newark, the plane returned to the gate – before taking off.  Our staff then assisted the young customer to ensure that he boarded the correct rebooked flight later that evening.  We have confirmed that this young customer safely reached his destination.

Meanwhile, a representative of Eurowings told us that the incident is being investigated as a high priority. While they are currently unable to provide a statement, they did say that they will get back to us as soon as possible. We additionally attempted to reach Ms Berg, however received no response.

Do you think it was fair to heckle the unaccompanied minor who was placed on the wrong flight? What could be done differently to ensure this doesn’t happen again? Let us know in the comments!