Mum’s horror as boy spends night in airport storage room
AN UNACCOMPANIED nine-year-old on a diverted flight was left to play forts in an airport store room overnight with his frantic parents not filled in until the next morning.
The Gold Coast family said they were not told where their son John Meredith was while in the care of Virgin Australia after a Brisbane-Sydney flight diverted to Melbourne last week.
Virgin Australia has apologised for departure from protocol and mounted an internal investigation into its failure to inform his parents he would spend the night in Melbourne Airport.
It was supposed to be a weekend of fun for John with his grandparents who were waiting for him at the gate in Sydney last Thursday.
Instead - due to Melbourne being booked out for the Grand Prix - he was put up with two other minors in a Melbourne Airport storage room, his parents weren't told until the morning and his grandparents didn't received a call until after midnight saying he was ok.
John's mother Katie Meredith said: "We had filled out all of the paperwork, it had all of our contact details on it in case of emergency."
Ms Meredith said she was following the flight which departed Brisbane Airport at 6:30pm last Thursday on the flight tracker app.
It was delayed an hour due to weather and set to land in Sydney at 9:10pm.
"I saw it had started to circle Singleton and then it disappeared from the app completely."
The parents, who recently relocated to Redcliffe, say they were promised he would be put up at a hotel.
Ms Meredith said an online search showed the flight diverted to Melbourne but she received no call from Virgin.
"My parents were waiting at the gate and no one was around to tell them it had been diverted. It was at 11.40 that night they were finally contacted by someone from Virgin telling them John had landed in Melbourne," the former Coomera Waters resident said.
"They called on an unlisted phone and didn't leave a contact so we were unable to get details about where he would be going."
No one from Virgin contacted Ms Meredith direct.
At 12:15am John's grandmother received a second call from the airline to say they were getting McDonalds and looking for a hotel for John and two other unaccompanied minors.
At 2:39am John's grandmother received a text message notifying her he had been booked on a flight from Melbourne to Sydney the next morning.
She asked where the nine year old was and received no reply.
It was a sleepless night for the family who finally heard from John the next morning before his Melbourne-Sydney flight.
A furious Ms Meredith said she contacted Virgin head office and received only a voicemail Friday morning that said an internal investigation had been launched.
"Not normal process by all means, so sorry about that," the Virgin staff member who left the voicemail message said.
Ms Meredith said: "I have not heard a thing since, it was horrifying, there was no process, why would you not contact the parents?
"I want this changed. They don't care at all what we went through."
A Virgin spokesman said the airline communicated regularly with the child's nominated guardian.
"Our ground crew supervised the child and made him as comfortable as possible in a room in our Melbourne Airport Lounge ahead of his flight the following morning."
"We apologise for any breakdown in communication between our team and the child's guardian during the course of the evening."
Due to the Grand Prix in Melbourne the airline is understood to have been unable to find accommodation for the minors so housed them in a room at the Melbourne Airport lounge.
The three boys were provided with blankets and pillows.
Ms Meredith said as of about midnight: "I still hadn't received a single call and had been left on hold for over an hour.
"We were frantic, I only knew he was at the airport because of his iPad tracker app but he was asked to turn the iPad off later that night," she said.