Hudson Hoyt, an 8-year-old boy from Beaverton, Oregon attended a week-long summer camp in Charlottesville for children with neurofibromatosis (a genetic disorder, causing tumors to grow on nerve tissues). He was extremely excited for his first time at Camp New Friends, that is, until his return flight home with American Airlines.
Hudson’s mother told The Washington Post that “Hudson along with eight unaccompanied minors from the camp were temporarily stranded, deprived of food, and met with conditions so poor it’s made her son reluctant to fly again.”
Hudson said in an interview with The Washington Post: “I felt scared. When the plane stopped moving, I was afraid I was never going to see my mom again.”
Kristie Hoyt, Hudson’s mother, said the first plane arrived late in Charlotte for a layover. As a result, the children were rushed to their flight for Portland without having a chance to stop for food.
The second flight incurred a lot of delays and it was not communicated to the parents. The delays were happening because of fuel spilling on the tarmac and the airline needing to find replacements for its overworked pilot and co-pilot.
Kristie asked American Airlines for a direct phone number to stay updated on the status of the flight but she was denied. She finally received an update after a 12-year-old in the group called her and handed the phone to a flight attendant.
Although she was the contact for two children on the trip, American Airlines never reached out to her directly.
The flight ended up being delayed until the next morning and the children were forced to stay in Charlotte’s airport overnight and unaccompanied.
There weren’t enough beds and furniture in the unaccompanied-minor room, so some children had to sleep on the floor.
At this point, Hudson hadn’t eaten since breakfast at the camp that morning. Some of the children even required medication to be taken with a meal to prevent migraines and seizures.
Kristie took her outrage to Facebook saying:
“American Airlines how are you OK with leaving 9 unaccompanied children all with medical needs on a plane for over 5 hours and not giving their parents updates? Or allowing the kids access to electricity to charge their phones to talk to their parents?… You are disgraceful! And harming these children!”
The next morning, at 6 a.m., the children were rushed on a flight without receiving breakfast. The airline said breakfast was not provided because “the catering service wasn’t delivered.”
Making matters worse, when the children finally arrived in Portland, Kristie was asked to sign for a child that was not hers.
The children ended up going more than 24 hours without a meal.
Hudson was adopted by Kristie and since being adopted, he has struggled with feelings of anxiety and abandonment. This experience triggered those feelings even more.
American Airlines’ policy requires their staff to “call the contacts on the unaccompanied minor form” if a flight is ever delayed or canceled.
Since the incident, American Airlines has issued a public statement apologizing, saying:
“Our team is in the process of reaching out to the families involved and sincerely apologizes for this travel experience. We will be reviewing with our teams internally to understand how we can do better next time.”
As for Hudson, he wants to go back to camp but is very hesitant to fly.
Hudson and his mother Kristie are currently working towards getting through this traumatic experience.