The group of kids walked into the terminal at Portland International Airport recently. The journey was long—one of the kids called it hell. Parents felt the same. One mother, Kristie Hoyt, said, “Stressful, not sleeping, not eating, not knowing when my child was coming home.”
Hoyt is a Beaverton mom. Her son Hudson went to a special camp on the East Coast along with eight other kids from the Portland area. It’s for kids with neurofibromatosis, a condition where they develop tumors throughout their nervous system.
The trip home wasn’t so special. All nine kids were traveling as unaccompanied minors. They stopped in North Carolina for a layover, but it was delayed nearly 13 hours. An American Airlines spokesperson said it was due to mechanical problems.
Hoyt, along with other parents, said the airline never called to let them know when their kids would be home. “Not one parent was contacted by the airline,” Hoyt explained. “The only contact that happened was me calling a 12-year-old and having her hand the phone over to flight attendants.”
Kids told KATU they were stuck on the plane for hours then brought to a special holding area for minors.
Kelley Phillips, one of those kids, said they were never given a real meal. “The only thing we had were crackers and soda which isn’t good because we need real food to be able to take our medication,” Kelley said.
The kids said they had medication they needed but some of them couldn’t get to it because their bags were checked.
Kristie Hoyt said, “He already has trauma and this was more trauma for him.”
American Airlines told KATU the kids were kept safe and comfortable. The parents disagree.
The airline also said in a statement: “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.”
The kids are all back safe now but parents still want answers. “I want to know how they’re going to fix this so no other child or parent has to go through this,” Hoyt said.
The parents are exploring legal action. They told local media they won’t be flying American again.