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‘Where is John?’ Airline fails to advise family their unaccompanied 9yo was sleeping in airport

Nine year old John was flying to Sydney from the Gold Coast to spend time with his grandparents when his plane was diverted to Melbourne because of bad weather. But when the airline couldn’t find accommodation for him, he, along with two other children, was forced to spend the night in a room filled with boxes at Melbourne Airport.



While sleeping in an airport is a torture few would happily endure, John was particularly confused by the whole thing, telling Seven News that he was left wondering, “Who am I going to be staying with? Where am I going to go?“


The airline has said that it "communicated regularly" with the child's nominated guardian, understood to be his grandparents, during the night.


John’s grandmother was notified that John would be put up in a hotel for the night and that she would be contacted in the morning, but when she demanded to know where her grandson was,  the airline didn’t reply, reported. 


It was only at 2.30am that she received a text message saying her grandson had new flights booked for the morning. To which she replied, “where is John?” 


This question remained unanswered and it was only until the next day that she discovered that due to hotels in Melbourne being at capacity due to the Grand Prix, John had actually spent the night in a room filled with boxes at Melbourne airport.


John’s mother, Katie, told Seven News that she was not contacted by Virgin Australia and did not know where John had spent the night. 


"The scariest thing for me is not how my child was treated, it was, 'Where is my child?'" 


According to Katie, there are only two contact numbers given to the airline when guardians pay extra for the unaccompanied minor service. Those numbers are of the person receiving the child and the guardians of the child. 


“Not once did they think, maybe I should call the parent, make sure there’s nothing wrong with John, or that he has any other needs,” Katie told 1029 Hot Tomato.


“He did just have heart surgery last month, so I definitely didn’t want him sleeping on the floor of an airport.”


“I am not at all saying that he was not treated well, basically I’m just upset that we didn’t know where he was for so long.”

In a statement to the Age, Virgin Australia said it apologised for any breakdown in communication with the family.


"We take the utmost care when transporting unaccompanied minors and aim to ensure their nominated guardians are aware of any developments as they arise,” the statement reads.


"In this instance, 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."


The airline admitted that, while they followed all correct processes in looking after the child, that "regrettably" a text message from the guardian wasn't responded to by the team.


Written by: Gaya Avery
Published: 20 March 2019

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