LONGVIEW, Wash. (KATU/CNN) - Parents say American Airlines failed to notify them of a 13-hour delay during which they say their children were not given a full meal and had no access to daily medication, among other problems.
Nine children from Oregon and Washington returned home Saturday morning after a long delay in North Carolina. They had been traveling as unaccompanied minors with American Airlines on the way back from summer camp.
Every child in the group has a genetic disorder called neurofibromatosis, which causes tumors to grow in their nervous systems. The children had been attending a camp for kids with the condition on the East Coast.
Kristie Hoyt said the airline never called parents to let them know the flight was delayed or what was happening with their children.
“Not one parent was contacted by the airline. The only contact that happened was me calling a 12-year-old and having her hand the phone over to flight attendants,” she said.
Hoyt says her 8-year-old son Hudson was traumatized by the delay.
“He called me while they were stuck on the tarmac, terrified that he was never coming home and that he was never going to see me again, and begging me to go to North Carolina and pick him up and bring him home,” she said.
The children say they were initially kept on the plane while other passengers were let off. Later, they were brought to a room for unaccompanied minors.
Kelley Phillips, one of the children, says they had limited access to a bathroom. She also says they were never given a meal, only snacks.
“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,” Phillips said.
Parents say the kids packed medication they take daily in their carry-on luggage.
“We couldn’t even take our medication because they made some of us check our carry-on, saying they were too big,” Phillips said. “So, we’ve got these kids who need to take medicine, but they’re unable to because it’s in their carry-on under the plane, and they wouldn’t go get us them.”
Phillips says the children helped care for each other during the delay.
“One of the older kids... it’s harsh for him to deal with a lot of stress,” she said. “He could end up having a seizure if he gets over-stressed. His seizure medication was on one of the carry-ons we had to put under the plane, so we tried to keep him calm.”
The parents say they are exploring legal options. Hoyt said the kids want to return to the camp next year, but they won’t fly with American.
“I want to know how they’re going to fix this, so no other child or parent has to go through this,” she said.
An American Airlines spokesperson said the delay was due to mechanical problems. The airline says it “sincerely apologizes for this travel experience” and will review the incident.