Virgin Atlantic is apologizing for the latest incident in a long line of airline industry bungles involving removing passengers from pre-booked seats.
This time, Virgin Atlantic removed a summer camp-bound 11-year-old boy from a flight from Shanghai to London because the category he was flying under was full, according to The Telegraph.
The boy’s mother, identified as Mrs. Liu, said he had already boarded and taken his seat on the July 9 flight when he was booted from the aircraft.
“My son was clearly scared,” Mrs. Liu told The Telegraph. “He cried for long hours and woke up with nightmares.”
According to Virgin Atlantic, the flight had too many unaccompanied minors — the category the boy was flying under — and as a result the airline had to remove the last booked passenger. People's Daily reported that the airline had nine unaccompanied minors checked into the flight, but they could only accommodate up to eight.
One of those minors was the boy's friend, who was also headed off to camp. "Since the two kids were traveling without any adults, we checked repeatedly with Virgin Atlantic to make sure that the crew members can take care of them," Mrs. Liu said.
While the airline acknowledged they should have informed the boy and his family of the situation before boarding, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said he was taken care of.
"This decision was made with the customer's wellbeing in mind, and our airport team looked after the child until their parents returned to the airport," the spokesperson said in a statement.
The airline has offered the family free flights to London, however Mrs. Liu called the gesture “useless,” adding: “Three free round trip tickets are useless for us. My husband and I are busy with work every day. We definitely have no time for London."
Instead of flights, View From The Wing pointed out that the boy should have been offered 600 euros ($701) in cash for being “involuntarily denied boarding causing him to arrive at his destination more than four hours late while traveling over 3,500 kilometers” thanks to a European Union regulation known as 261/2004, which established common rules on compensation and assistance to passengers in these situations.