It’s a terror unlike any other: The moment when a parent fears they’ve lost their child.
Maribel Martinez, 38, experienced that moment Aug. 17 when she arrived at the JetBlue terminal at JFK Airport in New York City. She was there to pick up her 5-year-old son, Andy Martinez Mercado, who was scheduled to arrive from the Dominican Republic, but airline personnel had no idea where he was.
Martinez had flown to Santiago, D.R., with her son on July 28. She returned to New York a week later, leaving Andy with relatives. The boy was flying back on Aug. 17, and the airline even required Martinez to pay an extra $100 for a JetBlue representative to chaperone him onto the plane.
On the JetBlue website it states that “photo identification is required for both parties who will be dropping off and picking up the child. The child will not be accepted or released without the guardian’s photo ID.”
Martinez seemed to follow all the rules. Her son was wearing a wristband with his name on it, and his family in Santiago waited patiently at the airport for his plane to take off.
Even so, he wound up on the wrong flight, one headed for Boston.
"I was desperate, I was going crazy," Martinez said at a press conference with her attorney Thursday afternoon.
Following an interview with New York City’s Univision Channel 41, a reporter suggested Martinez contact attorney Sanford Rubenstein to potentially handle her case.
“After about an hour and half at the airport, and [Martinez] thought he [had been] kidnapped,” Rubenstein told Fox News Latino. “Then she got called into the office, and they told her they’d found her son, and presented her with another child with her child’s passport.”
"I'm asking where is my son? Where is my boy? He's not here," Martinez said.
In a statement sent to Fox News Latino, JetBlue said, “Two unaccompanied children of the same age traveling separately from Santiago, Dominican Republic — one to New York JFK and one to Boston — each boarded a flight to the incorrect destination. Upon learning of the error, our teams in JFK and Boston immediately took steps to assist the children in reaching their correct destinations. While the children were always under the care and supervision of JetBlue crew members, we realize this situation was distressing for their families.”
When Martinez’s son was finally located in Boston, he was put on the phone with his mother.
"I was a little relieved, but I still did not have him in my hands," Martinez said.
When the boy finally arrived in New York, she said she "grabbed him and hugged him and cried ... I asked JetBlue to never do something like this again."
"They did damage to me," she added.
JetBlue reimbursed the Martinez family for the cost of her ticket, $475, and provided them with a credit of $2,100 toward future flights.
Martinez’s attorney says his client never signed a release for damages.
Rubenstein told FNL that his office has filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Association (FAA), calling for a private investigation, a statement he repeated at the press conference. Depending on the results, they will decide how to proceed.
“"For three hours she believed her son was kidnapped ... We’ll likely file for punitive damages. I wouldn’t put my grandchild in JetBlue’s custody,” Rubenstein told FNL.
Her son recently flew back to the Dominican Republic with his father. They flew Delta.