Hudson Hoyt was ecstatic for his first time at Camp New Friends. The 8-year-old, who lives in Beaverton, flew east in early August for the camp’s week-long summer program outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, specifically for children with neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerve tissue.
It was a dream experience — at least, until the return flight home via American Airlines. Hudson’s mother says he and eight other unaccompanied minors from the camp were temporarily stranded, deprived of food and met with conditions so poor it’s made her son reluctant to fly again.
“I felt scared,” said Hudson, who suffers from anxiety. “When the plane stopped moving, I was afraid I was never going to see my mom again.”
The first plane arrived late for a layover in Charlotte, North Carolina, according to Hudson’s mother, Kristie Hoyt, and the children were rushed to their Portland flight without stopping for food. But then the second plane was stalled by delays that were not communicated to the parents.
When Hoyt asked for a direct phone number for someone with American Airlines, the mother says she was denied. Updates came after a 12-year-old in the group called her. The airline never reached out to her directly, she says, even though she was listed as the contact for two children.
With their flight delayed until the next morning, the children’s’ problems worsened. They stayed overnight in an unaccompanied-minor room, where some of the kids had to sleep on the floor. They hadn’t eaten a full meal since breakfast at camp that morning. Some required medication with a full meal to prevent seizures and migraines, Hoyt says.
After their overnight stay at the airport, Hoyt says the children were rushed onto a plane at about 6 a.m. EDT. The children did not receive breakfast, she said, even when the takeoff time was delayed again.
American Airlines issued a public statement of apology. It said the children were kept “safe and comfortable” in the care of airline personnel.