CHICAGO (CBS) — Miles McCready is only 16, but he already has a travel horror story he might be telling for the rest of his life. He was stuck at the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey for more than 24 hours while he was traveling by himself.
His mother, Denise, is calling on airlines to change their policies after the nightmare back in August.
The Northwest Indiana boy had planned to travel to Ireland to try out for the U19 National Lacrosse team.
“It was going to be his first international flight alone,” Denise said.
Miles’ flight out of O’Hare International Airport was delayed, causing him to miss his connecting flight in Newark. Denise helped him get another flight to Europe, but that was cancelled after the crew timed out around 1:30 a.m., the family said.
“They said the next flight was for 10:30 (p.m.),” Miles said.
His mom started to worry where he’d sleep.
In a phone call with United Airlines, Denise said she learned they have a room with couches and blankets for unaccompanied minors, but United defines an unaccompanied minor as someone 14 or younger. Other major airlines have similar policies.
United gives special attention to those passengers, charging an extra $150 fee, to help them travel safely and efficiently.
“So I was like, where does that leave my kid?” Denise said. “He’s 16.”
He was too young to get a hotel or a hotel voucher—as most hotels won’t even accept a 16-year-old customer.
Still, United wound up letting him stay in the unaccompanied minor room for a few hours. The airline tells CBS the room was full of kids—near capacity due to severe weather delays.
“There wasn’t really a reason, but they made me leave at 6 o’clock in the morning,” Miles said.
So that’s what he did. He said he would have liked to have been able to return to the room to rest and relax. Instead, he walked around the airport and did whatever he could to kill time. He picked up breakfast using the $40 in food vouchers provided to him by United.
A United spokesperson said, while the airline prioritizes passengers aged 5-14, they also provide special attention and assistance to 15-, 16-, and 17-year-old passengers when needed.
Denise said she’s not sure if the unaccompanied minor services would have helped Miles get on an earlier flight out and avoid his overnight stay, but she says she would have gotten him an official unaccompanied minor ticket if she could have. Those passengers wear special wristbands and are easily identified by airline employees, who can frequently check in with them and help them during delays and cancellations.
Miles missed a couple practices, but wound up making it for the end of tryouts.
“It doesn’t make my blood boil or make me mad or anything,” he said. “I just think it’s absolutely silly.”
United also gave the McCreadys $400 in vouchers for the $2600 dollar trip.
The airline tells CBS 2 it is considering giving parents the option to pay extra for an unaccompanied minor ticket if the child is 15, 16 or 17.