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United Airlines apologizes after teen flying alone gets put on flight to Germany instead of Sweden

The boy eventually made it to his ultimate destination, but not after some controversy between United and the boy’s mother.

In this July 18, 2018, file photo, United Airlines commercial jets sit at a gate at Terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J.
In this July 18, 2018, file photo, United Airlines commercial jets sit at a gate at Terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J.
Julio Cortez, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — United Airlines accidentally put an underage passenger on the wrong flight, prompting concern from the boy’s mother about his whereabouts and safety, according to Business Insider.

The boy eventually made it to his ultimate destination, but not after some controversy between United and the boy’s mother.

United apologized for the incident.

  • "The safety and well-being of all of our customers is our top priority, and we have been in frequent contact with the young man's family to confirm his safety and to apologize for this issue. Once Eurowings recognized that he had boarded the wrong aircraft in Newark, the plane returned to the gate — before taking off. Our staff then assisted the young customer to ensure that he boarded the correct rebooked flight later that evening. We have confirmed that this young customer safely reached his destination."

What happened: A 14-year-old boy from North Carolina was directed to the wrong flight while flying out of the country. His mother, Brenda Berg, tweeted at United that her son was on the wrong flight out of Newark Liberty International Airport.

  • Berg said her son was supposed to fly from Raleigh-Durham to Newark, where he would grab a connection to Stockholm through the Scandinavian airline SAS.
  • Berg said her son was then put on a flight to Dusseldorf, Germany, on a Eurowings flight.
  • She said that her son couldn’t manage his own flight because he was a minor. United had to direct him toward his next plane.
  • One United insider told Business Insider that the Dusseldorf flight was missing one passenger as it prepared to leave. The missing passenger had a similar name as the boy, so the representative thought it was supposed to be the boy on that flight.
  • Berg said her son eventually realized he was on the wrong flight while it was still on the ground. The plane returned to the gate and he was let off the plane to find his real one.

Response: SAS rebooked her son and he was forced to wait five hours for a flight to Stockholm, according to USA Today.

Berg responded to the incident with a slew of social media posts, according to the New York Daily News. She tweeted at United to fix the error.

  • “@United @SAS my son is in the wrong plane!!! EWR you put him on a plane to Germany!!!!” she wrote.
  • “It has now been 3 hours since my 14yo son said, ‘I think they put me on the wrong plane and it is about to take off for Germany (instead of Sweden!).’ United still has not called back, and our son is on his own in @EWR,” Berg tweeted. “When I got through to United after almost an hour, they dragged me out for another 45 minutes. The minute they heard, ‘There is an unaccompanied minor on a plane to the wrong country,’ someone should have sprung to action. United Airlines fix your dangerous minor program!”

In the end: “The resolution didn’t feel like much relief to the family, given that it entailed a seven-hour delay in the young traveler’s journey, which included an hours-long layover in Copenhagen – just what the family was trying to avoid with the initial domestic connection in the U.S. from Raleigh, N.C.,” according to the New York Daily News.