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American Didn’t Let an Unaccompanied Minor Buy Food During a Layover

  • A teenager traveling alone for the first time was not allowed to buy food on a layover.
  • He was told by staff to stay with the group despite seeking permission multiple times. 
  • He was left hungry on a near-two hour layover due to likely “staff shortages”, his stepmom was told.

American Airlines did not allow a 15-year-old to buy food during a layover between flights after he asked staff for permission multiple times.

The teenager was flying unaccompanied from Jacksonville, Florida, where he was visiting his sister, back home to Albany, New York via Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

The layover was supposed to be for an hour, but ended up being almost two as his flight was delayed, which Insider verified via flight details.

The incident is the latest involving American Airlines’ treatment of unaccompanied minors reported by Insider amid a summer of travel chaos. The airline sent a 12-year-old child to the wrong state in June, and it lost a child’s passport in July. 

Jennifer Roback, the boy’s sister, told Insider that he was not allowed to get food from a shop in the terminal just a few feet away as he had to stay with a group of other unaccompanied minors at all times on the layover.

“He didn’t have breakfast so he hadn’t eaten all day and was just left hungry,” she said.

When the teen first asked the accompanying staff member he was told to ask someone else, Roback said, as that person was not the assigned leader. He then asked another person a few more times but was continually refused.

“I was upset about it because my brother’s never flown alone before so it was a big trip for him,” she said. “It bothers me that his way back wasn’t great and I was angry for him.”

When his step-mom picked him up from Albany airport, she went to the American Airlines desk to find out what happened. They apologized and told her it was probably due to staff shortages, she said.

“I know that there have been a lot of staff shortages because of the pandemic, but I feel like companies are now just trying to use that as an excuse,” Roback told Insider. “It’s one thing if someone closes a register at a grocery store, but it’s another thing when you deny children food.”

Roback messaged American Airlines on Twitter on August 8 about the incident and the airline responded: “If your brother had money to grab a bite to eat, our team should’ve had someone take him. DM his record locator and we’ll pass this on.”

American Airlines did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

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