An 8-year-old boy traveling unaccompanied was flown by El Al Israel Airlines from Ben-Gurion Airport to Brussels instead of to his destination in Munich, Haaretz has learned.
The mistake was only discovered when his relatives, waiting for him in Munich, saw that he did not land and called Israel. After the incident, which occurred about two weeks ago, El Al investigated and took disciplinary action against those responsible, including the sacking of a ground attendant.
Like many airlines, El Al operates a paid service for unaccompanied minors. A ground attendant accompanies the child through airport procedures and sees the child onto the plane.
The boy's parents bought the child's ticket to Munich and brought him to the El Al check-in counter for unaccompanied minors, as required. They also filled out the forms identifying the boy's grandparents as the people waiting to pick him up. However, the ground attendant placed him aboard a plane flying to Brussels by mistake, without anyone at El Al realizing the error.
In Munich, when all the passengers had left the plane, the grandparents realized that the boy was not there. He was eventually located in the Brussels airport and flown on to Munich. His parents declined to comment or provide further details. His mother works for El Al.
Another shortcoming revealed by the incident is that the flight-service manager on the Brussels flight, who took over responsibility for the boy from the ground attendant, did not look at the boy's ticket. The flight crew also neglected to compare the number of passengers with the number of tickets, which would have revealed the presence of an extra passenger.
El Al said in response: "El Al considers it a very serious incident. The company investigated it, dismissed the ground attendant responsible for the failure and reprimanded her superiors. El Al is working to ensure that such cases do not recur. The company strictly observes the existing procedure regarding flights with unaccompanied minors from Israel aboard. The company took charge of flying the boy from Brussels to Munich."
This latest error adds to questions raised by other recent incidents involving flights of unaccompanied minors, including a 12-year-old girl sent by her mother alone to London. The British authorities only recently reported the case, and El Al is investigating.
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