Be Sure To Confirm Age Requirements Before Buying Airline Tickets For Kids

A man in California ended up fighting with Expedia over compensation after his kids, ages 12 and 16, were left stranded overnight in a Virginia airport, because the airline wouldn’t let them board the connecting flight without being accompanied by someone 18 or older. The man told Expedia the kids’ ages before buying the tickets but the company’s system didn’t send up any red flags, so he thought the trip would be fine.

(Fortunately for the kids, there was a relative in Virginia who was able to take them in.)

Anderson ended up booking new tickets on another airline. They cost $630 and Anderson says Expedia owes him that money. He says, “Something needs to be done to rectify this.”

We reached out to Expedia. The company launched an investigation and within a week admitted, “This absolutely should not have happened” and Expedia’s computer system “should have rejected” the reservation based on the kids’ ages.

The company agreed to reimburse Anderson for the extra tickets he bought and to give him $300 extra.

Expedia says it’s changing its system to prevent this sort of thing from happening again in the future.

“Call Kurtis: Expedia’s Mistake Stranded My Kids” [CBS13.com] (Thanks to Kurtis!)

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  1. Muddie says:

    At least they weren’t stuck in Newark.

  2. Jevia says:

    Sounds like it depends on the airline. Wasn’t there a story just a week or so ago about 3 kids, oldest 15 or 16 that bought tickets and boarded a flight from Florida to Tennessee with out an “adult”?

    • sleze69 says:

      It also sounds like Expedia made good on this goof.

    • jenl1625 says:

      It sounds like Delta would have let the kids fly if it weren’t the last flight of the day. What kind of sense does that (not) make?

      • Dover says:

        The idea is that kids shouldn’t be booked on the last flight of the day so that there is another flight they can be rebooked on if their flight is canceled. I don’t think this is Delta’s fault since the kids were switching airlines (as far as Delta is concerned, they were just starting their trip, not in the middle of it).

        • Difdi says:

          The reasoning there makes my head hurt “In order to prevent kids from being stranded due to a potential canceled flight, we’re going to deny them access to their connecting flight, thus actually stranding them”

  3. dulcinea47 says:

    It says they couldn’t board a connecting flight… does that mean they were able to board a first flight without any problems?

    Years ago, I used to fly with my two little brothers, I was 14 and they were 12 and 7. At that time all the airlines seemed to think that 14 was old enough for me to be responsible for the two of them- none of us were considered unaccompanied minors.

    • humphrmi says:

      My parents were divorced, and part of their divorce agreement was, after we moved to different parts of the country, they had to fly me and my younger brother back and forth between them. So I flew a lot when I was younger – as young as about 8. This was back in the late 60’s and 70’s. Never had to worry about unaccompanied minor charges, or rules of any sort. Of course, to make it easier, my parents always flew us non-stop. Plane changes would have been challenging at 8.

      • dulcinea47 says:

        We did plane changes too- this was in the 80s. I distinctly remember being stuck in the Houston airport for hours. But it seems like there weren’t as many delays & stuff back then.

    • jenl1625 says:

      Per the original article, they flew one airline (with one connection) to get to Richmond, where the youngest (8 years old) was stopping. The older two were then getting on a different flight with a different airline, with different age requirements.

  4. kimdog says:

    They wouldn’t let the kids board the connecting flight to their destination… so it was better to leave them stranded in an airport? That’s pretty bewildering. What if their hadn’t been a relative nearby?

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      Yeah – that’s what I was thinking. If they had tickets to continue their flight then there’s a good reasons to think someone will be waiting for them at their destination. But keeping them grounded and on their own, far from home? That’s unconscionable of Delta..

      • Dover says:

        I would agree if they were flying a one-airline itinerary, but they were switching carriers. From Delta’s perspective, they were just starting their travel, not in the middle of it.

  5. qbubbles says:

    Its not Expedia’s fault, its the airline’s fault. The airline is to blame.

    • sirwired says:

      This IS Expedia’s fault. They should not have made the reservation. The airline has no idea of the ages of the kids until somebody gets around to filling out the “secure flight” info.

      • qbubbles says:

        “The man told Expedia the kids’ ages before buying the tickets but the company’s system didn’t send up any red flags, so he thought the trip would be fine.”

        He did.

        It is ridiculous to think that 16 year olds cannot fly on a plane by themselves without a parent. Bullshit. If they cant be trusted to sit on a plane, what kind of crap is it to say, “Sit in Virginia.” without knowing if they even know anyone in Virginia.

        Nope. Blame the airlines. And blame the old dude for not checking, but not Expedia.

        • OneTrickPony says:

          It’s not that the airline wouldn’t let the 16-yo fly. It’s that this particular airline will not allow a 16-yo to serve as the “accompanying adult” for a 12-yo. Each airline is different with respect to policies on children flying–for example, Southwest will allow children 12 and over to fly as adults, and to serve as the accompanying adult for children under 12

          The dad probably would have been fine if he had set up unaccompanied minor arrangements for the 12-yo before departure. Not to blame the parent, but just as a word of advice–if your kids are anywhere in unaccompanied minor territory (14 and under), it behooves you to learn the policies of any airline you’re considering putting them on.

        • Conformist138 says:

          I am trying to follow you- The dad told Expedia the ages of his kids. Expedia sold him the tickets despite Delta having policies that directly conflicted with the specifics of the flight. It wasn’t the job of the dad to contact Delta- that is why he was using Expedia in the first place. It wasn’t the job of the airline to just accept whatever Expedia does. It is the job of Expedia to know the rules and regulations of the airlines and make sure those details are taken care of at the time of sale. If the dad had bought the tickets directly from the airline, then it would be the fault of the airline’s website, but he didn’t. Even Expedia takes responsibility for this, so I’m not sure why it’s so hard for you to understand.

      • Southern says:

        Agree with sirwired – if Expedia is going to be the ticketing agent, they need to be aware of all the rules & requirements for the airlines that they sell tickets for.

        But they way they’re going to (fix) the problem isn’t right, either – some airlines (like American, apparently), DON’T have a problem with unaccompanied minors – but according to the way that Expedia is going to fix their computer system, it’ll just automatically deny anyone under the age of 18 that isn’t accompanied by an adult.

        *Shrug*.. This is why I book directly with the Airline.

        • invisibelle says:

          I don’t think that Expedia saying they should’ve rejected that particular reservation means that their fix is going to reject all UM reservations.

          This is just a guess, but since the article says this happened with a connecting flight, I’m betting they booked 2 different airlines and Expedia’s site was missing the logic to deal with through-pax UMs connecting on a 2nd airline. Doesn’t seem that farfetched.

          • AustinTXProgrammer says:

            The article sounds like they are taking a broad brush with this. But I don’t blame them. The rules are convoluted, varied, and changing. They don’t want to be on the hook for stranding children that might NOT have family they can stay with. Had the kids been kidnapped, raped or murdered the liability could have been enormous.

            This time is cost them about a grand. Next time it could be $100 million.

      • jenl1625 says:

        Exactly – Expedia holds itself out as the intermediary that lets you mix and match flights. So Expedia should have foreseen this problem and either advised the dad he needed to make arrangements for the 12-year-old with Delta or simply booked a connecting flight with a different airline that would allow the kids to fly.

  6. Southern says:

    The problem seems to stem from the kids flying on 2 different Airlines (with 2 different sets of rules).. American Airlines, where the flight started, was fine — it wasn’t until they attempted to board their connecting DELTA flight that they ran into problems. Apparently “Delta does (not?) let children fly alone without parents paying a fee to have airline employees escort them on and off the flight.” – IE., give us more money.

    • FatLynn says:

      Little known fact: the same thing happens with baggage rules. If you start a trip on SW and connect to AA, AA carries your bags for free.

  7. jimmyhl says:

    I have a borderline paranoiac mistrust of Expedia. And Priceline. And Orbitz. In the case of air travel, they offer a ticket for a price and only God can help you once things get more complicated. One of the most frequently voiced complaints is that these services will sell you a connection package that defies the time/space continuum, knowing quite well that the passer/customer cannot possibly make his/her connection. When this happens they are quick to remind you that you are your own travel agent. See for example:

    http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=orbitz_blows

    This particular blogger, if he is not already known to you, prides himself as a sophomoric egomaniac (and maybe worse) but even sophomoric egomaniacs can be right at times and deserve their due. What’s more, his experience with Orbitz did not seem to be aberrant, but rather systemic.

  8. Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

    Definitely must depend on each airline’s rules. My 15 year old daughter vacationed in China, flying alone each way. Other relatives send much younger kids without problem as well. But then there may be problems for other passengers: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10401416

  9. desterion says:

    Gotta say i’m a bit surprised Expedia didn’t just tell them to suck it up.