I am an EU national married to a US citizen with a son under 2 years old, who has dual citizenship (my home EU country + US). We all reside in Switzerland, which is not part of EEA, but is part of Schengen, and have valid residency permits (which for my spouse functions also as a Schengen visa as far as I understand).
Our son's American passport is a 'temporary' 1-year old passport. He does not have an EU passport yet.
Recently my spouse and son went to visit family in the US while I stayed home. They flew directly from Switzerland and had no issues boarding the inbound flight, even though my son passport's validity expires in less than 6 months from the return date.
During their return trip 2 weeks later, the airline's check-in desk staff refused to issue boarding passes, citing my son's passport expiry date as the reason. They suggested having a new passport issued (which due to my absence would not be possible). Eventually due to my spouse's persistence they let them on board, but I would like to know if the airline's stance was justified, as I already started having thoughts of my family being stuck in an administrative limbo until I flew to the US to have my son's passport renewed (where I can also be denied entry to make matters more interesting).
The question I have is:
- Is it true that in this case (return flight to the country of residency) the airline could get fined ~$20k or was it just ignorance of the airline's staff, applying a blanket US -> Schengen travel rule?
If they were right, what is the legal framework for such denial of boarding (I guess it must be entry rules for Switzerland/Schengen)?