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I recently witnessed an airline (EasyJet, in case the terms and conditions are relevant) separating a 17-year-old from their parent. From what I could tell, they were willing to be jointly denied boarding of an overbooked flight for some compensation according to EC261.

However, one seat opened up and I heard that the son was told to either board the airplane or stay with the mother at the airport but lose any claims for compensation/rerouting. Other standby passengers were waiting and willing to board the airplane instead of the child.

Is this legal under EC261/the terms and conditions of the airline? What should one do in such a situation? Is this commonplace with other carriers?

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    Note: Easyjet allows unaccompanied minor (without escort) from 14 year old. I would expect that a 17 year old person can book and travel alone. – Giacomo Catenazzi Jul 2 '18 at 13:43
  • In addition to other comments, I also wonder about luggage. Families travelling together often pack their luggage not sorted by owner, but by how things fit. How they are going to solve that? – Tom Jul 2 '18 at 21:10
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There is nothing in the EU regulation, wich requires airlines to make sure that passengers who have booked together also can travel together. There is also in no EU country any law or regulation requiring a 17 year old to be under uninterrupted supervision of a parent or legal guardian. Many of the larger European airlines allow children of age 12 or older to fly alone without supervision.

When it comes to deciding who is allowed to fly and who has to stay back in case of an overbooked flight, decisions must often be made within minutes immediately before take off and it is not unlikely or unreasonable that airline staff will make this decision without having time for any discussions with the involved passengers. There may also be other relevant factors not immediately obvious to uninvolved 'witnesses', e.g. handling of the involved passenger's checked luggage, which makes it easier for the airline to let (or require) one specific passenger to fly instead of another.

What should one do in such a situation?

Regardless of the passengers age, such a 'forced' split of a group travelling together is of course inconvenient in any situation, but is not a situation, in which any special considerations are required from the airline.

The options available are really as suggested by the airline. The passenger could fly with the ticket he has booked, and with which he is allowed to board, or he can voluntarily stay, but will then of course not be entitled to any compensation from the airline.

If the involved passengers had any kind of travel insurance, it is not impossible that it may offer some kind of compensation in a situation like this if the entire 'group' decides to stay home if a part of the group is prevented from travelling, but I would even find that unlikely.

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    @1006a yes. Easyjet does not allow unaccompanied children less than 14 years old (but AFAIK an accompanying 16 years old person is enough). And in fact there is a huge difference between a 4 years old children and an 17 year old (young) adult. – Giacomo Catenazzi Jul 2 '18 at 16:27
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    @1006a I thought about that and I am honestly not sure. They wouldn't allow the four year old to fly alone, but except from violating common sense, they would probably fulfil their legal obligations if they denied the child boarding, but allowed the parent to fly. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jul 2 '18 at 16:44
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    @ypercubeᵀᴹ The biological definition of adulthood is the reach of puberty, which most men have done at age 17. The legal definition of adulthood is in most (all?) European countries a stepwise change, often starting with the age of criminal responsibility, which in some European countries is as low as 10. Then you have the age of consent (usually 14-16), age of legal competence/capacity (16-18), the right to vote (16-18), the right to buy alcohol (15-20). There is no one fixed date, at which a child suddenly turns into an adult. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Jul 2 '18 at 17:29
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    Legal or not, it would be highly unfair, customer-unfriendly and IMO unethical to make a customer pay for the deliberate(!) overbooking of an airplane in this way. EasyJet you say? Good to know... – RHA Jul 2 '18 at 18:35
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    @ypercubeᵀᴹ: So in your country, a person of 17 years cannot walk alone nor going in a shop? [so like airports] This is not about buying an house or signing a binding contract, it is just traveling from A to B. And as I see in airports a 17 year old is more capable navigating airports than "adults". [I totally agree that it was bad taste from the air carrier, but it is not a drama. It could had been a good experience for the young person.] – Giacomo Catenazzi Jul 2 '18 at 19:16

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