Father Can’t Sue Southwest For Allowing 14 Year Old To Fly Without Permission

NV Flyer tells the story of Edwards v. Southwest Airlines Co. (S.D. Ohio Jan. 28, 2020), a case about a 14 year old boy who flew Southwest Airlines without his father’s permission.

Southwest got the case tossed, successfully arguing that the Airline Deregulation Act precludes a lawsuit under Ohio state law for actions arising out of its ticketing, check-in and boarding activities. The father had unsuccessfully argued that his claims were directed at the safety of unaccompanied minors on Southwest flights and not the airline’s services covered by the Act.

The conniving 14 year old gets short shrift in all of the legal maneuvering. He was being watched by his grandfather and “asked his grandfather to go to Starbucks to get him a Frappuccino.” While the grandfather was gone the boy went to the airport. He was apparently in league with him mom who bought him a ticket to New Orleans. The father, alerted to the plan, called the police and drove to the airport before the flight took off. Southwest let the boy travel.

The father behaved badly, was arrested, and spent a night in jail. He’s arguing that Southwest had an obligation to confirm his permission (and not just the boy’s mother’s) to fly. However it isn’t only frequent flyers unable to sue airline loyalty programs under state contract law, thanks to the Airline Deregulation Act’s preemption provisions. It’s dads whose kids fly without permission, too.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @gary

    It would have been far less click baity to add “when mom bought ticket” to the head line. I probably wouldn’t have clicked on that.

    ymmv of course!

  2. I have to say the title had me in expectation of a young “Evil Genius” AvGeek until I read about his Mum’s involvement.

    It’s comical though, “Hey Gramps, I want an Orange Mocha Frappuccino, can you get that for me?”

    Kid says, “Sayonara suckaaa!”

  3. I thought the conspiracy element only made the story more interesting.

    But is there a paragraph missing? What was the father arrested for?

  4. I read you constantly and this article falls far short of your normal fare. Missing so many parts of the story. Sounds like a custody battle of some sort? Was father arrested? Why, when and for what? How did this kid get to the airport? Why was it a secret? Would love to see the rest of the story.

  5. @Robert. Really? Think about it. Do you think kids have Parents Passports? How would an airline verify who had primary custody? Which court would the airline check to see who had it? State where mom lived? State where dad lived? Which county in that state? What if there is a modification in another state?

    @VX_Flier Who has full Custody? Well that is for the parent with Custody to have a sheriff to enforce.

    FYI the mother was not on the plane with the kid so it was not kidnapping since the kid was now a run away.

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