A father has attempted to sue Southwest Airlines after it flew his runaway teen hundreds of miles away from home without his permission. The man, Mr. Ahmed Edwards, has had his case thrown out of court. Here’s why.
The young runaway, aged 14, was being looked after by his grandfather when the incident occurred. As a ruse to get him out of the house, the boy asked his grandfather to go to Starbucks for him. Apparently, he wanted a Frappuccino.
As soon as the door closed, the teen sprang into action. He gathered his belongings and made his way to the airport, his local facility being Columbus Airport (CMH) in Ohio. There, he proceeded to check-in for his Southwest Airlines flight to New Orleans, for which his mother had bought him a ticket.
Upon discovery that the boy was missing, the grandfather alerted the father who left work and headed to the airport himself, phoning the police on the way. He made it to the airport before the flight had departed, but was too late to stop his son from traveling.
It appears the father may not have taken this news well, as he was arrested at the airport and spent the night in jail.
Launching a court case
Mr. Edwards, clearly unhappy with the outcome of the situation, took the bold step of attempting to sue Southwest Airlines in Ohio state court. He alleged that the airline had a duty to seek the permission of both parents before allowing him to travel, and asserted a claim for ‘intentional interference with parent-child relationship, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress’, according to the NV Flyer.
However, Southwest Airlines was not prepared to take these allegations lying down. It moved to dismiss the claims, saying that the Airline Deregulation Act (ADA) pre-empted any claim by the father on the grounds that his complaint related to ticketing, check-in and boarding services.
The father argued that his claims were aimed at the safety of unaccompanied minors onboard Southwest’s flights. Unfortunately for Mr. Edwards, his pleas fell on deaf ears.
Thrown out of court
In the end, Southwest had the case thrown right out of court. The court agreed with the airline and ruled that “ticketing and boarding offered by the Defendant falls under the definition of ‘services’ for the purposes of ADA preemption”. The ADA successfully pre-empted the father’s claims, something which happens with some regularity in US law courts.
Frequent flyers, for example, have frequently found their claims thrown out under the ADA preemption clause. Those who have had earned miles removed for whatever reason have, in the past, attempted to sue, but find the path to recompense blocked by the ADA. Others suing for issues ranging from delays to denied boarding, discrimination to airline mistreatment, have all come up against the same roadblock.
For the father of the runaway teen, one course of action still remains, and that is to complain to the US Department of Transportation (DoT). For most passengers, however, fighting an airline, in the US at least, is a losing battle from the start.