Dad Takes Southwest To Court For Flying 14-Year-Old Runaway

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.

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A father attempted to sue Southwest for allowing his 14-year-old son to fly. Photo: Southwest Airlines

What happened?

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.

The boy had a ticket to New Orleans. Photo: GCMap

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.

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The airline’s legal team made short work of the claim. Photo: Getty Images

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.

In many situations, the ADA preempts any claim. Photo: Southwest Airlines.

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.


Leave a Reply

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Since the teen’s mother bought the ticket he travelled on, I beiieve it is safe to assume that this was a planned escape from an apparently rather hotheaded father. The airline in question didn’t do anything wrong in this instance as the guy obviously had his mother’s permission to travel… Read more »

Mark Thompson

The article raises interesting at questions. Are there any laws as to what age an airline may not flight children without parents? And airlines never formally verify parentage. They just assume the adult travelling with a minor is authorized to do so. Question: If I owned an airline, and abducted… Read more »

Gerry S

NO! Of course not. Kidnapping is unlawful regardless of who does it.


Many questions linger. Why did the boy want to escape? Was he abused by his father? Did the father try to indoctrinate the child? Was the father abusive to what I believe is his ex-wife?

Mark Johnston

At the airline I work for (im in Australia btw), a child over the age of 12 is able to board an aircraft unaccompanied and without any paperwork so if this incident occurred in Australia, he would have been good to go. The most he would be asked would maybe… Read more »

Gerry S

Cannot stop kids from travelling alone. My kids (adults now) flew unaccompanied throughout their young lives. It was routine, until American stranded my youngest at ATL overnight. I changed the program then. We still do not fly American. Delta became our go to. They showed more love and caring to… Read more »

Normando little

This only happens in little america…..