Iberia allowed online booking for 13yr old with a partner airline that doesn't allow it and I had to pay to change it!

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Jun 20, 2019
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#1
In March 2019, I booked my 13 yr old a flight on Iberia website to go to from Toulouse to Chicago return for June/July 2019. Their website has an option to choose Adult - 12+, Child 2-11 or Infant Under 2. Since my daughter is 13, I choose the adult option and the dates of travel. A list of flights was provided. I chose the best flights based on times/journey (i.e. least amount of layover time). The outbound flight was on Iberia and the inbound flight I selected was with BA, a partner of Iberia (and also owned by the same parent company). I entered in all of the required information and the booking was paid for and confirmed. I had made almost the exact same booking 2 years ago for my other daughter who was 13 at the time and felt confident that the system was valid. A few days before she was due to travel, I checked the website to see if any more information was needed, and if an authorisation form would be required in Spain as she has a layover there (kids travelling in France are supposed to carry an official authorisation form). I noted that the section for unaccompanied children stated that their partners carriers have different rules. I checked BA's website and found that they don't allow 13 year olds to travel unaccompanied at all! I also checked on the internet to see if anyone else had this problem - and low and behold I found a post on this website of the same issue and the child was refused at the check-in the return flight -- thus leaving the child stranded without a means to get back home! This made me extremely stressed and I immediately called Iberia to explain the issue -- and was told there was an option to change the return flight to Iberia with the same date of travel, but a different time. I agreed to this change and then was told I had to pay the fee to change the flight, which came to 482 euros. This was more than I paid for the original fare total (outbound & inbound). When I inquired further on the fee, I was told it included a penalty charge of 180 euros for changing, plus a service cost and flight cost. I explained that I did not agree that I should be penalised for this and asked to speak to a manager. The conversation got nowhere, and in the end was told there was no way they would change the flight if I didn't pay the fee. Of course, I paid it, but I am planning on seeking a refund for the penalty and original return flight cost, as it should not have been an option for this booking. My argument is that their online booking system is at fault and should be modified to show an option for Young Adults (12 - 15), and only airlines that will carry them be listed as options for booking. It is irresponsible to refuse minors to check-in on flights that have confirmed bookings - it could leave minors at risk of being stranded in foreign countries.
 

weihlac

Verified Member
Jun 30, 2017
1,791
1,793
113
Maui Hawaii
#2
In March 2019, I booked my 13 yr old a flight on Iberia website to go to from Toulouse to Chicago return for June/July 2019. Their website has an option to choose Adult - 12+, Child 2-11 or Infant Under 2. Since my daughter is 13, I choose the adult option and the dates of travel. A list of flights was provided. I chose the best flights based on times/journey (i.e. least amount of layover time). The outbound flight was on Iberia and the inbound flight I selected was with BA, a partner of Iberia (and also owned by the same parent company). I entered in all of the required information and the booking was paid for and confirmed. I had made almost the exact same booking 2 years ago for my other daughter who was 13 at the time and felt confident that the system was valid. A few days before she was due to travel, I checked the website to see if any more information was needed, and if an authorization form would be required in Spain as she has a layover there (kids traveling in France are supposed to carry an official authorization form). I noted that the section for unaccompanied children stated that their partners carriers have different rules. I checked BA's website and found that they don't allow 13 year olds to travel unaccompanied at all! I also checked on the internet to see if anyone else had this problem - and low and behold I found a post on this website of the same issue and the child was refused at the check-in the return flight -- thus leaving the child stranded without a means to get back home! This made me extremely stressed and I immediately called Iberia to explain the issue -- and was told there was an option to change the return flight to Iberia with the same date of travel, but a different time. I agreed to this change and then was told I had to pay the fee to change the flight, which came to 482 euros. This was more than I paid for the original fare total (outbound & inbound). When I inquired further on the fee, I was told it included a penalty charge of 180 euros for changing, plus a service cost and flight cost. I explained that I did not agree that I should be penalized for this and asked to speak to a manager. The conversation got nowhere, and in the end was told there was no way they would change the flight if I didn't pay the fee. Of course, I paid it, but I am planning on seeking a refund for the penalty and original return flight cost, as it should not have been an option for this booking. My argument is that their online booking system is at fault and should be modified to show an option for Young Adults (12 - 15), and only airlines that will carry them be listed as options for booking. It is irresponsible to refuse minors to check-in on flights that have confirmed bookings - it could leave minors at risk of being stranded in foreign countries.
Here are Iberia contacts: https://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/iberia-airlines/
https://forum.elliott.org/threads/resolving-consumer-complaints-and-developing-a-paper-trail.8903/

You have a valid complaint but Iberia is not a very responsive organization. Unfortunately, it is not unusual to have two airlines with very different policies for many things, including unaccompanied minors. Since your daughter could not use the original flights, you should have been allowed to cancel the entire ticket and rebook without penalty since she had an invalid ticket (the fare might still have gone up but no penalty).

For an airline with a small footprint in the US, Iberia has an outsized appearance in the Elliott forums. YTD Iberia has number of complaints comparable to Walmart, Priceline, Chase and Facebook.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#3
There is now a warning on the Iberia mobile website about unaccompanied minors on BA. I wonder if this is something new.

The reason for the three choices — child under 2 (lap), child 2 to 11 and adult has to do with Iberia’s fare structures — there are various discounts for the children.

I doubt that Iberia is going to change the programming to add young adult when they have a section on UM and various regulations with different airlines and airports and expect people to look at it before hitting the buy button.

Iberia is not particularly responsive and may not refund.

Codeshares can be a source of confusion because of the different policies of the operating carrier.
 

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Barry Graham

Administrator
Staff Member
Director
Jan 7, 2015
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#4
Airlines have been adjusting the minimum age up and down for the last few years, it wouldn't surprise me at all if they had one policy when you booked and another one now.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#5
BA stopped taking unaccompanied minors in 2016 — but there are times when people book an adult and child on separate tickets — taking a child to relatives or camp so the parent would have to have a separate ticket — but the child is not unaccompanied...

It is complicated....
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
8,224
8,161
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San Francisco
#6
While I realize that you had done this before with your older daughter, you should have checked with both airlines before making the booking. I'm so sorry this was such an expensive lesson. I hope by contacting Iberia that you can retreive some of your money. You just can't assume anything now when it comes to flying. One concept that is constant: if there's even the slightest chance that the airline can charge you a fee, they will.