Inside their Madrid hotel room, a 17 year old girl stays up, keeping an eye out for her younger siblings…
Update: Iberia’s Twitter team sent me this message, presumably in response to the tagging them in the Tweet for this post. They are still as oblivious as ever:
Could there be a worse nightmare than having 3 of your kids traveling on their own bumped off a flight in a foreign country and unceremoniously punted off to a hotel to fend for themselves? Iberia did just that to a DansDeals reader’s kids.
Leorah Addi, known on the DansDeals Forums as LeeAddi, bought her kids, ages 11, 15, and 17, round-trip tickets from Tel Aviv to Miami to fly by themselves to visit their grandparents. While El Al will begin flying nonstop from Tel Aviv to Miami starting in November, there are currently no nonstops available.
The kids flew alone from Tel Aviv to Miami on British Airways with a connection in London without any issues. Their return ticket from Miami to Tel Aviv was booked on Iberia Airlines with a connection in Madrid.
In Miami, their grandfather accompanied them to the Iberia check-in counter before their return flight. When they asked for the Iberia boarding passes for their connecting flight from Madrid to Tel Aviv, they were told that they would need to request boarding passes after landing in Madrid. This happened despite the fact that they were on a single ticket on a single airline from Miami to Tel Aviv via Madrid. Their checked baggage was sent directly to Tel Aviv so that they could connect in Madrid without rechecking their baggage.
In Madrid the kids went to the gate agent, who informed them that they were being involuntarily bumped off of the flight as they were the last to check-in.
The kids told the gate agent that they were just 3 people under the age of 18 in a foreign country, but the gate agent refused to solicit or find other passengers to be bumped instead of them.
The kids called their mother while at the gate and handed the phone to the gate agent.
Ms. Addi was incredulous and asked the gate agent how she could possibly bump 3 children off of their flight. The agent coldly informed that they were the last to check-in and there is no law preventing minors from being bumped off a flight. When Ms. Addi begged the gate agent to have some compassion for 3 kids traveling by themselves, the gate agent abruptly handed the phone back to her daughter and said, “I cannot speak to your mother!”
The kids were sent to a customer service desk and given a hotel voucher and nothing else. There was no further communication between the airline and Ms. Addi.
Iberia left 3 children alone in a foreign country without assuming any responsibility for their well-being. Neither Ms. Addi, who was in Israel, nor her 17 year old daughter, who was in a Madrid hotel room, were able to get any sleep due to their anxiety over the situation.
While Ms. Addi was solely concerned about her kids’ safety, Iberia should have minimally offered compensation for involuntarily bumping 3 minors off their flight. EU law calls for €600 ($716) in compensation, while Israeli law calls for 3,080 Shekels ($867) in compensation.
However, the Iberia customer service desk in Madrid told the kids that they could only receive a hotel voucher and not a compensation check for being bumped, as they were all under 18. Funny how they were old enough to be bumped off of a flight, but not old enough to be compensated for it…
Iberia in Tel Aviv said they were not able to handle any compensation issues.
I asked Iberia’s PR team for an explanation of the following items as the story boggled my mind:
- How is it possible that these 3 kids were the last passengers to check-in for the Madrid to Tel Aviv flight? When the agent in Miami checked their luggage through to Tel Aviv, the kids should have been checked in for both legs, as well.
- Even if they were the last to check-in, why would Iberia select 3 minors to be involuntarily bumped in their connection city?
- It seems like the family is owed €1,800 under EU law or 9,240 Israeli Shekels under Israeli law, why are they still receiving a run-around?
I waited a week for Iberia to investigate the issue and they finally replied with the following:
I hope that you are fine.
First of all, I would like to apologize for not being able to answer your e-mail before.
As you already know, our three customers have tickets issued by American Airlines that included two flights operated by Iberia: Miami-Madrid and Madrid-Tel Aviv. The first flight (Miami-Madrid) was booked under an American Airlines flight code, but operated by Iberia.
According to airline regulations, children who are younger than 12 years old cannot fly without an adult. Iberia offers an Unaccompanied Minor service for children aged 5 to 12 years old, who travel on their own. We also offer the Young People service for children aged 12 to 17 years old travelling on their own.
Though the Unaccompanied Minor service needs to be booked for children aged 5 to 12 years old when flying on Iberia flights on their own, the Young People service for children aged 12 to 17 years old can be booked, but it is not mandatory.
In this case, we weren’t able to find any Young People service in the booking of the three passengers. As in this case, there were two young people, aged 15 and 17, who are allowed to fly on their own according to the procedures mentioned above, accompanying a child, who was 11 years old, and this is also allowed. As no Young People Service was booked, that service wasn’t offered.
Upon arrival at Madrid airport, the flight to Tel Aviv was overbooked, the three customers were offered a hotel and meal vouchers. The three customers are also entitled to a compensation of 600€ per person. According to our records, the compensation wasn’t denied, but we have already issued an electronic-voucher to pay it. My colleagues in the Customer Service department are going to contact the customers to explain them how to proceed to receive the compensation.
Hope that this information helps you.
External Comms. · Corporate Communications”
Quite frankly, I’m shocked by that response.
Yes, they didn’t pay for Iberia’s unaccompanied minor service, but they did not have to. Perhaps there is no law prohibiting minors from being bumped, but what about common sense and decency? Why were other passengers not solicited or bumped instead of 3 children in a foreign country?
I’m happy that they will be provided compensation (though I do think they are entitled to the higher level of Israeli compensation instead of European compensation), but Iberia’s response did not address how it could be possible that the minors could have been the last to check-in for the Madrid-Tel Aviv flight when they should have been checked in while in Miami for the entire journey.
And finally, there was no apology or acknowledgment that things should have been handled better by the airline.
- Iberia failed to properly communicate with the children’s parent about the situation.
- Iberia failed to provide the requested boarding passes in Miami for the Madrid to Tel Aviv segment.
- Iberia’s gate agent in Madrid failed to have any common sense and decency beyond the letter of the law by bumping 3 minors off of a flight.
- Iberia failed to provide a reckoning of why the minors were chosen, despite having checked in for their flights in Miami.
- Iberia failed to provide a proper apology to Ms. Addi for their mistakes.
Iberia stranded 3 kids in a city where they didn’t speak the language, without taking any sort of responsibility for their well-being.
United made headlines earlier this year for calling the Chicago Aviation Police to remove Dr. Dao from a plane when he refused to be bumped. They quickly released an official report on what happened and paid him big bucks to settle the case without being able to bring any further lawsuits against any parties involved.
That prompted several airlines to stop the practice of involuntary bumping and US airlines have been bumping fewer people than ever.
United was compelled to adopt many customer friendly policy changes. Clearly those have yet to make their way across the pond.
With such a deficit in common sense, perhaps it is time for there to be laws against bumping minors flying alone off of a plane, but all I can say here is: Shame on Iberia!
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— DansDeals (@DansDeals) September 6, 2017