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Mix-up delays 14-year-old

SIMON SMITH
Last updated 05:00 22/01/2014
Leigh Watson, Tanya Leigh
DIFFICULT CHECK-IN: Leigh Watson was told he would not be allowed to board his Jetstar flight when he arrived at Auckland Airport with his mother Tanya Leigh.

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A 14-year-old had trouble returning home on Jetstar because of confusion about what identification he needed to fly unaccompanied.

Leigh Watson flew out of Christchurch on the airline and was only asked his age.

But Jetstar staff at Auckland Airport didn't want to accept a photocopy of his passport as proof of age for the return flight, his mother Tanya Leigh says. They were told the airline's policy is school identification is required for a child under 15 to fly unaccompanied.

"He would have been stuck here," the Pakuranga resident says.

Jetstar eventually let him on the plane but only after a "really frustrating" and lengthy encounter at the airport.

Ms Leigh says if staff hadn't relented she doesn't know what she would have done.

"I didn't have the money to buy another ticket to send him home."

A Jetstar spokesman says the school ID policy has been in place since 2004.

School identification is needed to show the child is in at least year 9.

"ID checks may be carried out at various points prior to boarding the aircraft, including at the check-in desk or when boarding the aircraft," he says.

"Jetstar has a clear policy regarding children travelling independently which is communicated to customers via links on the homepage of our website and again during the booking process."

But Ms Leigh says the website is "mixed up" and needs to change because it also says child tickets are for those aged 2 to 11.

Randomly checking identification is only doing half the job, she says.

"They need to check and follow through with their protocol every time."

Basing travel restrictions on a child's school year can make booking last-minute for unexpected travel near impossible, Ms Leigh says.

That's because guardians might not be able to get the required identification when schools are closed.

Air New Zealand's policy for unaccompanied minors on same-day domestic trips is children under 5 must travel with someone 15 or older. Children 5 and over can travel as unaccompanied minors and are cared for by crew while travelling.

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- Eastern Courier

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