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Unaccompanied child taken off overbooked easyJet flight at Gatwick

The Guardian logo The Guardian 22-07-2017 Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent
An easyJet flight takes off from Gatwick. © Reuters An easyJet flight takes off from Gatwick.

EasyJet has opened an investigation after an unaccompanied child was removed from an overbooked flight from London Gatwick.

The 15-year-old was taken from his seat on flight EZY8333 to Toulouse on Thursday morning, and left alone at the departure gate.

Casper Read, a schoolboy from Worthing, West Sussex, was taking only his second flight alone, to stay with relatives in France. His mother helped him check in at the airport with his bags before he went through security to the gate.

Read was given a boarding pass for seat 9A but after texting his mother to tell her he was aboard, another passenger claimed his seat. With the plane overbooked, Read was told to leave the plane. 

He texted his mother, Stephanie Portal, who returned to the airport and found staff to help locate her son in departures. Read’s grandparents had already embarked on the two-hour round trip to Toulouse from their home to meet him.

Eventually, Portal persuaded easyJet to allocate her son a seat on the final departure of the day to Toulouse, although she said the airline’s system apparently showed all four flights on Thursday were overbooked.

The final flight, scheduled to depart at 6.40pm, was delayed by almost three hours, meaning Read finally arrived in Toulouse well after midnight.

Portal said: “It’s crazy. They left him alone in departures. Luckily, I had still not got on board my train to London and could come back and find him. If I had not been there I don’t know what would have happened – he’d have had no money for the train back or anything.”

Unaccompanied child removed 'left alone at the departure gate' by Easyjet © Catalyst Unaccompanied child removed 'left alone at the departure gate' by Easyjet

A spokeswoman apologised “for any inconvenience caused”, adding: “EasyJet is sorry that Casper Read’s flight from London Gatwick to Toulouse was overbooked. We are investigating why he was able to board the aircraft as he should have been informed at the gate.

“EasyJet has a procedure to protect unaccompanied minors but unfortunately this was not followed on this occasion and so this will also be investigated.”

Carolyn McCall, chief executive of easyJet, said: “That is really not what we would want. It’s just not our way.” She said that on average easyJet had five no-shows on every flight, but she denied that the airline had problems with overbooking, adding: “We don’t see an overbooking issue. We don’t tend to overbook in peak periods.”

Airlines worldwide have come under increased scrutiny on overbooking since an incident where a passenger was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight. David Dao suffered concussion, lost teeth and a broken nose when he refused to leave his booked seat to make way for crew, and was dragged away by airport police.

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