Alone, when I was 17 (born 1987), I bought a ~$537 round-trip web/internet ticket (for a 2-week trip to Amsterdam by way of Germany) and returned at age 18. I did not have official parental consent, and I was not asked for proof of consent.

Did the airport/airline who made money and/or the travel agent who made money break the law?

As with all my law/legal questions, I do not intend to litigate and do not need legal advice, so I am seeking general legal knowledge, what happens in such situations, what laws apply, how well does the law work covering these factors?

  • In terms of "minors should be protected from unscrupulous merchants taking unfair advantage of their naivete" and "minors should be restricted from jetting off to parts unknown, for their own safety", I did not mean to distinguish one or the other though, judgement could be for both issues, if a line was crossed, either is applicable.
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    How did you pay for the ticket?
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 4:54
  • @phoog You mean literally? Bank debit card though internet travel agency, if that matter. Or you mean because of my age at the time? In that sense I spent nearly all my $2k life savings, from basic jobs at that time. (Worth it forreal to be able to say "Amsterdam" and "Free Wifi" together in a sentence, though my friends were not impressed or happy I did not smoke weed yet or why I did not go to a prostitute neither, I think they shook their heads asking why I spent/wasted the money, still great story I would repeat about myself always at the time. :) Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 5:14
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    There are common law limitations to how binding a contract can be on a minor. Depending on circumstances, jurisdiction, etc., you may have been able to cancel the contract and get a refund. But you need to distinguish between "minors should be protected from unscrupulous merchants taking unfair advantage of their naivete" and "minors should be restricted from jetting off to parts unknown, for their own safety", and I'd suggest you edit your question to indicate which of those you're asking about. The former is a matter of contract law. The latter is a matter of criminal or tort law.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 11:07
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    @prosody-Gab It would be best to add details to the question, not in comments. Assume that comments are temporary, but the question as edited is long-term. Sufficient details to understand the concern would be helpful. Irrelevant personal details are less helpful. But it seems unlikely so far that any crime or tort was committed by anyone in the described activities. Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 15:43
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    The real question not asked is what you are going to tell your children when they want to do the same thing....
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 17:35

3 Answers 3


So far as I can see, no US law required an airline to demand written parental consent for a passenger aged 17 in 2004, nor does any law requires such consent now. A passport could probably have been required. Minors in general may make and enforce contracts, including those for purchase of travel services. Parental consent is only required for a few specific activities, and air travel does not seem to be one.

The question asks "Was I liable at 17 or 18...?" Liable for what? There is no liability unless there is wrongdoing or negligence or at least harm to someone. I don't see what there was to be liable for here, so there is no reason to try to determine who was liable.

Had a law been violated, it would make sense to ask who was criminally responsible, but apparently none was. If no one was harmed there is no civil liability.

I am not clear why the OP thinks there was a legal problem. Nothing in the question indicates that there would have been.

  • Fair question, maybe I should add the reasoning why I thought that into the <body> area text? I actually had a flight attendant at the time baby me a bit, I am not sure if that was intentional or just my perception, asking how I was doing and if I needed help. Other than that, there seemed to be some surprise adult attention when I was the only person waiting in the airport's McDonalds waiting area, and going through checks just, maybe they were uncomfortable I was not acting comfortable. Oh and the agent asked me my age and said it was not a problem but I am not sure it was an actual agent... Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 5:09
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    @prosody-GabVereableContext what agent asked your age, and why would you doubt that it was an actual agent?
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 5:52
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    @prosody-GabVereableContext the general gist is, that children under 12 generally can't make contracts at all, and starting at latest age 16, they gradually can make more and more contracts, for example pick up a job. Some of the stuff does require parentel consent, and some states/countries do have differences in how the law is written: For example a 16-year-old today can buy beer or wine in Germany, but needs to be 18 to buy alcohol.
    – Trish
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 11:11
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    @prosody-GabVereableContext In the USA the principle is that minors can enter contracts and enforce them (so the 17 year old can buy a flight ticket, and if the airline sells it to them, and there are no other laws against it, they have to transport the 17 year old). However, any such contract is voidable by the minor and by their guardians, so the airline would have to return the money if the 17 year old or their guardians void the contract. ...
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 13:26
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    ... And that is quite often a practical problem for minors. For example, a car dealer wouldn't usually sell a new car to a minor, even if the minor has the money in cash, because the minor could drive the car for a few weeks, then change their mind and void the contract, and the car dealer is stuffed. So selling the car is totally legal for the car dealer, but unwise.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Dec 13, 2020 at 13:29

Nothing you describe is illegal. Seventeen-year-olds travel alone by air all the time. Some airlines do not even offer their unaccompanied minor service to seventeen-year-olds. By the end of the trip, you weren't even a minor.

There's no law preventing minors from leaving or entering the US or the Netherlands alone. The drinking age for beer and wine in the Netherlands was 16 at the time (it was raised to 18 in 2014).

  • Interesting, How about in Germany then, if Stackexchange is not too busy, just curious, I had 1 beer after McDonalds in Frankfurt age 17 technically, at the airport before transferring to Netherlands, a 24h turnover I had to wait for. (Thank you, never asked and aways wondered, I would go crazy thinking about the search queries which now seem obvious based on the responses here, bc I am better searching for programming code than anything here.) We can laugh now, but I was one scared seventeen year old, I was not informed of my rights to go places, I was waiting to be interrogated on the plane. Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 6:27
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    – user35069
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 6:50
  • @Ric I do not drink enough to even think of the basic wording for anything alchohol related, I've probably had ~100 beers total in my almost 34 years, mostly ceremonial. Have me search instead for a computer or psychology issue and I can manage the keywords like the back of my hand. Thank you for the link. Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 7:33
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    @prosody-GabVereableContext The drinking ages in germany are simple: Beer, wine: 16+ alone, 14+ with parents. everything else: 18+. In 2004, smoking was 16+ but that was changed to 18+ on September 1st 2007.
    – Trish
    Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 11:30

Did the airport/airline or the travel agent break the law?

No. It's perfectly legal to sell an airline ticket to a 17 year old and it's perfectly legal for a 17 year old to travel internationally on their own. My kids have travelled transatlantic on their own starting at age 15 or so without any consent documents or any special arrangements.

Was I liable at 17 or 18 the same given international/domestic laws, what about other organizations, jurisidictions, agents?

You are always liable for breaking laws or rules in the local jurisdiction that you are in. Minors can (and do) commit crimes. Whether you are a minor or not may affect the consequences of the liability and to what extent your parents are liable as well, but the liability is always there. But as far as I can tell, you haven't broken any laws or rules, so it the question is irrelevant.

You may have done something that your parents weren't okay with, but that's between you and your parents.

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