Is it fair to be told that, at 80, you’re too old to join a tour holiday? And how different is this from over 30s being excluded from 18-30 trips? Laws are set to change next April, so are age restrictions ever acceptable?
I never went on an 18-30 holiday. I never really wanted to. But when I turned 30 there was a bit of me that felt it was wrong that the option had been taken away and I couldn’t go even if I wanted to.
One day I could go, the next I couldn’t. It seemed an arbitrary cut off point that didn’t take into account the different courses people’s lives take.
What if someone had spent their 20s caring for an elderly relative and then became free of the responsibility when they were 30 and wanted to let off a bit of steam? Why shouldn’t they join the fun?
Harsh and arbitrary age limits
The same arbitrary nature of age limits applies at the other end of the scale. In October’s Which? Travel magazine we highlighted how anyone over 80 is barred from small group cultural holidays run by an escorted tour company.
The company, Martin Randall Travel, did previously allow people over 80 to join. But it said it found there were many cases when they proved unable to keep up with the brisk pace of its tours, and spoilt the trip for the younger members of the group.
So it imposed the ban, which it admits is “harsh and arbitrary”.
Is this legal?
But does the law allow “harsh and arbitrary” age limits? Under provisions of the Equality Act 2010, which come into force in April next year, travel companies such as Club 18-30 and Saga can legally impose such restrictions as long as the purpose of the holiday is to bring together people of a particular age group.
The law cannot be used to restrict access to general package holidays unless the restriction can be shown to be a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
So is it proportionate and legitimate to exclude anyone over 80 from cultural tours because they might not be able to keep up?
Martin Randall argues it is, says the policy is based on objective experience, and points out that the age limit does not apply to its music festival holidays where the pace is slower and the groups are larger.
Can’t we decide for ourselves?
Age UK believes banning anyone over 80 is making assumptions based on stereotypes rather than treating people as individuals, and suggests anyone aged 81 and above should be told the tours are strenuous and left to make the decision themselves.
But if the tour company did that, would people over-estimate their abilities only to find they couldn’t keep up? Would that leave other people spending their holiday having to care for the older members of the group? Can an age limit ever be fair?