An Orange County couple says they were kicked off a Los Angeles-bound Delta flight last month after airline staff insisted their 2-year-old son could not sit by himself, even though the family had already paid for the seat.
Brian and Brittany Schear of Huntington Beach told KABC-TV’s “Eyewitness News” they were removed from the flight with their two toddlers and had to scramble to find a hotel room. They wound up paying $2,000 for another flight home the next day, according to the report.
A video of the family’s April 23 clash with airline staff was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday. In the clip, employees of either the airline or the airport can be heard threatening the family with arrest if they don’t immediately leave the cabin.
“You and your wife will be in jail,” a female employee said, after Brian Schear refused to exit the plane, according to the video.
Staff members began arguing with the Schears because they wanted their 2-year-old son to be allowed to fly in an individual seat while fastened into a car seat, according to the video. Brian Schear told staff that the seat was originally intended for his 18-year-old son, Mason, who instead flew back to California on an earlier flight.
“I paid for the seat,” Brian Schear said in the video. “This is ridiculous.”
The employees can be heard telling Schear that both Delta’s guidelines and Federal Aviation Administration rules stipulate that a 2-year-old child must fly while seated on their parent’s laps, but rules posted on each agency’s website appear to contradict that.
On its company website, Delta recommends that children under the age of 2 should fly in individual seats while secured in an approved car seat.
FAA guidelines on flying with children offer similar advice, according to the agency’s website. The agency released a statement on Wednesday saying, in general, that young children should be seated in child safety restraints when aboard airplanes, rather than a parent’s lap.
“The safest place for a young child under the age of 2 on an airplane is in a child restraint, not on a parent’s lap. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly encourages parents to secure children in a separate seat in an appropriate restraint based on weight and size,” the statement read. “If a seat is purchased for a child, an airline must allow that child to use the restraint as long as the child meets the restraint manufacturer’s height and weight criteria, it is properly labeled and says that it is approved for use on aircraft, is not in an exit row, can be properly installed in the aircraft seat, and the child holds a ticket for the seat.”
There is no written FAA policy that addresses the use of an assigned seat by a passenger who is not the person the ticket was originally purchased for, as the airline staff claimed in the video, according to FAA spokeswoman Allison Duquette, who said FAA rules only govern safety.
Transportation Safety Administration rules, however, indicate that adult passengers need to hold valid identification that matches the name on their boarding pass. It is not clear how, or if, those rules would apply to a 2-year-old.
In the video, another employee can be heard saying the child could not fly because the seat had been assigned to the family’s teenage son, rather than the 2-year-old. (The family was also traveling with a 1-year-old child, according to CBS2.)
Brian Schear insists to the employees that the family had taken a Delta flight earlier in the week from Los Angeles to Maui with their son fastened in a child safety seat and placed in an individual seat.
“How did we get through security with two kids, two car seats, go all the way through your gateway, and through the gate and then they come down and say that we have to get off this plane?” he asks.
An employee insists they were simply trying to help the family, prompting another irritated response from Brian Schear.
“Trying to help us would have been not overselling the flight and not trying to get him out of that seat, that I paid for,” he said.
After several minutes of arguing, Brian Schear relented and agreed to fly with his son in his lap. But at that point, the flight staff ordered his family off the flight.
Once he was informed that his family was being removed from the plane, Brian Schear asked where his family was supposed to stay or how they were supposed to get back to Los Angeles.
“Sir, you should have thought about that in the beginning,” the attendant responds. “At this point you guys are on your own.”
In a description attached to the YouTube video, the Schears complained that Delta had overbooked the flight and immediately replaced them with standby passengers.
An email sent to the Schear family and calls to Delta seeking comment were not immediately returned Wednesday morning.
The dispute comes during a national discussion on airlines’ treatment of their customers that was sparked by a video of a Kentucky doctor being bloodied and dragged when he refused to leave an overbooked United flight in Chicago last month.
Earlier this week, legislators issued stern warnings to airline executives during a hearing before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Issues of overbooked flights and poor customer service must be resolved immediately or else Congress will step in, the legislators warned.
“If you want to keep treating us this way, fine,” said Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-Mass.). “But there will come a day when Congress won’t accept it anymore on behalf of the American people.”
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11:15 a.m.: This story was updated with a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.
This story was first published at 8:25 a.m.