Delta Airlines is giving refunds and other unspecified compensation to a California family that captured their ordeal with Delta on video as they were booted off of a plane and threatened with jail and to have their kids sent to foster care, after refusing to give up one of the seats which they had purchased.
The April 23 video was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday where it quickly went viral as the latest incident of abuse by airline employees, including an incident on United Airlines where a passenger was badly injured when he was physically extracted from his seat. (For more coverage of other incidents and the legal landscape see here, here, here, and here.)
Huntington Beach, California, residents Brian and Brittany Schear were returning home from Maui, Hawaii, with their two toddlers. They were trying to place one of their children in a seat which they had purchased for their teenage son who flew back on an earlier flight.
On its website, Delta states that tickets cannot be transferred and name changes are not allowed, though federal regulations do not prohibit changing the name on a ticket.
According to Schear when he refused to give up the seat which he had purchased, a flight attendant threatened him and his wife with jail, also informing them that their toddlers would be taken from them and placed in foster care.
The Southern California man recalled the attendant saying,
“You have to give up the seat or you’re going to jail, your wife is going to jail and they’ll take your kids from you.”
Delta employees wanted the family to, instead of allowing the child to have a seat, hold them in their laps during the flight. However, Schear argued that they had bought a ticket and that the child needed to sit in his car seat to sleep, so they were entitled to that seat.
Another person appearing to be a Delta supervisor went so far as to claim that federal rules require that children under two must stay in a parent’s lap throughout the flight. That statement is flatly false. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration “strongly urges” that infants be in a car seat, though it does permit children under the age of two to be held on the lap of a parent. Additionally, Delta, itself, recommends that parents purchase a seat for children under two, and place them in an approved child seat.
The entire family was ultimately ordered to get off of the plane and ended up staying overnight in a hotel. They bought new tickets out the following day.
On Thursday as news reports surfaced of the incident, Delta scrambled to respond, issuing an apology. However, it could not provide any reason why the family was kicked off of the flight, only stating that the flight was not overbooked — meaning, that there was no reason to demand that the family give up the seat.
Late Thursday, the airline issued an updated statement:
“We are sorry for the unfortunate experience our customers had with Delta, and we’ve reached out to them to refund their travel and provide additional compensation,” the statement read. Delta said its goal is to work with customers to resolve travel issues, “that did not happen in this case and we apologize.”
Watch the video of the incident here: