May 4 (UPI) — Delta Airlines apologized Thursday to a couple kicked off an overbooked flight for refusing to give up their 2-year-old’s seat, an incident prompted by the flight crew’s incorrect enforcement of rules.
On an April 23 flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles, Delta staff insisted Brian and Brittany Schear’s 2-year-old son had to sit in an adult’s lap instead of the seat they bought for their teenage son and were attempting to use for his sibling.
But that’s contrary to Delta’s guidelines, which require a reserved seat and ticket for children age 2 and older and “prefer the child to sit in a seat with an approved restraint.”
And the first sentence about child safety on the Federal Aviation Administration’s website says: “Did you know that the safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap? Your arms aren’t capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence.”
The FAA also says an airline cannot prevent an adult from using a child seat.
The incident made headlines Wednesday, when Brian Schear posted video of it on YouTube.
“I bought the seat,” he is seen telling the agents. “It’s a red-eye. He won’t sleep unless he’s in his car seat. So, otherwise, he’d be sitting in my wife’s lap, crawling all over the place, and it’s not safe.”
The couple, which was also traveling with a 1-year-old, left the flight and paid an extra $2,000 to take another flight the next day.
The incident escalated when agents threatened the Schears with jail time for interfering with the crew’s duties — a federal offense.
“As a mother, you have a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old — it doesn’t matter whether that’s true or false,” Brittany Schear told KABC-TV. “It put fear in me.”
In its apology to customers, Delta said it would refund the couple’s travel and provide additional compensation.
“We are sorry for the unfortunate experience our customers had with Delta,” the statement said. “Delta’s goal is to always work with customers in an attempt to find solutions to their travel issues. That did not happen in this case and we apologize.”
Airlines have faced criticism for a series of recent onboard confrontations, prompting Congressional hearings on ways to improve customer service.