A Southern California family says they were kicked off an overbooked Delta flight because they refused to give up a seat they had bought for their young son sitting in a car seat.
According to KABC Eyewitness News, the Schear family from Huntington Beach were flying from Hawaii to Los Angeles last week when they were asked to give up their seat occupied by their 2-year-old son and have him sit on their lap for the entire duration of the flight.
They refused, saying they paid for the seat, to which the airline staff threatened the family with jail time.
“I bought the seat,” Brian Schear is seen telling the agents in a video of the incident that’s since surfaced online. In it, he explains that he initially purchased the seat for his 18-year-old son but sent the teen home early on another flight so that the toddler would have a seat on the plane. “It’s a red-eye,” he’s seen saying. “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.”
An agent is then seen telling Schear that unless he complies, he would have to de-board the plane.
“Then they can remove me off the plane,” he replies.
“You and your whole family?” the agent asks.
“Yeah, that’s fine,” he says.
“So, then, it’s going to be a federal offense,” another agent chimes in, “and you and your wife will be in jail and your kids will be –.”
“We’re going to be in jail and my kids are going to be what?” Schear interrupts.
“It’s a federal offense if you don’t abide by it,” she says.
“I bought that seat,” Schear replies. “You’re saying you’re going to give that away to someone else when I paid for that seat. That’s not right.”
Eventually, he agreed to keep his son on his lap but by then, the airline had ordered the entire family to exit the aircraft around midnight. The parents said they were left to figure out a hotel room and pay $2,000 for another flight the next day, on United.
One airline employee tells Schear in the video that under FAA regulations, 2-year-olds aren’t supposed to have their own seats at all. Schear explains that the child flew there on the way to Hawaii in a car seat.
The websites for both the FAA and Delta encourage parents to buy separate seats for children and use a safety restraint system such as a car seat.
“We want you and your children to have the safest, most comfortable flight possible,” Delta’s website says. “For kids under the age of two, we recommend you purchase a seat on the aircraft and use an approved child safety seat.”
The altercation comes at a time when airlines are under intense scrutiny after a passenger was forcibly removed off an overbooked United flight last month, resulting in a serious concussion, a broken nose and two lose teeth.
Also last month, a video surfaced of a scuffle between a flight attendant, a mom and two babies on an American Airlines flight.
A representative for Delta told TheWrap in a 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. 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.”
Watch the video above.