Delta Air Lines has apologized to a family who were booted from a flight because they wanted to secure their young child in an airplane seat that they had paid for. Brian Schear was told that he and his wife faced being thrown into jail, while their child would be placed into foster care if they didn’t give up the seat on an overbooked flight from Maui to California.
In a now-deleted eight-minute-long video taken by Brian Schear’s wife on her cellphone which had been uploaded to YouTube, Delta Air Lines flight attendants are seen arguing with the family over whether the child can fly in its own car seat that had been strapped to a passenger seat. The seat was originally bought for their 18-year-old child who travelled on an earlier flight.
Delta had apparently oversold the April 23, 2017 flight and wanted to reassign the seat to another customer. Instead of being secured in a car seat, Delta wanted the Schear’s to hold their baby in their arms as is permitted under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules.
Brian Schear argued that they should be allowed to use the seat originally bought for their older child because they had paid for it, even though the 18-year-old wasn’t on the flight.
Flight attendants told the Schear family that if they didn’t give up the seat, they would be removed from the flight. “Then it’s going to be a federal offense,” a crew member warned Brian. “I mean, you and your wife will be in jail and your kids will be put in foster care,” the flight attendant continued.
“I’m just letting you know from this point on, this plane will not go anywhere until you guys choose to go. Now, you can just sit here, and we can all just chill here. I’m just trying to help you, this is all I can do,” a Delta employee tells Brian in a transcript of the video posted by NPR.
“Trying to help us would’ve been not overselling the flight, and not trying to force us to get him out of that seat that I paid for, and holding this whole plane up,” Brian retorts.
Crew members told the Schear family that according to rules they had just checked, their child could not actually be secured in a car seat because they were holding an “infant in arms” ticket for the child.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) “strongly urges” parents to secure their children in an approved child restraint system such as a car seat but parents must buy a seat for their child to guarantee the use of the child seat or other restraint system.
Brain Schear eventually offered to hold his child in his lap for the duration of the flight but Delta insisted the family deplane so they could fill their seats with other customers.
“At this point, you guys are on your own,” one staffer told the family. The Schear’s stayed in a hotel overnight and then managed to get on another flight home the following day.
Delta released a statement addressing the incident, saying: “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.”
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) has long argued that all infants should be secured in an approved restraint system but that safety measure has been rejected by the FAA because the need to buy a seperate seat would price some familes out of air travel.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.