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Delta Apologizes to Family Booted from Flight Because They Wanted to Use a Child Seat for Their 2 Year Old

Delta Apologizes to Family Booted from Flight Because They Wanted to Use a Child Seat for Their 2 Year Old

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.

View Comments (29)
  • I thought every passenger had to have a seat ticket. This incident as inexcusable. The family had purchased the ticket. They had a license to occupy it.

    • No, they didn’t. The ticket was purchased in the name of someone who was not flying with them. Tickets are not transferrable, so when that person did not check in, that seat was forfeit. The family was in violations of the terms of service for *any* US carrier due to safety laws put in place after 9/11.

  • So the disputed seat was purchased for their 18-year-old? And now they want to put their 2-year-old in it? You can’t swap seats. If a person books a seat and tries to give it to anyone else, that’s not allowed. Probably TSA. But it’s been a policy of airlines for a long time. Or maybe I’m just confused, not understanding the story. For sure possible.

    • Nope, you’re 100% right. As I understand it from another source, the family flew out on vacation with both children, but the baby was a lap child. They didn’t like it, so purchased another ticket for the older child and sent them home on an earlier flight, then tried to use the older child’s ticket for the baby. But since the older child never checked in for his flight, Delta showed the seat as unused and assigned it to someone else. The family never had a ticket for the baby.

        • Exactly! I thought Delta was in the wrong based on the title. There really isn’t a reason to apologize. The couple were wrong and caused a flight to leave late. Me, as a former gate agent would have been pissed and would have called the police. I’ve dealt with these situations lots of times. I know the rules and laws like the back of my hand. There could have been a serious issue if that plane had taken off and the information in the blackbox was not correct. That’s grounds of termination for an employee. They literally scanned a ticket for a person that was NOT there. SMH

          • Correct. Also this is an “incident “ from 4 years ago, but that fact isn’t clearly disclosed in the article, leading the casual observer to think that this just happened. Fake news on multiple levels.

  • All airlines make mistakes. A friend of mine from Egypt came to visit me last April. She couldn’t return on her return ticket because the Egyptian airport closed from Covid-19. Anything we booked got canceled. So the Egyptian embassy arranged a flight to Kennedy in NYC. She went to get her luggage to take to her flight to DC. Delta told her they were taking care of it. There was no food on the plane and there was nothing open in the airport. When she got to Reagon Airport, her luggage didn’t arrive. Delta said they would get it to her for her early flight to Cairo. She still hadn’t eaten all day, but there was nothing open at the airport and there was no food on the second flight. She went to an overpriced hotel. Their restaurant was closed because it was after 11pm. The next day she got up early to go to Dulles to catch the flight to Cairo, breakfast wasn’t being served yet. When she got to the airport the luggage hadn’t arrived. She had to get on the flight.
    For the last year I’ve tried to get her 2 pieces of luggage sent to her. Finally after writing to the president of Delta, they sent one piece of luggage to the Cairo airport. She took a taxi out there at her expense and had to pay a fee to get the luggage. Then she paid for the taxi home. She has no job because of the virus and even if she works she makes less than $300 a month. I can’t imagine delta losing luggage of an American and having them drive to the airport and paying a fee to retrieve luggage that they lost. They don’t allow anyone to talk to customer service except the passenger. She doesn’t have the kind of phone service that allowes her to call America. So every call to them has been made by me. I have gotten tired of lying to them and have stopped calling. Why doesn’t anyone do a story about lost luggage during this pandemic? Which airlines make an effort to help people living in poverty to reclaim luggage the airline lost? It would be good to know. I know I’ll never fly Delta again.

    • Your friend is lucky to have someone to advocate for her. However, if you’re still trying to work with Delta, I recommend that you out the meal problems. They aren’t Delta’s fault and are irrelevant to your goal of retrieving her baggage. Bringing up extraneous issues can result in your entire complaint being put aside.

  • So how did the 18 year old get on thd earlier flight? Did they buy another ticket or did he change his existing ticket? If he used the original one then the seat was no longer “theirs” to use, regardless of if it they had originally purchased it and the airline was right to try to seat someone else there.

  • This is from a flight in 2017! Y’all throwing stuff out there like new news instead of doing work to report what’s going on now!

  • Travel agent here. Delta was in the right and travelers were in the wrong. The ticket holder no showed and therefore forfeits their seat. They would’ve had to buy A new ticket for the lap child. It may be a silly policy, but it’s been that way for a very long time and on most, if not all carriers.

    • I should add that I don’t know how exactly it was handled and it’s very possible that the on board staff wasn’t kind. And I agree that overbooking flights sucks. But unfortunately, even had the plane only been half full, they didn’t have a legal right to the seat that their other son no showed unless they had transferred the ticket. Name changes are possible, but it doesn’t sound like it was done in this case. So purely from a legal standpoint, the seat wasn’t theirs to use.

  • All these experts talking about who was wrong and who was right etc. The Airlines knew that the crew has screwed up which is why they apologized because had they not overbooked the flight non of it would have happened. Also if it was me I would file suit against the crew member making threats about them being arrested and their children being put in foster care as intimidation to them to give up a seat that was paid for.

    Curious as to why Delta did not make the same arguments that these airline experts are making.

  • The article doesn’t mention that the flight staff explained about transferring seats not being allowed. The couple was in the wrong, but the article makes it sound like Delta was wrong. Delta does need to apologize though because of the way they handled everything and the horrible things the staff said that were not necessary and only exacerbated the situation. Plus, the couple should’ve been told they could still book a different flight later since they paid for that ticket. I guess Delta figured better to pay them off to shut them up instead of risking another bad flight, more bad press and a potential lawsuit.

  • While the flight attendants’ language is a little dramatic and rude, the family was still wrong. The other adult passenger is not on the flight. You didn’t pay for that seat next to you, you paid for the 18 year old’s ticket which they used on a different flight. You can’t have two seats for the price of one – let alone just claiming a seat that the ticket holding it no longer exists for anyways. You were welcome to buy an additional ticket for the 2 year old and chose not to. Instead other passengers bought tickets. That’s a seat THEY paid for not you. Flight attendants should have just stopped after explaining they didn’t have the seat, and called police to escort them off. On the customer service side, there’s no reason to argue with someone not getting it and give the company a bad image of ill-tempered, catty staff. Don’t let the rude passengers work you up and ruin your day.

  • None of this would happen if Delta didnt overbook the plane. They are obviously greedy andbtrying to sell a seat that was already purchased. Unless they refund the no show tickets, stop thieving Delta.

  • Common sense is lost these days. Everyone is arguing the family is wrong but if the airline hadn’t overbooked, there would’ve been no issue.. As for the son flying home earlier, of course he bought a 2nd ticket. Do you think he flew home for free? They airline could’ve done a simple name change. And as for threatening foster care, let’s just say they handled that comment better than I would have. Bottom line, they paid for the seat. Change the name on it and get them home. It’s really that simple.

  • I remember this clearly. This article’s description of what happened is completely inaccurate. The flight was not oversold – it was sold to capacity. The family attempted to tranfer a ticket purchased for their teenage son, who had taken a different flight, to their toddler without notifying the airline. When the teenage son failed to board the flight, his seat was given to another passenger. Airline tickets aren’t transferable, so the teenage son’s ticket could not simply be used by the baby. The family was unaware of this and the airline resolved the situation by making an exception to change the name on the teenager’s ticket that of the baby’s. Why did you publish this nonsense?

  • Not sure why we’re recycling stories from 2017. There are no new developments in this story, so nothing to update. The fact that it’s never referred to makes it seem all the more like cheap click bait.

    I call b.s. on a lot of the details. It sounds pretty sketch. It sounds like the family got argumentative and that’s when they were asked to leave, just like anybody would be.

    If I were running this flight, I wouldn’t threaten, I wouldn’t call the cops. I would just ask them what I needed them to do to get the aircraft moving. If they continued to argue, I would arrange for the whole cabin to deplane and request a security sweep. #neverforget

    • Hi Peter,
      This article was inadvertently republished. Once I realised it was doing the rounds again, it was updated accordingly. Sorry for any confusion this might have caused. Incredibly embarrassing!

  • There is a real easy way to avoid the indifferent and callous treatment you receive on Delta, American, and United; fly Southwest Airlines anytime it is available!!

  • Airlines can’t have it both ways. If this guy paid for a seat, then he should be able to use it any way he wishes. It doesn’t matter that his 18 year old son was not on the flight as THE SEAT WAS BOOKED AND PAID FOR and was not available to be sold to someone else. He could have left it empty to have more room but it makes perfect sense to use it for his toddler. I’m sure the airline didn’t offer to buy it back from him or give him a refund so that means they received two payments for the same seat. The way passengers are crammed in like sardines is bad enough and I’d happily pay for two seats (especially long-haul) and leave one empty if it meant I could have more room and it would still be cheaper than buying Business Class. Looks like Delta are going the same way as United (who I’m boycotting) and are becoming rude, obnoxious, money-grabbers too.

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