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Dad Says Delta’s Confusion About Child Safety Seat Rules Ended With Threat of Arrest

A father claims to have been told by a Delta employee that he would face criminal charges if he didn’t hold his young son rather than use a seat that the family had already purchased.

When commercial flights are full or over-booked, airlines work very hard to make sure as few passengers as possible are turned away at the gate. In the case of an April 23 Delta Air Lines flight from Maui Kahului Airport (OGG) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), however, passenger Brian Schear says that those efforts came at the expense of his 18-month-old son, who was sitting in a seat that the family purchased long before traveling.

According to Schear, a Delta employee told him that he would be required to hold his toddler in his arms in order to make room for another flyer. The father says that he was threatened with arrest when he refused to make the seat he purchased available to a stranger.

A video of the incident obtained by Fox News shows a heated exchange after a Delta employee tells Schear that he could either comply or get off the plane.

“Then they can remove me off the plane,” he can be heard telling the agent.

“Then you commit a federal offense, then you and your wife will be in jail and your kids will be…” the agent said.

“We’re going to jail and my kids are going to be what?” the parent asked.

“He can’t occupy a seat because he’s two years or younger,” the employee explained. “That’s FAA regulations.”

Despite insisting that it is “not right” for the airline to give the seat he paid for to another customer, the weary father eventually agreed to hold his child in his lap throughout the roughly five-hour-long flight. The family was eventually escorted from the plane – even after acquiescing to the agent’s demands.

Schear admits that the seat he purchased was originally booked in the name of another family member who decided to take an earlier flight home. It would seem that, if this is the case, the airline would have likely viewed the seat as unoccupied once it became clear that the passenger failed to board.

It seems clear-cut that the family lost the right to the seat when their travel companion failed to arrive. “All tickets are non-transferable per the fare rules,” according to the airline’s published policy. “Name changes are not permitted.”

Likewise, it also appears clear-cut that Delta employees repeatedly misrepresented FAA rules regarding small children flying in approved safety seats. While the airline allowed the small child to ride in a carseat during one leg of the trip, Schear says that he was told that the child must be held in by the parents on subsequent trips.

The FAA, in fact, recommends that parents purchase seats for small children. The agency even advises travelers 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,” in an FAA-produced safety guide for parents traveling with children.

Unfortunately, in case after case, parents who specifically purchase tickets and FAA-approved safety seats for their small children (often at substantial expense) find themselves denied seats by airline employees who don’t completely understand company policy or federal rules when it comes to these matters.

In Brian Schear’s case, he says that his family was simply forced to spend an extra night in paradise before flying home the next day – on United Airlines. The upset father told Los Angeles CBS affiliate KCAL that he isn’t interested in restitution, but would very much like an apology from Delta.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

Comments are Closed.
eng3 May 16, 2017

Did Mason fly out early by purchasing a new ticket or did he change his existing one? In either case, when Mason failed to board he became a no-show (or the ticket had been changed). Thus DL had every tight to seat someone else there. The Father chose not to read the rules or ignore them and make demands on the DL crew. He chose to make a scene. He refused to comply and the DL staff chose to take him off the plane. Yes, the DL crew could have worded things better but the issue began with the Father. In the end, like with Dao, I'm sure the father will get an apology and some money thrown at him and all of our collective ticket prices in the future will be slightly higher. This is the world we live in now, whoever yells the loudest wins regardless of the repercussions on everyone else.

Sabai May 6, 2017

Everyone was wrong. PAX tried to re-use a ticket, and power-tripping and clearly ignorant DL employee did nothing to deconflict the situation. Commercial aviation in US is at its nadir.

AllieKat May 6, 2017

The threat of arrest and the escort off the plane even when he complied surely deserve an apology?

Catuary May 5, 2017

It's disingenuous to claim the father paid for the seat. The seat was traded for another on a standby flight. This is like me buying a pair of black pants, then exchanging them for brown pants, and claiming I should be able to keep the original black pants too since I originally paid for them. The Delta FA was wrong to threaten foster care for the family's children, and wrong to misrepresent FAA regulations, but they weren't wrong to demand he surrender the seat his 2-year-old was in.

NYC96 May 5, 2017

Delta is apologizing? The passenger was wrong. Not only wrong, but had a combative and arrogant attutude.