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Over the past few months, it seems like every time you turn around, there is another story of an airline running into trouble with customers not wanting to get off planes. We’ve had #leggingsgate, and then #bumpgate upped the ante. The outrage toward United Airlines has been significant and widespread. The internet even saw a rash of memes after the second incident. And that’s probably only half of the recent stories.
Today’s story comes from a family who was kicked off of a red-eye Delta flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles.
The basics of the family getting kicked off a Delta flight
Typically when these stories come out, they are slanted to favor the individual and against the large corporation (airline). And while certainly there are many instances of the airlines being in the wrong, there are generally (at least) 2 sides to every story, so I like to try and figure out the details of what’s going on
Here are the basics of the story as far as I understand them. Brian Schear and his family flew to Hawaii with his wife, an 18 year old son (Mason), a 2 year old (Grayson) and a 1 year old.
They bought 4 tickets and had both of their younger son as lap children. While most reports indicated that Grayson is 2 years old, if he was a lap child he must be under 2, so maybe they’re rounding up.
For the return flight, they (correctly) realized that a 2 year old without his own seat would make the flight a nightmare, so they sent their 18 year old son on an earlier flight home, and then figured that the 2 year old would use the 18 year old’s seat.
The family’s mistake
I can see the family’s basic argument – “I paid for 4 seats and there are 4 of us and you can’t put someone else in the seat”. Unfortunately, while it holds logically speaking, it’s not how the airlines see it, per their contract of carriage. It’s a different side to the same argument what the airlines won’t let you do hidden city ticketing because they don’t see you buying a ticket from City A to City C via City B as A->B and B->C. They view that as one ticket from City A to City C. It’s why United sued Skiplagged.com (though the lawsuit was thrown out I believe)
The problem appears to have occurred when Mason (the 18 year old) did not check in to the flight (because the family was just using Grayson’s lap infant pass). So Delta marked him as a no-show, and assigned his seat to someone else. When that person went to sit in the seat occupied by the Schear’s toddler, flight attendants got involved and said that he would not be able to sit in that seat. Delta says that the flight was NOT overbooked, so I’m not sure why the person couldn’t have sat somewhere else.
Here is the YouTube video uploaded from the situation (record video horizontally people!!! 😀 )
Again, I can understand the Schear’s side of things. They paid for 4 tickets, and had 4 people sitting in them, so what’s the problem? Unfortunately, that is not how things work on flights. Had they just used Mason (the older son’s) boarding pass and checked him in, everything would have been fine. The toddler (and all children under 18) don’t need to show ID when going through airport security or at the gate, so it seems like that would have averted this problem.
But once his ticket was marked as a no-show, it was canceled and his seat was given over to someone else. Again, if the flight was not overbooked, it seems like Delta could have figured that out and taken some time to accommodate everyone. Some of the news reports talk about the flight attendant saying that the 2 year old could not sit in his car seat, so I don’t know if anything with the car seat not being FAA certified was involved or note.
Could Delta have handled this better?
I’m sick of flight attendants having pretty much absolute power, but that’s the way it goes. And it doesn’t look likely to change any time soon. Flight attendants are not policemen and I question whether “you’re going to go to jail and they’ll take your kids from you” was a valid statement.
But basically, once you start arguing with flight attendants, they have pretty much unlimited, unchecked power and they’re going to decide you’re a “safety risk” and kick you off the plane. I don’t agree with the power that flight attendants have somehow gotten, but that is the cold reality of things.
It seems that cooler heads could and should have prevailed here and a solution reached where everyone found a seat and the plane was able to take off and reach its destination
What do you think? Was Delta in the right? Should the family have been able to keep their seats? Was Delta right in removing from the plane?