Family Kicked Off Delta Flight When They Refused to Give Up 2 Year Old’s Seat to Another Passenger

Here’s the story of a family that tried to fly Delta a week and a half ago but was kicked off an oversold flight because they wouldn’t give up a seat they paid for so that another passenger could sit in it. Delta instructed them to treat their youngest child as a lap infant not to have them sit in a seat.

Here is a video of Delta airlines booting myself, my wife and my 2 children ages 1 and 2 off delta flight 2222 April 23 from Maui to LAX.

They oversold the flight and asked us to give up a seat we purchased for my older son that my younger son was sitting in. You will hear them lie to me numerous times to get my son out of the seat.The end result was we were all kicked off the flight. They then filled our 4 seats with 4 customers that had tickets but no seats.

They oversold the flight. When will this all stop? It was midnight in Maui and we had to get a hotel and purchase new tickets the following day.

The flight was delayed by about an hour.

The problem for Delta is this sounds like a passenger being kicked off an oversold United flight. The problem for the family is that they were doing something squirrely under standard airline rules (although it’s something that people in general might reasonably think is ok).

The family originally intended to fly with the young child as a lap infant, but they sent their 18 year old son home on an earlier flight. That way, they thought, they could just use his seat for the baby.
They boarded the flight, and the four family members took the four seats they had reserved.

The airline, though, saw only three of them as boarded. The 18 year old was a no show for the flight. And they gave the seat to another passenger.

The father says that “Delta knew he was planning to use the seat for his younger son when they boarded their return flight.”

“You’re saying you’re gonna give that away to someone else when I paid for that seat?” Brian Schear says to an airline employee. “That’s not right.”

When the family refused to move, the airline threatened them with jail — and worse.

They tried to refuse and argued with airline staff, but say they were threatened with being sent to jail.

“You have to give up the seat or you’re going to jail, your wife is going to jail and they’ll take your kids from you,” Brian Schear recalled the airline staff telling him.

They didn’t want to go to jail, so they agreed to hold the young son on a lap for the flight. The airline still kicked them off, they booked themselves a hotel room and paid “$2,000 for another flight the next day, on United.”

The family recorded video of the incident.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Brian is 100% correct. If they told an agent they were using the 18 years olds ticket for the small child there should be no issue here and Delta would be 100% wrong. I think the problem is Delta as usual overbooked the flight and since it was a red eye long haul flight they were scrambling not to look bad to angry customers in the boarding area who were probably demanding a seat on the plane. If they hadn’t overbooked this wouldn’t have been an issue. STOP over booking now!!!! This should be 100 illegal. In the old days these seats were not non refundable but now they are completely non refundable so Delta has no business selling a seat twice.

  2. Cacinda Maloney says: something utterly inane

    They paid for the seat for one of their kids, they put one of their kids on the seat.

    Game over, ti’s theirs. Only Delta is in the wrong on this one

  3. I take it back: the family did one thing wrong: they should have checked all four seats in, and told the airline the infant was the person named for the 4th seat.

    Not allowed to demand photo ID for an infant, so no muss, no fuss.

  4. Four seat reservations were purchased by this family for the parents, the 18 yr. old and the 2 year old. The family decided that it would be easier to have both of their young children occupy their own seats utilizing car seats following Delta and FFA guidelines; therefore, they purchased an additional ticket for their 18 year old son on an earlier flight because there were no available seats on the original flight to purchase. When purchasing the additional ticket, Delta personnel failed to provide the necessary service of changing the name on the original ticket from the 18 year old’s name to the youngest child’s name advising the father there would be no problem utilizing the seat that had originally been intended for the 18 yr. old. Had Delta not over sold the flight, this story would not exist because there would be no need to seat a standby passenger. This was clearly Delta’s first of many failures in regard to this incident. I question the comments stating that the name on a ticket cannot be changed as that is simply incorrect. If that were true then all stand-by passengers would fly under the names of the original passengers that for one reason or another did not use their purchased tickets. Delta’s next failure occurred when they did not catch the mistake of the earlier representative who chose not to properly reticket the seat when selling the additional seat on the earlier flight. The action of the Flight Attendant is not just yet another Delta failure but it is a disgrace as well.
    I do not understand how anybody would not find serious fault with Delta when Delta themselves admitted they were wrong in the handling and attempted to compensate the family.

  5. If I am understanding this right. The family knew this was a fully booked flight. But they tried to work around the system to have the extra comfort of a seat for their lap child on that flight and doing this at the expense of some poor traveler who won’t be able to go on the flight at all.

    I just don’t understand all this group think that the big corporations are wrong. There is always this sense of victim hood. Nobody cares about the victims of this other traveler who wouldn’t be able to go because this family tried to pull this shenanigans simply for their own comfort. Nobody thinks of the victim of the rest of us because we will all need to pay higher prices if as Mark says “stop overbooking now!”. Maybe Mark is rich and can pay the $Millions of dollars extra all of the rest of us will need to pay because they can’t overbook.

    Nobody cares about the victims of entire planes not being able to fly because the airlines will no longer boot a passenger or two so they can get their entire crew to a needed destination.

    Really, people, I just don’t get it. You always want to change the system to harm the many to help that poor person out who doesn’t want to follow the rules. Thanks a lot.

  6. FlyingBoob: Why don’t you read before you open your mouth and spew misinformation like some corporate chump – or even worse a Trump voter? The father purchased the seat, had a ticket for it for another kid and wanted to use it for the lap kid. He had arranged this at the counter before he got on the plane.

  7. @flyingBoat… what a bunch of BS and garbage that you posted. Don’t blame this family because Delta overbooked their long haul flight. The seat was never available in the first place since the father had already paid for it. All you care about is yourself and your lame argument that fares will go up if we mandate that airlines stop overbooking. Years ago these seats weren’t all non refundable but today almost all coach seats are non-refundable so Delta was already paid once for the seat. What right do they have selling the seat for a second time without reimbursing the individual that paid for it the first time? All double booking does is allow the airlines to sell seats twice. They don’t care who they inconvenience all they care about is profiting over something that they shouldn’t be profiting from. Stop your whining and get a real job if you can’t afford it.

  8. Flyingboob: Where did you even come up with that information you posted–
    I’m assuming it was from reading other post written by people who also had not bothered to take a few minutes to read the article, watch the video, catch the national News, videos of same or read the last post where I spelled out what happened because you would then have understood why Delta apologized which obviously you clearly missed as well.

  9. I have yet to come across an article that says whether he actually purchased a fourth ticket. Has anybody seen an article that addresses that? That he didn’t have the ticket he was using for the 2 year old scanned while boarding seems odd.

  10. This is simple,:reservations are associated with a named individual and those named individuals didn’t check in. Tough love. And by the book, it’s fraud or breach of contract by the customer.

    But in this time of heightened sensitivity, it makes a good story.

  11. All this is mute because Delta already apologized for their mistake and poor service and they have already compensated the family for the inconvenience. Delta wouldn’t have paid out any money if it wasn’t clearly their fault. Their flight crew has no business lying to it’s customers and the airlines needs to stop this outrageous practice of overbooking flights.

  12. Any airline or business will often pay out money to quickly obtain a settlement with a customer. They might appologize, but it doesn’t mean the airline contradicted their contract of carriage.

    The story appears that Delta’s PSS system saw a no-show customer and issued a boarding pass for that newly available seat for a standby customer. Standard procedure.

    This isn’t an overbook situation. It’s a customer that didn’t show up.

    And besides, overbooking is not outrageous. Handling it poorly is outrageous. Overbooking keeps prices low and statistically is insignificant in delaying passengers in comparison to weather or mechanical issues. But I’ll admit, it makes great evening news fodder.

  13. Watch the video. Watch the news videos. He states that he had purchased the ticket and even the flight attendant and then the supervisor agreed but said that the older son wasn’t there to sit in the seat and falsely stated the only reason that the child could not sit there was it was against FAA rules which they were having printed out but that never occurred because they most likely found out that they were completely in the wrong. Because the father continue to stand his ground, they were removed from the plane. As I stated previously there were many errors on Delta’s on Delta’s part for which they apologized and assumed responsibility for the families expenses. I really don’t get what is so hard to understand! SMH

  14. I didn’t watch the video in detail, but clearly miscommunication was in fully effect. But if the passenger didn’t check in and board — it doesn’t matter, that passenger “didn’t exist.” — and all of the reporting indicates they all could have been better behaved.

    The only FAA rule that probably was violated on camera is that the customer disobeyed the directions of a flight crew member. (A US Federal crime that is often punished.)

  15. I personally believe it best to do everything possible in order to make it an informed opinion. The family only made one mistake and that was choosing Delta. Over and over, Delta representative failed to provide the proper service which resulted in this fiasco.
    The family did not violate any FAA regulations but we’re told they would if they did not disembark and give up all four of their seats to the stand by passengers. The father was told if they did not do so both he and his wife would be arrested and their children would be taken away from them and put in foster care. A Delta supervisor then boarded the plane and advised the father that they were waiting for the FAA regulation to be printed out to determine who was correct in regard to whether or not they child could occupy his own seat. The supervisor made it clear to the family that they were inconveniencing all on board. I can only surmise that once the regulation was printed and read by the staff, they realized they were wrong and chose not to share the printed regulation with the family. Instead yet another error in judgment and in service was made but this time it was egregious. I do feel that if you actually watch the video you would be appalled at the way this was handled and understand why once again Delta apologized and attempted to compensate the family.

  16. Patricia is absolutely right. People need to stop making excuses for poor customer service. Delta knew the seat was purchased by the family before they decided to sell it for a second time without offering to refund the money to them. The gate agent was also apparently told what they were doing. It didn’t become an issue until Delta got caught with their pants down by overbooking a long haul flight which in itself is disgraceful. Why should anyone who has a confirmed reservation not have a seat and be stuck in the gate area while the airline scrambles to try and cover their behind.
    Disgraceful behavior by Delta including all their lies.

  17. The father made several violations of the contract of carriage he entered into. He tried to use the seat for a different passenger that wasn’t there violating Rule 100 clause F and/or Rule 135 clause C requiring the name on the reservation match the passenger when he tried to place his child in the ’empty seat’. The father also appears to have not liked the application of Rule 135, clause D, section 1) indicating that failure to check-in AND board within the stipulated timeframes causes the reservation to be cancelled.

    I’m not making excuses or defending Delta Airlines. But the fact is their system saw the seat was empty and tried to what was best for another customer… the fact that they couldn’t because someone who wasn’t aware (likely) and then thought a contract of carriage was ‘unfair’ or not applicable is what brought on the confrontation.

    And it decidedly is a Federal Crime to violate the direction of the Flight Crew (which includes cabin crew.)

    But rules are rules and laws are laws. While we get our customer-service knickers rightfully (I do agree!) in a knot and spark the conversation to find ways to make these confrontations not happen — we still must abide by the contracts we sign, and the laws that are in place.

  18. “contracts we sign”. LOL. What passenger (other than attorneys) in the history of air travel have read the contract of carriage? What did the family sign? Some people are just apologists for shoddy customer service. We all watched Delta’s employees lie to this family on video and threaten to lock them up and put their small children in foster care. How does one possibly defend this type of behavior? Sorry but overbooking a flight is wrong and it needs to be stopped immediately.

  19. What’s not revealed yet (and may never be since they’ll buy the family’s silence) is if they did OK the baby sitting in the teen’s ticketed seat when he took another flight, did they check in the seat or just let it go to no-show status? This probably would require a name change procedure since surely an agent is trained to never let anyone else check in (even family) on another named ticket in case the plane crashed, the manifest would clearly show someone checked in who they knew wasn’t on the flight.

    Gary already clarified earlier or in another thread that one doesn’t need to comply with the airline’s requests in all cases. We dont’ have corporate rule yet. Getting the flight out on time is nice, but customers are not required to give up their rights or be subject to bodily injury if they don’t comply with questionable, civilly-actionable instructions. Ask United who are out between $1-10 million paid out in record time to Dr. Dao. He is not just right denying their unjust instructions, but an American hero. You see, Trump rednecks, what’s patriotic is questioning authority, not complying like a bootlicking lemming because you need a strong leader who arrived in the circus clown car..

  20. “Contracts we sign” – I read it and I’m not an attorney. When purchasing tickets online you agree to the tickets rules and conditions, just like license agreements, or driving laws — you may not have read them, but you are bound by them. Ignorance is not an excuse.

    I’m not apologizing for Delta’s behaviour (I fly 250k+ miles a year so I know the biz) and there is much work to be done, but thinking that this father is 100% innocent (he isn’t) and Delta is 100% wrong (they aren’t by the book) is not appropriate — And I’m simply trying to act as an opinion counterbalance to the Delta bashing.

    Ask yourself if you were running an Airline. If a customer didn’t board and you have a customer on stand-by, would you issue a boarding pass to that customer? Of course you would.

    As for overbooking. There was no evidence this was an overbooked flight (maybe there were some standbys) but I fully support overbooking. It keeps fares 10-15% lower than they would be otherwise. For the statistically insignificant # of passengers this actually disrupts, the savings is well worth it.

  21. @Matthew…. total rubbish. If seats are non-refundable why should an airline sell it twice? Also where in the world do you get your facts from? 10-15% lower airfares when airlines are allowed to overbook flights???? That is just pure ignorance of the facts. No passenger with a valid paid ticket should ever be told there is no seat for them if the airline accepted their reservation and their money. This could easily be solved by assigning all seats in advance but NO the airlines don’t want to do this because they would be losing extra revenue that they receive by up-selling seat assignments. Enough is enough with the greed passengers have rights too.

  22. Matthew M it is clear that you just skimmed the Conditions of Carriage, i.e., Delta Domestic General Rules Tariff TOC and jumped to the two sections you mentioned. Further it is clear that you only read what you believed to be enough to prove your point. However, had you read these rules in their entirety and then applied these rules to the ACTUAL EVENTS, you would realize that the breach lands directly in Delta’s “lap” and not in the “lap” of the parents.
    Once again, if you would bother yourself to take the time to at least view the video of the actual event, you might possibly gain an understanding of what in point of fact occurred and perhaps then you could articulate an informed post.

  23. “Watch the video. Watch the news videos”

    That was the point of my post. Whether he bought three tickets or four is never addressed in any of the videos, including the one the family posted themselves, and it makes a difference. If he just changed his other son’s ticket and didn’t buy a ticket for the 2YO, he didn’t have any claim to the seat he put the 2YO in. He actually had no claim to it anyway if he didn’t have a ticket in the 2YO’s name, but that could be an honest mistake on his part. Delta would be breaking the law dispatching without a proper passenger count or manifest, so they had to resolve this before departure. Also, mismatch between ticket and passenger name violates TSA regs, though I’m not sure whether the passenger is the violator for doing it, or the airline for permitting it.

    “The family only made one mistake and that was choosing Delta”

    It could have been worse; they didn’t get beat up by the cops, beaten in the head with a stroller, or forced to fight it out with other passengers inflight.

  24. @Mark — Any reader of Gary’s View from the Wing forum knows full well why Airlines do what they do. The rules/contracts are decidedly in the favour of the airline and that ‘slant’ alone spawns numerous posts on this blog. But those rules/contract terms are buried in the systems the airlines use… how those airlines buffer the customer from the sometimes negative implications of the system is the challenge. And in this case, Delta’s system worked exactly as it was designed to — and offered the seat of a customer who didn’t check in to a customer who wanted to fly. Delta’s process on how to deal with a customer who tried to sneak around the system (‘squirrely’ was the term Gary used) failed miserably though.

    As for overbooking % limit — ask any gate agent. I’ll wait. 😉 (Though this wasn’t necessarily an overbooking scenario, likely just customers going standby) — I actually had lunch with a former Ozark/Republic/Northwest MSP gate agent last Wednesday when this topic came up. The limit % has probably come down from approx. 15% as the systems have gotten better at predicting customer behaviour, but it is not zero.

    But to all those who are complaining that airlines are inherently evil; ask yourself: If airlines could not overbook (to offset those who customers who misconnect/go earlier etc), if they could not offer a seat to a standby customer when a ‘normal’ customer didn’t bother show up — flights will be dispatched with empty seats and that costs money. So where does those costs go? Straight back to the airfare/baggage fees/change fees — if the market will tolerate them, if not, well we could go back to the ongoing airline ‘bankruptcy’ rotation.

  25. Not just referring to only this case (Delta), but rather airlines’ behavior towards children and their parents in general. For parents who have done the research on child safety during flights and is able to purchase a seat for their child, airlines do not have the right to treat those customers differently. I’m astonished that in 2017, I have to explain to people that kids are humans, and with that comes the same set of rights you would afford any other paying customer.

  26. The father never argues that he bought another ticket for Grayson (the 2 year old). The airlines stance is that the ticket and seat was for Mason (the 18 year old) who never boarded and that he couldn’t just give the seat to his 2 year old. The father never disputes that the seat was supposed to be for Mason, his argument is simply “i bought that seat, i paid for that seat”. The father never says in the video that he worked it out with Delta counter agents that he could give the seat to his 2 year old. That’s what he has claimed after the fact and does not seem credible.

    The Delta supervisor who shows up at the 3 minute mark totally screws up by shifting the argument to baby seats and age of sitting in your own seat. I don’t think the supervisor understood the situation and the problem. She leaves by saying “I just came by to say hi, I’ll let them handle it” she didn’t have a clue to as to what the problem was she inserted herself in.

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