Woman Arrested and Daughter Sent to Child Protective Services After Complaining About Vomit in Seat

In our post-9/11 world airlines have quickly turned customer service problems into law enforcement problems. A customer creating a “disturbance” might really be creating a “distraction” for bad people to do bad things. It doesn’t matter how unlikely this is, especially prior to departure while still on the ground. The culture of precaution and ‘not being too careful’ has granted huge deference to the judgments flight crews make in the instant. And it’s allowed prejudice and ego to trump good sense.

How many times have we seen a passenger act concerned with a flight attendant moving their carry on bag in the overhead, and being asked in response, “Are we going to have a problem?”

United learned its lesson about turning customer service over to airport police in the David Dao dragging incident which reverberated around the world. United says they no longer call police unless ‘safety and security’ is at issue. That still gives them broad interpretive latitude. Other airlines haven’t made similar public commitments.

So it’s no surprise that a woman objecting to vomit on her 14 year old daughter’s Frontier Airlines seat wound up in jail, and her daughter in the custody of Child Protective Services. (HT: @RenesPoints)

Copyright: zhukovsky / 123RF Stock Photo

On Las Vegas – Raleigh flight 2066 Easter weekend departure was delayed for cleaning. But her daughter’s seat was still… dirty.

“She jumped up to say mom! My hands are wet. She smelled it. She says ‘this is vomit, mom.’ So we went to look. It was on the bag, all over her shirt, her hands,” Swinney said.

That’s when Swinney alerted a flight attendant.

“I don’t know if she got offensive about it. But she turned around to me and said, ‘that’s not my job.’ If it wasn’t her job. Why wasn’t it attend to?” Swinney said.

…Swinney, however, said the flight attendant never attempted to clean up the mess and did not reassign her seat. …she confronted the flight attendant again and that’s when authorities were called to remove her and her daughter.

“I felt humiliated,” Swinney said. “I felt more bad that my child had to see me be handcuffed and taken away from her.”

The 53-year-old woman was put in jail and her daughter was placed in child protective custody.

There’s video of the passengers having discovered the vomit – and of the arrest.

Frontier refunded the cost of the Las Vegas – Raleigh segment and they bought new travel home on Delta the next day. According to the airline,

  • Flight attendants apologized for the vomit, and sent the passengers out of the area to have the seat cleaned.
  • Passengers were told they could have different seats “once boarding was complete..if available”
  • The mother “became disruptive” so the two were asked to get off the flight. The mother refused. Law enforcement was called, and the whole aircraft was deplaned.
  • The woman was taken into custody because “[t]he safety of passengers and crew is our top priority.”

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. This flight attendant should be fired. Due to her stupidity, an entire plane was late.

  2. The passenger should not be arrested for refusing to sit in a seat where it is potentially a medical situation…any human waste is not sanitary and I hope this passenger and her daughter sue the living hell out of the airline and that the flight attendant is not only fired but charged as well. The FLIGHT ATTENDANT should be charged with endangering the welfare of a child for requiring a child to sit in the waste! Maybe THEN these crazy, power hungry lunatics will reign in their behavior!

  3. “….I hope this passenger and her daughter sue the living hell out…” Yeah, one FA’s incompetence necessitates suing the whole airline. With this intelligence, no wonder this country wants to elect a socialist to President….

  4. The passenger should have shoved the flight attendants head into the vomit, at least make it worth spending some time in jail! that would have been some sweet video!

  5. I hope the woman and her daughter are successful in a lawsuit against the airline and the law enforcement agency involved in acting as the airline’s bouncers.

  6. What crime is the woman alleged to have commited in order to be arrested? How did the officer establish probable cause to believe she committed a crime? There was no arrest warrant and the officer did not witness the interaction between the FA and passenger. She should consult an attorney about suing the airline for the actions of its employee and the police department (b/t/w under the long-standing legal principle of respondeat superior, companies are sued for the actions of their employees every day). Until an airline gets hit with a large award for punitive damages, there will be no changes.

  7. I really wish to see steep punitive penalties on such airlines they they run out of business..the audacity of the airlines to stand by that flight attendant instead of owning up the mess and apologizing

  8. BB, Your current president sued everyone in his private life. But your prob a hypocrite too.

  9. This happened in Durham. I have to wonder if this is as much a case of “flying while black“ as it is “don’t talk back to the flight attendant.“ I wonder if a white passenger would’ve gotten as much attitude about vomit cleanup not being part of the job from the flight attendant.

  10. @BB – Yes, that’s how things work in this country. Vicarious liability for employers is nothing new.

  11. I wonder if the crew knew how far over the line their assertions against the customers went? In fact, since mother and child went to jail and protective services, they could be victims of false arrest. Now that their side of the story unfolds, they can press charges against those that gave statements and made legal accusations. It is not beyond reason for the prosecutor to issue an arrest warrant of the accuser(s) for further investigation. Do Frontier and other airlines tell their crews the legal consequences of exaggerating or falsely accusing a customer?

  12. “Hey Oscar at United! Hold my beer!” or is it “Calling Dr. Dao…(‘s attorney)”?

  13. If the flight attendant says it it not her job to clean up vomit, how can she think it is the job of a person who paid for the privilege of sitting in the seat? This is beyond unreasonable. You end up arrested for refusing to set your child in vomit. This is not OK.

  14. @A_B: 53-14=39. And that is NOT a late age to have a baby. Unless you’re a redneck….

  15. I want to know why there is always video evidence? Maybe I’m too old to care about taping everything but I don’t have my phone on permanent record. It stays in my purse and when I need it, I take it out. How did that teenager know it was vomit and not the cleaning solution used to clean the seat? Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to sit in a wet seat regardless the reason it was wet. This country is out of control and I don’t know how we’re going to get it back on track.

  16. @T Jones: “But your prob a hypocrite too.”

    Given your inability to spell we clearly need free spelling classes as well

  17. How about everyone commenting on this story to actually READ the story and find out the facts before castrating the airline. And whoever is reporting here, needs to have their journalistic license taking away. Horrible job of reporting. There’s not a single journalist out there that can’t just state the facts without inserting their own feelings and opinions. Just makes ya not even want to read “the news.” it’s such BS

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