Family Asked to Leave a Delta Flight


The subject of this YouTube video is misleading: "Family with Infant Children Booted Off Delta Flight." Let's see if you agree. 

A mother and father were returning home from Hawaii with two toddlers, ages 1 and 2. They say their 18-year-old son had flown home separately on an earlier flight, specifically so their 2-year-old son could take the seat they had purchased for the teenager and then sleep in his car seat. 

Makes sense, right? 

But there's a problem with this. Airline seats haven't been transferable in years, decades even. The paying passenger (the teenager) had already flown home and thus could not have checked in for the flight. So for all practical purposes, there was an empty seat that the airline simply wanted to assign to another passenger. At that point, it does not matter if they'd paid for the ticket; the passenger in question was a no show. 

And no amount of saying you paid for the seat makes your cause righteous. 

The toddler didn't have a ticket and thus could not have been checked in. He could not have been assigned to the seat in which he was sitting... assuming the family was being honest about the name of that 2-year-old. 

So the family's refusal to give up a seat that wasn't assigned to them, or was assigned under false pretenses, was legit grounds for removal. The airline had given this family the option of sitting in the seats that had been assigned to them. They refused, and even challenged the flight crew to have them removed; so I can't blame the airline for saying they had to go. 

There is a right way to do this. You simply re-book the 18-year-old on the earlier flight, and then buy a ticket for the toddler. Better yet, the airline has said the flight wasn't full. Simply keep the child on your lap for takeoff, but move someone (dad?) to an empty seat during the flight. Flight crews rarely have a problem with this. 

I have no idea what the family did. Maybe they bought a whole new ticket for the teenager, and then claimed the teenager's original seat for the toddler. That's certainly what it sounds like here, which would have saved a couple hundred dollars in change fees. (Maybe that's what they were trying to avoid?)

Delta has decided to apologize and give this family both refunds and "additional compensation." It's probably smart business, especially after the ugly PR nightmare that United faced. But the whole situation is a lot different than when Dr. David Dao was forcibly removed from a United plane. The doctor followed procedure and was removed; this family clearly did not.

There are a couple of things the flight crew said that I'd want to take back, if I were them, and they weren't totally informed on the law. For instance, the FAA does not require a toddler to be in an adult's lap. They said it and it wasn't true. And never threaten people with jail if you can avoid it. So yeah, Delta looks foolish here. (Customer service, people!) But let's not equate what happened here to what happened on United a few weeks back. 

PS -- I feel bad for the passenger who's been waiting his or her seat all this time.



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