United Airlines has made so many mistakes recently that it is hard to believe that the airline could possibly screw up any more. But it did recently. Shirley Yamauchi, who was traveling alone with her 27-month-old son, booked two tickets for her trip from Hawaii to Boston, with a layover in Houston. The tickets cost nearly $1,000 each, but when she boarded her connecting flight in Texas, she was told that her son’s seat had been sold to a standby passenger. As a result of the airline’s error, she had to hold her child for the 3-hour flight.
According to NBC News,
After waiting more than five hours last Thursday in Houston to board, Yamauchi said she and her son were exhausted. Once they were seated, a United flight attendant came to see if Yamauchi’s son, Taizo, who was in his seat, was on the plane.
The Kapolei Middle School teacher said a man who was a standby passenger approached her and said her son was in his seat. She said she notified a flight attendant about the confusion but, “She shrugged and said the flight is full.”
Yamauchi, 42, said she hastily had to place her son, who is 25 pounds and half her 5’2” frame, on her lap. She said the standby passenger was one of the last people to board the plane. The flight quickly departed after he sat down and no other flight attendants questioned her about her son, she said.
The mother struggled for the entirety of the flight due to her son’s size. According to United’s policy (and other airlines as well), children ages two and older are required to have their own seat on a flight.
Yamauchi said she did not try to alert another flight attendant due to recent problems on United aircrafts, such as the April incident where a doctor was forcibly removed from his seat.
“If I were traveling by myself without my child, I would have spoken up a little louder or more forcefully,” Yamauchi said.
Since the incident, United has apologized to Yamauchi for the mistake, refunded her the cost of her son’s seat, and issued her a voucher. However, the situation begs the question: how many innocent passengers must endure United’s “mistakes” before the airline figures out how to operate properly?