It seems we can’t get through a week without another terrible airline drama. Anyone who has flown anywhere knows how awful an experience it can be. It almost makes you miss the days when smoking was allowed on flights and there were swanky upper-deck cocktail lounges and flight attendants who were a lot less militant. I flew to Hawaii on one of those 747 jumbo jets way back when, surrounded by cigarette smoke. It was a little hard to breathe, but everyone was in a much better mood, well-dressed in their Sunday best, and just more civilized. My mother used to make us wear stockings and Mary Janes to fly. For real. Those were the days, eh? Now airlines are banning leggings as pants, deriding women for too much cleavage, and dragging and beating unwanted passengers off flights. I wouldn’t say we’ve made much progress in the flight industry since the smoking days.
Flight culture aside, there’s a disturbing trend of airline employees flat-out lying to passengers in order to steal their seats for other passengers. In the latest case, Delta Airlines kicked a family of four off a flight over father Brian Schear’s refusal to take his baby out of a seat he paid. (Schear said in the video that other passengers were waiting to get on the flight when he exited the plane, although Delta insists the flight was not overbooked.) The most egregious part of the video, filmed by Mrs. Schear, was the Delta employee threatening the Schears with arrest and the removal of their kids from them. Remember, this is because he wouldn’t give up a seat he paid full fare for and legally had a right to put his son in. The Delta employee, Jenna, is heard in the video saying, “I wish I could help you but this is FAA regulations. He cannot be in a carseat. He must be in your lap at all times … because he’s two and under.”
Anyone who has ever flown with a baby knows this is a lie. A quick visit to the FAA website reveals an entire page on child safety tips. Under the headline, “Keep your little one safe while you fly,” the following tips appear:
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends that parents secure a child in a child restraint system (CRS) or device based on the child’s weight. Parents are encouraged to take this tips sheet with them when they travel by air with small children…Reserve adjoining seats. A CRS should be placed in a window seat so it will not block the escape path in an emergency.
The family in question followed these rules and Jenna is clearly heard contradicting them and claiming that infants under two aren’t allowed to sit in car seats on planes. That would come as a surprise to the FAA, which has put much effort (and an entire marketing campaign complete with graphics) into encouraging parents to buy full-fare seats so their infants (in car seats) can be safer on planes.
Delta encourages parents to buy a seat for their infant under two as well! Just to make sure, PJ Media called Delta to ask what they recommend for infant safety. The response was as expected: “For the safety and comfort of the child, we highly recommend buying a full-fare ticket for the infant.”
(Delta did not add, “unless Delta decides your infant is not a person and has no rights.”)
Upon further questioning, the agent was insistent that the car seat is perfectly acceptable to place in a seat and recommended for air travel on Delta. In other words, the Delta employee, Jenna, was lying through her teeth and she either knew it or was very poorly trained. Considering she claimed to have visited the FAA rules page, I think we can safely say she knew what she was saying was 100% baloney.
The only technicality Delta might have been able to use against this man was that he had bought the seat for his 18-year-old son, who decided to take a different flight home. It’s not clear whether he changed the name on the ticket (which he could have done legally) and so the name may not have matched the traveler. However, if that was the case, it could have been taken care of very easily by a Delta agent and is within FAA regulations. Considering he made it onto the plane using the ticket, it should have been enough to void that complaint by Delta.
Then we get to the disgusting threats against children. As this man insisted that he was not taking his child out of the seat he paid for, Delta employees began threatening him with arrest, jail, and social services. What right does an airline have to threaten a parent with the removal of his child from his care simply because the parent isn’t goose-stepping to airline employee instructions that are clearly wrong?
Delta eventually kicked Schear and his whole family (two babies and his wife) off the flight with no later flights offered and no hotel accommodation. They were told to leave peacefully or else they would hold the plane on the ground and no one would fly, setting up a situation where the plane passengers would turn against the family and Delta would be saved an embarrassing dragging video.
Why another airline tried removing a ticketed passenger so close to the United disaster is puzzling. Delta has admitted they were wrong (duh) and issued an apology and has given an undisclosed amount of compensation to the family. But why do the airlines keep doing this? When they treat customers like this—in the digital age when everyone has a camera—they suffer great losses in reputation that could not possibly equal the measly amount of the ticket in question. If a person will not give up his or her seat for an overbooked flight, he should not be forced off under the threat of jail and having children removed! Any airline employee who does such a thing should face jail herself.
Threatening parents with the wrongful removal of their children by police power should be considered terrorism, and last time I checked, terrorism a big no no on an airplane. In a just world, an air marshal would have tackled that Delta employee and dragged her off the plane.