Here’s a little empathy exercise: Go find a 25-pound weight and put it on your lap. Now imagine you’re stuck like this on an airplane for three hours. Oh, and the weight is actually a 2-year-old boy who had a seat of his own until a United Airlines crew member ousted him to make room for a standby passenger..
A mom who was traveling from Hawaii to Boston tells Hawaii News Now that she purchased two tickets — around $1,000 each — for her and her son. In fact, since 27-month-old is over United’s age limit for flying on a parent’s lap, she had to reserve a separate seat for him.
Mother and son were at the airport in Houston, ready to fly on to their destination, when mom says a flight attendant came by to ask if her son was present. Although he was clearly sitting in his seat, another passenger claimed the seat was his.
“I told him that I bought both of these tickets and he tells me that he got the ticket on standby. Then he proceeds to sit in the center,” she said.
Although she says she notified a flight attendant about the mixup, she claims the woman shrugged and said the flight was full before walking off.
Some parents prefer keeping their very young children on their laps during a flight, but this mom says her boy was too old and too large to be perched on her legs for the entire flight.
“He’s half my height,” she explained. “I was very uncomfortable. My hand, my left arm was smashed up against the wall. I lost feeling in my legs and left arm.”
She didn’t speak up, she says, because — in light of other recent incidents in the news involving United removing ticketed passengers — she was worried about retaliation, and felt too “scared” and “uncomfortable” to say something at the time.
The airline is now busy apologizing – five days after the flight – saying that gate agents inaccurately scanned the boy’s boarding pass, so that it appeared he hadn’t checked in. His seat was then released.
“We deeply apologize to [the passenger] and her son for this experience. We are refunding her son’s ticket and providing a travel voucher,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “We are also working with our gate staff to prevent this from happening again.”