A mother from Hawaii said United Airlines gave away the nearly $1,000 seat she purchased for her young son to a standby customer, forcing the mother to hold her son on her lap on the three-hour flight.
Shirley Yamauchi said she at first noticed nothing unusual when she boarded the United flight in Houston last week with her 27-month-old son, Taizo, while traveling from Hawaii to Boston.
“The tickets were scanned without any incident,” Yamauchi told ABC News. “I didn’t see any difficulty or anything strange.”
Yamauchi said once she and her son were seated on the plane, a passenger who was on the standby list arrived at their row of seats with a ticket for Taizo’s seat.
“The flight attendant, when I let her know that these were my seats, she came back and told me that the flight is full and she shrugged and that was the end of it,” Yamauchi recalled.
Yamauchi’s experience came just a few months after an April incident in which passengers on board a United aircraft recorded fellow passenger David Dao wrenched from his seatYour text to link… and dragged down the aisle after refusing to deplane to make room for crew members.
Yamauchi said she “didn’t want to cause a scene” so she held her son in her lap for the flight.
“I didn’t want [Taizo] hurt especially,” Yamauchi said, explaining why she did not argue with the flight attendant. “I, of course, feared my personal safety with everything I’ve seen with United Airlines. I didn’t want to see anybody get hurt.”
Yamauchi claims holding 25-pound Taizo in her lap during the flight caused her to temporarily lose feeling in her legs and left arm.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says in its guidelines, “The safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system or device, not on your lap … You aren’t capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence.”
United’s own manual states that “children under the age of 2 are allowed to travel on an adult’s lap.”
United Airlines told ABC News in a statement that the mix-up occurred after someone had “inaccurately scanned the boarding pass of Ms. Yamauchi’s son.” The airline also said it refunded Yamauchi’s ticket and offered her compensation.
“On a recent flight from Houston to Boston, we inaccurately scanned the boarding pass of Ms. Yamauchi’s son,” the statement read. “As a result, her son’s seat appeared to be not checked in, and we released his seat to another customer and Ms. Yamauchi held her son for the flight.”
It continued, “We deeply apologize to Ms. Yamauchi and her son for this experience. We are refunding their tickets and providing compensation as a goodwill gesture. We are also working with our employees to prevent this from happening again.”