Delta Kicks Family Off Flight From Maui For Refusing To Give Up Seat

Filed Under: Delta, Family

Overbooking of flights has been in the news a lot lately, ever since Dr. Dao was dragged from his United flight for refusing to give up his seat to accommodate deadheading crew. After completely botching the initial response and turning this into a public relations nightmare, United quickly reached a settlement with Dao and his lawyers, as they wanted to get the story out of the spotlight.

And that means it’s now Delta’s turn to deal with an overbooking fiasco, one involving a family no less. Although the situation seems to have occurred over a week ago, the story has just now surfaced of a family that was supposed to be flying from Maui to Los Angeles but was kicked off their flight for refusing to give up the seat that the youngest child was sitting in. Although Delta was mostly in the right — as is often the case in these things — they handled the situation miserably.

The good news is that the cops didn’t drag the family off the plane. They just stood by as Delta threatened to send the parents to jail and take the kids away. Oh my:

“You have to give up the seat or you’re going to jail, your wife is going to jail and they’ll take your kids from you,” Brian Schear recalled the airline staff telling him.

The family eventually left the plane peacefully and then purchased tickets on United — of all airlines — to get home at a cost of $2,000.

Here’s the video that was recorded of the incident.

How I think this happened

The family had flown to Maui with the young son Grayson as a lap-child. After that flight, they correctly realized that lap-childing a kid on the red-eye flight wasn’t going to be much fun, even if it was free.

So they sent their 18-year-old son, Mason, home on an earlier flight that day, assuming they could then use his seat on the original flight for the younger son and his car seat. That’s not an unreasonable strategy. I mean, it would have made more sense to buy Grayson a seat on that flight in the first place, but whatever. The Dad figured he had paid for the seat so he could use it for whomever he wanted.

The problem is that the airlines don’t see it that way. The contract of carriage prohibits you from transferring tickets from one passenger to another. They do this for a lot of reasons, but I would say that most of it boils down to wanting to sell a last-minute ticket at a higher price, rather than letting a secondary market emerge for a third-party ticket swap, sort of like we transfer tickets to sporting events. Oh right, I’m sure they also do it for security.

But that’s mostly irrelevant. The plan was fine, it was just poorly executed, and that’s what caused this to blow up on them.

How Delta found out that Grayson was not Mason

I speculate that the problems started when the family listed Grayson as a lap-infant, just as they would have if Mason was still traveling with them. I presume that they then had Grayson board with his lap-infant boarding pass.

That means that Mason’s boarding pass was never scanned. So although the family had still technically purchased that seat, when Mason never boarded the plane, Delta classified him as a no-show and moved to give his seat to another passenger.

This happens all the time. It could have been a standby passenger, a confirmed passenger on an overbooked flight, or even a non-rev, it doesn’t really matter.

The problem, of course, was that Grayson was now occupying Mason’s old seat so that when this new passenger boarded with a boarding pass for that seat, he had no where to sit.


What the family could have done

This is where it gets a little murky.

Kids are not required to show ID when they check-in or board domestic flights. In fact, most kids don’t even have ID, unless their parents take them on international adventures.

So all the family really needed to do was have Grayson board using Mason’s boarding pass. Had Mason’s boarding pass been presented to the gate agent and gone beeeep in the scanner, the computer would have thought Mason had boarded the plane and we wouldn’t be discussing this right now.

Trust me, the Delta agents didn’t really care whether Grayson or Mason was in that seat. They just want to do their job and get the flight out on time with all seats occupied. But once they found out, protocols had to be followed. Lies had to be told. And threats had to be made. Or at least that’s the way these things usually go.

Why couldn’t the family continue on the flight with Grayson as a lap-child?

The part that I’m confused about is why the family couldn’t just pick Grayson up and continue on the flight with him as a lap-child.

Sure, the Dad had been arguing, but he did a good job of mostly keeping it together. So it’s not obvious to me why they needed to be removed from the flight. In fact, I think he offered to lap child the kid and do just that.

But the reality is, once you go down the path of not following crew member instructions, your fate is sort of sealed.

Bottom line

This week it’s Delta’s turn to deal with an unfortunate situation of passengers not wanting to give up their seat. It actually hardly matters that the flight was overbooked, but that’s how it will be perceived.

As is often the case, Delta was technically in the right per the terms of the contract of carriage. But they way overstepped their legal bounds by making up lies and threatening the family with jail if they didn’t leave the flight.

I just don’t understand what causes airline agents and flight attendants to go on these power trips. That’s the stuff that really needs to stop in my opinion. Nonetheless, it’s a very interesting situation.

What do you make of the family getting kicked off their Delta flight?

  1. I get it, but again I cant buy a seat on Delta and decide to give it to Travis on the last minute. The airlines – and I would imagine TSA – doesn’t allow that.
    The flight attendant is just an IDIOT – especially after what has happened the last few weeks and to spew out legalize to the family – as if she has children taken away from their parents all the time – is just stupid, ignorant and disgusting. She needs to be dismissed. She could have just said that the baby had no ticket in his name.

  2. If you give your children rhyming names (or do that silliness when you give them names all beginning with the same letter) you deserve whatever fate befalls you

  3. Their childrens’ names are Mason and Grayson? That’s extremely unfortunate.

    Yawn – why is this being covered? The family didnt check in for that seat. they didnt have a boarding pass for that seat. Delta’s agents might have overreacted, but the family didnt handle this correctly at all.

    Honestly, this is annoying.

  4. Technically the family is in the wrong here. However, hopefully incidents like these will draw further scrutiny to the rules and regulations that have made flying so miserable. The lack of empathy by the police and agents is despicable as well. Kudos to the guy for keeping his cool and ultimately not making a big scene out of this, clearly he was incredibly frustrated. I think Dao has sparked a revolution that ultimately will lead to flying being a little more enjoyable; where managers can use logic to remedy issues and people will be treated with respect and decency, even if they are wrong.

  5. Catch-22 for the airline. Either they boot someone who is sitting in the seat. Or boot another passenger who boarded the flight thinking he/she had the seat. Either way, someone getting the boot.

  6. So is this gonna be a new travel/points blog thing after the United story? Just headline every single airplane incident? Must have received some serious clicks the last couple weeks.

    On board for tomorrow – Passenger gets upset as flight attendant fills the “light ice” request with too many cubes!!!!

  7. An FA threatening jail?? Nice. What a dumbass. You work for an airline. Please stop trying to impress us.
    Delta is my airline of choice and they’ve been great to me, but this person needs to go immediately.

  8. Travis, let me fix the headline for you:

    Delta Kicks Family Off Flight From Maui For Refusing To Give Up Seat That Didn’t Belong To Them

    There. Much clearer. 😉

  9. Fake news story with sensational headline aiming to drive the sheeple to click one time with their index finger.

  10. The family was wrong but that may just have been because they were ignorant. The FA needs to be fired for the threats if that is what happened.Threatening to take a person’s child? Totally inappropriate. Why did they have to be kicked off if they agreed to put the child in their lap.

  11. All these incidents have repeated themes.

    1. Gate agents need training and airlines just need to be consistent with their policies.
    2. Gate agents and flight attendants need to realize that they are not policemen and policewomen. They don’t have authority to throw anyone into jail. 9/11 is a horrific event but that does not give you the rights to act like security. FAA needs to decide what role do these flights crews have? If they want to be policemen and policewomen, flight attendants need to spend more time training in being a police. That is the only fair way to do things. Power trips by US F/As are gotten so out of hand. I hope the gate agent and flight attendant are suspended and given the appropriate punishment. Airlines need to send a stronger signal.

    Ultimately Delta, being a smart airline, will definitely resolve these issues with family. I am sure that Delta will reimburse them and possibly give them some vouchers to be used in a future flight.

    However, I have a feeling that Congress will get more actively involved and even the lobbying groups can’t stop them.

  12. I pretty much side with DL up until they point they threatened the parents with jail to get them off after they agreed to lap child the infant so they could put overbooked passengers on. Also, they forced the family to buy new tickets. Most times they would just end up on the next flight with seats. That makes it seem like they did this more to increase profit than safety or protocol.

  13. This is an unfortunate one. I suspect the family just didn’t realize that the seat no longer belonged to them since Mason’s boarding pass was never scanned!! I feel sorry for them. They likely assumed they were standing their ground for what they purchased, a la Dr. Dao.

  14. Nick has it mostly right. One more addition: if the older son is 18, he would be required to show ID to match the boarding pass at security.

    Giving the family a pass on this one (“The plan was fine” bolded) is awfully generous.

  15. @Mike- OMG it’s not a FAKE NEWS STORY. Fake means a thing that is not genuine. All this did genuinely did happen. It may or may not be slanted, bias or inaccurate but it is in no way fake.

  16. I absolutely have to complain about the headlines I see for this here and on Gary’s blog. Let’s try this: “Delta removes passenger who wasn’t entitled to a seat.” Cuz this really is pretty basic travel stuff here. Remember that story about the guy who took the same-name same-birthday as ex-gf on world tour? The url is actually a much better summary: “delta-family-lap-child-seat.”

  17. The flight attendant needs to be fired? For all you know, this is the first mistake that FA has made. Calm down. This constant calling for heads is ridiculous.

    The FA is a person, the same as you. We work with people and coach them if needed. We don’t throw them away like trash. The response to uncivil behavior should still be civilized.

  18. While I agree that the airline was entitled to that seat on technicalities (where’s Mason?), it blows my mind to see how quickly gate agents and flight crews resort to the law enforcement “nuclear” option.

    They are not lawyers nor are they trained as such. Why make these outlandish claims and get caught on video? I don’t see hotel front desk agents calling law enforcement when dealing with a customer service or procedural issue (granted, flight crews have extreme safety and security issues to deal with).

    It seems that we’ll get to the point that passengers will be rolling video on any flight prior to takeoff. The real lawyers must be loving this.

  19. Lol. The powers given to FAs in US these days are so overreaching that if u made any tiny mistakes or do anything that gives the FA to exploit to make a meal out of it, they will gladly oblige and kick your ass.

    Instead of trying to resolve the situation nicely, its about the FA having the “powers” to put the entire family “in jail”, separating kids from parents, etc. Laughing stock.

    Sure, the family was not too bright, and gave the FA the opportunity to threatened them. With great powers comes great responsibility. It does not apply to FAs these days. With great powers, flaunt it! Too bad, there is no legal recourse as well.

    I think we have lost the right to reason with the FAs. Its now their way or the highway. Its not logical, but when passengers lost their right to reason things out in a peaceful manner, it is hard to have any reasonable and civil outcome.

    (Delta can explain why Grayson cannot use Mason’s seats and offer the family options. Sit in lap, or buy another ticket and wait for next flight. No need for jail threats. But FA do not see there is a need to do so. Just call the security and declare that person is a threat to security. And FA wins. )

  20. @travis – I had the same thought as you, just board the baby using the 18 year old’s boarding pass. But if they had listed a lap child what would happen when they didn’t board with a baby? I’ve never tried that strategy but I assume it still would have gone badly…what do you say, you left the baby behind with relatives?

  21. I’m pretty stunned at your commentary, Travis.

    You literally give instructions on how to defraud an airline and break federal law.

    Further, the families actions were not fine in the least, and I have no idea why you’re giving them so much leeway.

    The family did not have the seat, they had a ticket who no-showed. They should have gotten off or held the kid. Delta is completely blameless, although they probably should have deboarded the entire flight to avoid the scene.

  22. You need to add two or three extra words to the headline here as per many commenters above…

    …booked in the name of a non-travelling passenger.
    …they hadn’t checked into.
    …they decided to bring an alternate passenger for.
    …they decided they’d bring a different child.

    I don’t think the FA explained properly having watched the whole tape now that only the person who has checked in with a boarding pass for the seat is entitled to sit in it, and it is IRRELEVANT who has paid for the seat and how many of their friends of family are on the plane, what their relationship is, what their needs are, and what their age is. She was quite polite and calm and kind for the most part, but while this is quite a common problem it’s probably not one they have specific training in other than knowing the rough concept of the policy. She should not have said that stuff about jail and you have to commend the man for keeping his cool in the context of that. I think he genuinely did not understand that it was HIM who was in the wrong.

    I’ve seen this happen a lot on fully booked flights and I totally feel for the family who think ‘ok so one member can’t travel but it’s fine i’ll use the seat and make the most of it’, and sometimes that works out, and sometimes it blows when suddenly that seat, maybe the one they paid premium for (aisle econo+?) is given to some randomer for a 5-7 hour flight. BUT, you gotta know the rules and that it’s possible to do name changes, it’s possible to make an arrangement in advance to let the airline know that the passenger won’t be travelling and ask if you can use the seat, and it’s possible to book an extra seat if you need one.

    This family never paid for a seat for the infant, that’s the issue, they had an infant-in-arms ticket, and somehow they were allowed, as a courtesy, to keep said infant in a car seat or bassinet on the outbound flights, and actually that’s great, but perhaps when airlines bend the rules or go above and beyond they should say they’re doing so so that expectations are more clearly set. If they had paid for a seat then there’d be no issue here, there’d simply be an additional unused seat, I’ve seen people (families) insist they need a seat for their diaper bags and lunch bags and FA’s tell them both politely and brisquely that that ain’t happening.

    Now – as Travis said, on a domestic flight, if they didn’t want to pay for that seat or do a name change, this would have been easy peasy to simply check in the other child and not the infant in arms.

    Here’s the rub though, I find it impossible to believe that had they contacted Delta and asked ‘we have an infant in arms ticket and we have a toddler seated ticket, the toddler isn’t travelling any more but the infant in arms is, is there any chance you can assign a seat to the infant and cancel the toddler’s ticket as a one time thing, we know that this is a favour?’ that the airline would have said no. I’ve made similar requests and been given positive answers.

    As a last comment on this case, did they rebook (pay a flight change fee) for the other kid to go on a DL flight? If so then they have zero entitlement whatsoever to the seat, and the fact that the seat map showed ‘wide open’ availability is irrelevant and often simply due to the fact that people have not checked in online or pre-selected seats.

    Top tip- some airlines do NOT overbook flights, RyanAir for example, and are IMPOSSIBLE to get through to to arrange a refund or a name change. It can be easier (even though more expensive) to just books a new ticket), but this should work even for airlines that do overbook. Obviously if there’s a serious overbooking situation and you don’t really need the seat, they’re not going to work with you, but if travelling with kids on a long red-eye flight people are reasonable and kind if you work it out ahead of time.

    I was travelling with a group and last minute someone dropped out so I took their place on the trip, but from a rules of carriage perspective, that did NOT entitle me to their seat. Now I’d booked a premium row and extra services, which I wanted but not only did I not want to pay twice, the services were sold out when I went to pay for my ticket.

    So I checked them in online, brought their boarding pass on the flight with me, as well as mine, and just said discretely to the FA ‘my colleague couldn’t make it last minute, here is his boarding pass, is it ok if I take his seat, mine was the one just behind him if you want to re-assign it’ and she was totally fine with that. I could have lied, but they had a checklist with who was on board so if you’re over 2, it’s not worth the risk. I’d say if you want the seat, check the passenger who is booked into it in, and there’s very little chance of the seat being automatically re-assigned once you SAY it to the gate agent and purser so that they don’t release it as a no-show.

  23. Hold on. The sent Mason home on an earlier flight that day. On Delta? If so, then Mason’s record on the subject flight was modified to the earlier flight, thereby giving up the seat on the subject flight completely to inventory. So the Grayson for Mason boarding pass strategy wouldn’t have worked because either a) there wouldn’t have even been a boarding pass for Mason after his record was changed, or b) if it was a boarding pass obtained prior to Mason’s record change, it would have been shown as invalid at boarding. Nope, the family (stupidly) just bet on the risk that there would be an empty seat next to them. They lost. The employees (who are motivated SOLELY to get the flight off) didn’t have the time or motivation to deal with a protracted argument, so “either give up the seat, get off voluntarily, or get off involuntarily”. I don’t blame the crew or ground staff at all.

  24. What I’m not clear on is – did they rebook Mason’s ticket to an earlier flight (thus leaving his seat available) or did they buy Mason an entirely new ticket? If they rebooked the ticket, the seat would have definitely come up as available in Delta’s system.

    But at the end of the day – if having Grayson in a seat was so important, why didn’t they just buy him his own ticket to begin with? The threats on Delta’s part were unreasonable and not appropriate, but the family was in the wrong for assuming the seat was theirs even if the ticket had not been scanned, and should have complied with the request when asked. (Easy to compare to with the United incident, but United was wrong for trying to bump already-seated passengers).

  25. Robert — If they were going to have Grayson sit in Mason’s seat, the best idea would have not been to list the lap-child at all.

    But once they did, they could have just claimed that they were confused about the policy and didn’t realize that they didn’t need to list a <2 year old kid as a lap-child if he actually had his own seat. (And given the circumstances, claiming confusion seems pretty accurate!)

    Most likely the gate agent would have just removed the lap child from the parent's ticket and all would have been good.

    The gate agent really just wants an accurate head count of the passengers for the manifest so that if there is an accident, rescuers know how many people they are looking for and if there are infants. So they just want to make sure that the lap child isn't double counting a passenger in a seat. Easy enough to clean up the record at the gate and get the plane out, which is really all the agents want to do most of the time.

  26. @Travis lol travel hacking should not include wilful fraud! 😀 I totally appreciate the continued pragmatic approach though. But still, a conversation should have been had. But as @Joey raised too, I’d wonder if they rebooked or booked that other ticket because if they rebooked then I have ZERO sympathy for them and the entire premise of swapping boarding passes is a moot point.

  27. Delta may have been in the right, but they handled it HORRIBLY. Telling the father that you are going to jail and your kids will be taken away from you is ludicrous. Also the fact that the Delta representative told them that their baby was not allowed to have his own seat or be in a car seat anyway. She says twice that FAA regulations say that a child under two can’t have a seat in their name or sit in a seat in a car seat, but must be held in arms. What a joke!!! Delta’s own website recommends parents purchase a seat for safety rather than hold their babies under two. I can appreciate Delta not being able to get them on the next flight as it was a red eye, but they should have re-booked them for the morning and given them a room. Obviously they can’t kick off the two year old without kicking off the whole family.

  28. What does “send him home on an earlier flight” mean? Did they buy an entirely separate ticket or did the teen fly standby on the same ticket? If the latter, they definitely had the wrong plan.

  29. Joey et al — The point about how they booed Mason’s ticket is very relevant and I considered that too. If they did changed the ticket, did a same-day confirmed change, or even had him standby on the earlier flight, then for sure his old seat would have been available in the computer.

    I’m not exactly clear on how that went, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt and assumed they booked Mason a completely new ticket. I want to believe the Dad would not have been so adamantly defending his position about paying for the seat, if in fact he had changed his son’s ticket to the earlier flight.

    And Delta seems to sell reasonably priced one-way tickets on OGG-LAX (i.e. about half the cost of RT) so it’s at least plausible that they did just that. Looks like it might only be $300-ish for a walk-up which is not bad at all.

  30. You hit the nail on the head with your last paragraph and the situation seems to finally be coming to a head as it inevitably had to. The vast powers granted to airline employees make sense on certain levels but “we’re here primarily for your safety” has been warped so badly that not only do flight attendants use it as an excuse not to provide good service in many instances, but also to run roughshod over passengers (who are their customers!) without relying on common sense in many instances. Regulatory oversight is appropriate here and it’s time for Congress to put a stop to these airline employees threatening and/or calling police at the first sign of a disagreement with a passenger.

  31. A quick call to Delta’s reservations number would likely have sorted this out ahead of time.

    While Delta is technically doing everything right up until the lies, the court of public opinion won’t see it that way.

    Delta can apologize for the lies, reimburse the family for their flight on United and also remind people of the rules so that nobody else tries this. This will be out of the news cycle in 24 hours if they do this. Hopefully their PR and Comms head is better than whoever is in that role at United whom failed miserably at their job!

  32. “What the family could have done”

    The dad could have said, “tough cookies, we’re sitting here, and if you’d like to have the police drag us off the plane and have the videos of that plastered all over the internet, please go ahead and do that. But I recommend talking to your supervisor before going ahead with that plan.”

    Whether you think the family was in the right or not, that would probably have been an effective strategy.

  33. @Robert: “But if they had listed a lap child what would happen when they didn’t board with a baby? I’ve never tried that strategy but I assume it still would have gone badly…what do you say, you left the baby behind with relatives?”

    Sure, why not? The airlines are not in the business of policing your family. There are many legitimate reasons to leave a child behind. Children get left with relatives all the time.

  34. After Dr. Dao’s experience and now this, I’m thinking of ways that I could litigate my way to fame and fortune!

  35. It amuses me that so many commenters think that because Delta complied with their CoC that absolves them of any responsibility. They could very easily change their made-up rules to allow name changes amongst immediate family members.

  36. I would NEVER threaten someone with jail and taking children.

    Ordered to do it? Sorry Charlie bring in someone of management
    rank make them do their own dirty work.

  37. Instead of arguing about who is in the right, Delta or the family, why not use this opportunity to focus on the positive and help the family out by coming up with other rhyming names that go with Mason and Grayson.

    I came up with: Jason, Pason.

    Please add to the list.

    Onto another topic, I’ll donate money to Travis’ favorite charity if he follows this post with another where he apologizes profusely for getting the story wrong and being too easy on Delta.

  38. Delta sold the same seat twice so people shouldn’t act like Delta did nothing wrong. If you buy tickets to a basketball or football game they don’t sell your seat twice.

  39. I get it, and your correct but CONGRESS has allowed the airlines to do this, as well as charge you $200 in change fees because they ste not regukating the airlines. Hence, Maxine Waters thinks the ticket belongs to Delta!

  40. Meh – all us angry flying peasants will only be satisfied when the Delta CEO gets the boot! Airline executives now are less esteemed than lawyers, politicians and septic tank cleaners.

    Veejay says:
    May 4, 2017 at 11:50 am
    Catch-22 for the airline. Either they boot someone who is sitting in the seat. Or boot another passenger who boarded the flight thinking he/she had the seat. Either way, someone getting the boot.

  41. Boco — I’m not sure what you’re saying. Am I being too easy on Delta, or too easy on the family? Seems like the comments are about 50/50 in that regard.

    Either way, I’m happy to write another post on it. 😉

  42. Headline should read “Delta kicks family off flight for refusing to give up seat that was no longer theirs”

  43. I am surprised that so many people feel this is not a big deal or that the family was just flat out in the wrong so whatever happens to them is okay.

    This seemed like a situation where they genuinely believed they could use the seat because they bought another seat on another flight for the original child. It is a mistake that many vacation travelers could make, and it is, in theory, reasonable thinking. What the father had a problem with is the fact that he had paid for a seat that he could not use. Again, reasonable thinking.

    What the airline could have done is quietly explain this to him and offer to help him sort it out after the flight. He seems like a reasonable sort who just wanted clarification.

    What they did do, however, is speak to him in a condescending manner, bring in the security unnecessarily, threaten him, give him false choices, quote regulations that were not applicable or even true, and then–worst of all–remove him and the family from the flight after he agreed to put the child in his lap.

    Booting him from the flight and not rebooking him at no cost is flat out unfair and wrong. It was a misunderstanding. They could have contained and resolved this. They chose instead to treat it as a criminal offense, and that escalated the situation.

    People who say, oh well: I guarantee you wouldn’t feel that way if you were removed from a flight and had to shell out money for new tickets just because you misunderstood a situation.

  44. None of the facts really matter. Everything is driven by perception and peoples personal experience. The airlines have treated people like s**t for a long time so now everyone automatically takes the side of the family. I doubt many get beyond the headline and first 30seconds of the story.
    It takes a lot to overcome intertia with public opinion, but once you do it takes almost as much to stop it. I reckon action by congress is inevitable and the airlines have nobody to blame but themselves.

  45. @Travis, excellent article and analysis.

    What could have the family done?

    The family could have phoned Delta and purchased a new ticket for the elder son and then had the younger son transferred into the subject seat. Basically go to Delta with the issue (family had a horrible outbound flight and regretted the decision to go with the lap child) and paid what ever it took to get the situation resolved.

    A couple of assumptions of my own: (1) The flight was very full, (2) The family was not willing to pay the premium to keep everyone together on the same flight (3) The new Mason ticket was purchased on less than one week’s notice (e.g. after the outbound flight).

    Why couldn’t the family continue on the flight with Grayson as a lap-child?

    I’m going to assume the Dad had been arguing with the FA and the in-charge for a long period of time (like 10-15 minutes at least). The offer to have Grayson continue on the flight as a lap child likely expired the moment the in-charge went to the captain and then got law enforcement to attend the flight.

    Dad’s point of debate was the family would not move under any circumstance and they were prepared to wait hours on the flight. This is the problem facing America’s airlines, average passenger believes they can get their way by remaining in their seat because the airline will not pull someone off the plane like Dr Dao.

    Posting and commenting about these instances in the public eye is important because it constantly highlights that airlines will not be held hostage by passengers who think that remaining seated with a threat of another Dr Dao PR incident will win the day. Airline have other options like cancelling the whole flight.

  46. The video seems to be edited to cut out certain parts, and begins right before the father is threatened with jail. I’d be very curious to see a video of the incident from the beginning.

  47. Sorry, Travis, just a lame reference to the United incidents and the bloggers who in the immediate aftermath after the story broke reacted with an indifferent response towards Dao, only later to apologize for their initial reaction so profusely that you’d think they had dragged Dao off the plane themselves.

    At any rate, I personally find the stories about how you juggle travel with your kids most enjoyable.

  48. Boco — Oh, ha ha. Yep, happy to write some more of those too! Thanks for the kind words.

  49. I understand the logic, but its really uncommon in this day and age that peopke give tickets to others. After all, the parent purchased a ticket for an 18 year old- not a two year old. The ticket belings to the person whos name is on it. The baby did not have a ticket.

    While the father thinks he is ENTITLED to use the seat anyway he wants to- its simply not the case. He knew what he was doing – trying to pass on the ticket. He’s wrong.

    The fligh attendant – who is obviously so dumb she couldnt possibly find her way to the bathroom in the middle of the night – needs to work with dead people in a funeral home.

  50. The father may have been technically wrong if the boarding pass was not scanned, however, Delta managed to sell the same seat twice and profited greatly. I believe Delta was incorrect in their attitude about the child seat issue, the child would probably have been safer in the seat than in a parent’s lap. To me, the big issue is the Delta employee’s power-trip attitude and the ensuing decision to toss the family for challenging their position.

  51. What gets me the most is that they actually paid Delta $2000 extra to get another flight back home the question is why? They just should have taken a different air service I would have that kinda sucks.

  52. I agree with those that say the father was “technically” wrong, however the Delta flight crew and staff completely mishandled this. It is amazing they handled it this way after what just went wrong with United. This is a monumental error in judgment by DELTA staff/flight crew that will cost the airline dearly. Airlines do not need this type of PR now.

    The fact that the CA brought up the potential for the family to lose their children or anything remotely like that is completely incomprehensible and unacceptable. My fiance is a cabin attendant with >15 years at a Japanese airline and her jaw dropped when she saw the video and heard about this (of course she is only looking from the service perspective).

    As for me I am a multi-million miler on United….and look what UA just went through.

    My opinion is the U.S. carriers have lowered the bar to the lowest common denominator for service/performance and we the flying public (myself included) are co-conspirators. About 9 months ago I started to avoid U.S. carriers wherever possible.

  53. @ Stanis: It amuses me that so many commenters think that because Delta complied with their CoC that absolves them of any responsibility.

    Exactly, there is what is right according to some line in a contract, and there is what is the right thing to do.
    Regardless of who was technically correct, there was no reason to inconvenience the family by making them get off the plane.

    I think the true blame doesn’t belong with either the passenger or Delta but rather to the situation that’s been allowed to slowly but cumulatively build up over the last several years of stricter security and law enforcement involvement in commercial travel on one hand and increasingly stressful flying environments on the other.

  54. #1: I also would like to know why the family didn´t keep their seats with the baby on the lap and the flight would depart normally?

    #2: How can a baby board without an ID? I think you got it wrongly? Nowadays kids kidnapping is a real issue.

    Travis you´re absolutely right here: “But the reality is, once you go down the path of not following crew member instructions, your fate is sort of sealed.”

    That´s a shame by the way.

  55. I’m down so far in the comments that no one will read this post but here I go commenting anyway.

    I am a shameless airline apologist. I worked for two of them and I generally see things their way, but this was handled stupidly – especially after the United incident.

    No, the seat did not belong to the 2-year old Grayson, ever; it was 18-year old Mason’s. Mason lost that seat when he didn’t board the plane and it didn’t technically matter that Dad paid for it. Dad couldn’t put Grayson in the seat under the contract of carriage. But under the court of public opinion and the court of potential congressional action, that seat belonged to Dad to assign to anyone in his family. Any claim that it didn’t just makes the industry look either greedy or like liars.

    The FA or Gate Agent’s power trip with threats of jail / foster care, lying about the two-year old’s ability to sit in a seat, and then dumping the entire family off the plane is a further example of how tone deaf the industry has become. This kind of thing — even if the airline is actually right under the contract of carriage — is not going to work out for the airline right now. God help Delta if it comes out that they put non-revs on the plane!

    I really don’t know if there was a solution here that wouldn’t have ended up with video on the news, but the FA/Agent’s behavior ensured that it would be.

    Good luck on this one Delta

  56. Hahahaha another story. Well it seems Delta was right and the family wrong of course, the rules are clear. What amazes me however how these things are handled in the US. Staff threatening with jail???? Or like last time the ‘dragging’. And all the bullying. It seems to me you guys have somehow managed to get rid of all common sense and sensibility. No wonder the whole society has become so violent over there.

  57. @Brian

    “The FA or Gate Agent’s power trip with threats of jail / foster care, lying about the two-year old’s ability to sit in a seat, and then dumping the entire family off the plane is a further example of how tone deaf the industry has become. This kind of thing — even if the airline is actually right under the contract of carriage — is not going to work out for the airline right now. God help Delta if it comes out that they put non-revs on the plane!”

    I think this is where people not only SHOULD record incidents of this kind of crap but also demand that airlines start taking action and penalizing staff who routinely abuse their positions. The fact that this stuff happens and gets swept under the rug basically allows incidents like this to keep happening because other employees see that there are no consequences for their behavior.

  58. Question – do people of size who purchase 2 seats due to their size receive 2 boarding passes that have to be scanned?

  59. Delta WAS right, but ruined their credibility with the jail claim. From the family’s perspective, it’s an understandable misunderstanding for air travel novices.

  60. Standby means standby. Quite simply there really was no available seat. I bet the standby customer was a family member of one of the flight crew. Friends and family fly free. Flight attendant needs to be fired. Bully.s come in all shapes and sizes. She would not have none that to a Delta manager.

  61. BOTH of the last two administrations were beholding to lobbyists and donors. Hence the mess we are in !
    There is a new sheriff in town.

    ALREADY the new admin is changing things for the better. The Progressive-Globalists are fighting hard against change and finding that their agenda is reversible. Get behind your reps in Congress and do what is right for America.
    No, I did not vote for Trump. And Russian agents did not influence (LOL) my vote——–or anyone else’s for that matter.
    Voice your opinion and respect YOUR elected leaders.

  62. NO! It is NOT interesting.
    The whole bloody mess is one that the airlines have caused for themselves — and passengers — by trying to wring every pathetic penny out of their flights. Even as a bystander it is tedious, nasty and wearing.
    IF — big if — airlines had reasonable policies about reasonable changes — Southwest does, folks — this kind of convoluted stuff and nonsense would not be going on.
    At the same time this is happening, American just announced that they are reducing the size of their seats.
    As ever, who is benefitting: top management with rock star salaries. Whooohoo.
    The working FAs and ground crew who have to face the public, end up with problems with the sword of Damocles waiting if they make the wrong choice. (No apologies for how this crew handled the problem, however.)
    The thought that we now need an attorney in our pocket with each trip, makes the whole thing even more miserable.
    This family has my sympathy; this crew has my sympathy. But this airline does not. All they have accomplished with me is to make me stay at home and collect miles to get out of the back of the bus. And, even as I write that, Delta is making my miles less valuable.

  63. well said Ted.

    The silver lining of these videos that seem now to be emerging with increasing frequency is that they are reaching a critical mass where the airlines, the public, and hopefully the Congress, can’t just sweep it under the rug.
    It used to be that airlines were there to serve us. Now it seems the other way around.

  64. Thank you author, Travis, for providing details of the situation……other news sites were emotionally bias.

  65. Delta handled this horribly and I for one will never fly with them. I am appalled at the lack of compassion for this stressed traveling family as demonstrated not only by the Delta staff but by some of the cruel and unfeeling comments posted here. What is wrong with you people? Why are you so heartless?

  66. Regardless of the family fault, the FA needs to be disciplined or better yet, fired. Unbelievable how these people have become the most entitled, arrogant, power tripping, waiters and waitresses! It’s a service sector job! Provide some serviice for the paying customer and resolve the situation in an intelligent manner. Anyone who has a business understands this.

  67. The main thing the Delta employee lied about is that the FAA requires every child under 2 to be seated in a parent’s lap and therefore it doesn’t matter how many seats they booked, if Grayson is under 2 then they will not allow him to be seated. That is completely ludicrous and a made up lie. Delta’s own website recommends that children under 2 be booked into their own seat for enhanced safety.

  68. @ Lauren: Thank You! Nail < Head!
    It's still called a service industrie isn't it???

  69. One thing to think about: nowadays the characteristic of the US majors airliners is to be safe, efficent but with in-flight service bellows worldwide standards. You can see this on UAL, AA, DL and former US Airways for example. That’s why the Asian carriers, some European and some Latin American carriers have been capturing the US passengers more and more. On the other hand airlines like Alaska, SWA and Jetblue have a better service. Why the US majors do not, at least, try to improve their service aboard?

  70. The guy just didn’t understand the rules (as many people don’t). I should imagine that if he had picked the infant up and put him on his lap once the standby passenger turned up, nothing more would have been said.

    As others have pointed out, all could have been avoided if they had known the system and made sure Mason’s boarding pass was printed and then scanned at the gate.

  71. There are so many “rules” with air travel that I feel having traveled pre and post 9/11, we are obligated to follow. Airports are busy, airplanes are packed like sardines. I guess I am one of few who think yes, dragging a man off a plane was awful, but his behavior made me question his medical degree, ie “just kill me” I have missed connecting flights, had my seat kicked by children for hours, had my hair pulled when someone grabbed my headrest to get up. Flying is no longer fun, in this situation the father realizing this and possibly seeing the last “stroller incident” (unknown), maybe thinks getting publicity for trying to do an illegal act, changing a ticket, will get him somewhere. This does not justify the FA, some are nice, most are robotic and stressed. I do not see flying anywhere improving anytime soon.

  72. Mason and Grayson….already I’m suspicious. Who was recording this? It almost seems like this guy knew he was pulling a fast one and with all the airline bashing he was ready to pile on if needed. They’re vacationing in Maui and live at the beach….just buy the damn ticket for your son. Honestly the entitled nature of some of our population.
    I fly all the time and never see this drama. People are just itching to make a scene

  73. I think everyone is missing the point…..they didn’t book mason on an earlier flight in secrecy. They went to a Delta Ticket Desk and told them what they wanted to do…..and Delta let them do it because they moved one son to an earlier flight so the other could have his seat. So clearly that’s where Delta started the screwup. And they are transferable when in situations like this per deltas website.

  74. Here is my question- if the older son went on an earlier flight…did they pay for a new ticket or did he fly standby to go early? Because if they paid for an New ticket then Why not pay for one for the younger child instead. It sounds like there was never a no show situation, but he used his ticket and seat earlier now there was no extra seat anyway…..

  75. According to NBC news, this video is only the last 8 minutes of an “exchange” that lasted ONE HOUR. That’s 52 MINUTES that the FA tried to get this passenger’s permission for Delta to finish boarding the flight before she finally laid the hammer down and threw them out — and yes, under threat of jail. Does THAT explain to you “what causes airline agents and flight attendants to go on these power trips”? At some point, either Delta is in the business of flying this plane or they’re not, and this went well beyond that point.

  76. Absolutely fucking disgusting behavior from Delta staff. I really hope that man sues Delta as a whole and that bitch gets fired.

  77. Those sunga samoan gate agent at airport in hawaii are so shame always trying to start fights with haoles. i swear one day they gonna get false crack

  78. Thank you for explaining in detail how this confusion even started. It seemed every news story I was reading did not relay the fact the other son took an earlier flight, so I was wondering how they had an extra ticket. It seems to me the family was trying to get away with making the switch unnoticed and became very defensive once caught. Everyone who flies knows you can’t just switch tickets, even for children. Does he think his wife could fly in his place if he didn’t get on the plane? Lets not excuse the parents devious behavior and think they should be owed something.

    While I do not think Delta handled the situation in the best way, the family wasn’t following the rules. This family was causing a long delay for other passengers, because of their inability to simply follow directions. They were selfish by not just giving the seat up and holding their child because they didn’t want to be miserable. So they make everyone else miserable by arguing when they are in the wrong and hold the flight up. The airline has to be mindful towards all its passengers and had the family been upfront about the situation, Delta probably would have transferred the ticket. I side with the airline on this one!

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