A confrontation caught on camera shows a Southern California family being booted off a Los Angeles-bound Delta Air Lines flight after they refused to give up a seat that was occupied by their infant son.
Brian Schear of Huntington Beach was headed home with his wife and two infants from Maui to Los Angeles International Airport on April 23 when they were kicked off the plane.
In a video posted online, Schear tells airline employees he purchased a ticket for his older son 18-year-old Mason. Mason ended up taking an earlier flight, so the family decided the younger son would instead occupy his place in a car seat instead of having the child sit on the wife's lap.
"He won't sleep unless he's in his car seat," the father explains to the employees.
The staff tells Schear his younger son can't sit on the seat because Mason's name is on it, not the infant's.
Although the ticket was initially bought for his teenage son, Schear says he was led to believe the switch was not a big deal. He told NBC4 his family told airline staff about the situation from the beginning, and that Delta suggested using the seat for the infant son.
At the airport, Schear claims they spoke with a ticketing agent downstairs who said they technically needed to cancel and buy a new ticket, before saying it was fine. The family obtained the boarding pass.
When the airline asked the family to give up the seat, at first, Schear refused to abide. He claimed the airline ordered his family to do this because Delta overbooked the flight.
Delta — like other airlines — has a strict policy that customers cannot transfer a ticket to another person.
In the video, an employee tells him refusing to get off the plane was a federal offense and he could be jailed.
"What blew me away was when they said, if you don't give the seat up, you're going to jail, your wife is going to jail, and they're gonna take your kids away," he told NBC4 Wednesday.
The eight-minute-long video was filmed by his wife and posted on YouTube.
"When you're a mother, and they say they're gonna take the kids, it made my heart drop," said Brittany Schear. "I was shaking the rest of the time."
In the video, a flight attendant argues that it is Federal Aviation Administration policy to put children under the age of two on an adult's lap and not in a plane seat.
"He cannot be in a seat at all," the flight attendant tells the father.
Both Delta and the FAA state on their websites that children under the age of two could travel in a seat, so as long they are sitting in an approved child safety seat. In fact, the method of travel is highly recommended by both the airline and the FAA.
"What are we supposed to do?" Schear asks an employee in the video. "I got two infants and my wife, I've got no where to stay, there's no more flights. What are we supposed to do? Sleep in the airport?"
At the end of what the family said was an hour-long exchange, the Schears left the plane. They said they were forced to find a taxi in the middle of the night, pay for a hotel room and buy tickets for a new flight. The family was never contacted or reimbursed, the Schears claimed.
Delta Air Lines issued this statement Wednesday to NBC4:
"We're sorry for what this family experienced. Our team has reached out and will be talking with them to better understand what happened and come to a resolution."
Delta also told NBC4 it has apologized for not helping the family find solutions for their travel issues and says it will refund the Schears for their travel and other compensation.
But the Schear family says there is nothing the airline can do to make up for their ruined vacation and frustrating traveling experience.
"They need to change the way they treat us," Brian Schear said. "They treat us like cattle. It's unbelievable. It's not fair to treat people this way. We're the customers, we're supposed to be treated with respect."