The real reason you can’t use your older son’s airline ticket for your younger son

By | May 9th, 2017

Seems like the airlines just don’t get it.

You’d think that after United settled with David Dao for the severe injuries he sustained while being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight, airlines would understand that overselling flights and removing already-seated passengers won’t fly as a matter of customer service.

But a video showing Brian and Brittany Schear and two of their three children being ejected from a recent Delta flight has gone viral, showing that this is a lesson unlearned — at least by Delta.

The Schears were returning from Hawaii to Los Angeles on a red-eye flight with their three children: Mason (age 18), Grayson (age 2) and a one-year-old daughter. When Mason opted to fly home on a separate flight, they decided to seat Grayson in a car seat in Mason’s seat.

They notified the Delta gate agent that Mason would not be flying with them, and the agent agreed to allow the family to sit together, with Grayson in Mason’s now-unused seat. The family boarded the flight without incident. But while waiting for the flight to depart, they got bad news from a Delta employee: The flight was overbooked. Grayson would have to give up his seat and sit on the lap of one of his parents so that a standby passenger could sit in his seat.

Brittany Schear recorded her husband’s interaction with the employee. Brian Schear repeatedly pointed out to the employee “I paid for this seat.” He suggested that he hold Grayson on his lap until after takeoff, after which time Grayson would move back into his car seat on the seat adjacent to his own.

Related story:   Bad airline service? Try complaining to the Better Business Bureau

The employee refused to allow this, informing Schear that it was a “federal offense” if he did not yield Grayson’s seat and that he would be removed from the flight. She also claimed, incorrectly, that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules prohibit toddlers from being seated in car seats on airplane seats. The FAA website urges parents to restrain their children in government-approved child safety restraint systems or devices and not hold them on their laps.

Schear responded: “Then they can remove me off the plane….I bought this seat and you need to leave us alone.”

Finally, Schear agreed to put Grayson on his lap for the entire flight. But that was not good enough for Delta.

The airline’s employee ordered the entire family to deplane, threatening to have Brian and Brittany Schear arrested and their children placed with Child Protective Services if they did not comply: “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.” The Schears deplaned, feeling that they couldn’t win.


And it got worse for the Schears: It was after midnight, and they had to find a hotel room for the night as well as book a new flight for the following day. Delta offered them no assistance and refused to refund their airfares. They paid over $2,000 for new flights home.

The next day, after Brittany Schear’s video went viral, Delta offered an apology to the family and reimbursement of an amount that has not been disclosed, as of this writing.

Related story:   Help, I've "exceeded the maximum number of active sessions" on Delta.com!

Unfortunately for the Schears, Delta was correct in asking them to remove Grayson from his seat.

Delta’s contract of carriage provides that

Tickets are not transferable, but the carrier is not liable to the owner of a ticket for honoring or refunding such ticket when presented by another person.

And for overbooked flights,

Because passengers with confirmed reservations on a flight sometimes fail to show, Delta reserves the right to sell more tickets for travel on each flight than there are seats available on the aircraft. In some cases, this may result in an “oversold flight,” i.e., a flight in which Delta cannot accommodate one or more passengers with confirmed reservations. In that case, Delta may deny boarding to passengers with confirmed reservations on the flight.

Since that seat had been booked in Mason’s name, only he could sit in it during that flight. Because he was not on that flight, Delta had the right to offer the seat to a standby passenger.

But this incident, in the wake of the Dao removal and other situations involving removals of paying passengers from overbooked flights, has led to congressional scrutiny of the practice of airline overbooking.

This led to a hearing which was attended by United CEO Oscar Munoz, who initially blamed Dao for the injuries he sustained while being violently removed by security personnel from his flight but later apologized after harsh criticism, and American Airlines president Scott Kirby, who defended overbooking as “something that actually helps us accommodate and take care of thousands more customers than we would otherwise be able to.”

Related story:   "I was hoping a supervisor would feel sorry for me"

The executives even had the nerve to ask Congress for further deregulation, requesting privatization of the FAA and relaxation of restrictions on airfare advertising.

But unfortunately for U.S. air passengers, while both Republican and Democratic members of Congress had plenty of complaints about bad flying experiences of their own, Congress was unwilling to legislate any protections, demanding that the airlines provide that protection themselves.

“I don’t believe in overburdening our businesses,” Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), told the executives. But he did warn them that Congress would act “the next time” if they don’t police themselves this time: “Seize this opportunity. Otherwise, we’re going to act and you’re not going to like it.”

We can only hope that the airlines will “seize this opportunity” to review and revise their customer service policies, including overbooking. But given this Congress’ unwillingness to regulate businesses, we’re not holding our breaths waiting for it to happen.



  • KennyG

    I apologize if this is a bit long winded, but as a reasonably frequent PAX, it is getting a bit long in the tooth reading about the self-important folks that believe they are simply entitled to be on a plane, sit where they want and not follow crew instructions because they say so. This is a letter from an airline pilot, and again, my apologies for being long winded here:

    Re-post: This was written by a commercial airline pilot who shall remain unnamed. I’d say this is pretty on point. Please read. And pay special attention to the final 2 paragraphs.

    “Let’s get some facts on the table. As an airline captain, I am the sole authority on the airplane. With that authority comes great responsibility. Likewise, FAR 91.1 states that I am solely responsible for the safe operation of the flight. Therefore, I am responsible for each and every one of you once you cross the threshold of the airplane door. Keep that in mind as we progress. In other words, you break a rule and I could lose my license. My livelihood is not worth your inability to comply. That aside, lets look at why the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR’s) are what they are.

    Most pilots will agree that the FAR’s are written in blood. Every one of the rules was written as the result of the loss of life (a crash.) For example, most of you don’t get why you have to have your seat-back and your tray table up for take off. Fact is, the most dangerous part of your fight is the high-speed takeoff regime– that point from approximately 100 mph to lift-off. I don’t need to get into the reasons why, but it is. Should an engine fail and the captain decide to stop on the runway, the odds are great that the plane will sustain damage and emergency evacuation will be likely. Imagine that situation with the moron in front of you having reclined his seat to the aft position and the idiot in the seat between you and the aisle having his tray table down. The FAA knows this and regulates against it because the FAA certifies airplanes based on a full airplane evacuation in a set amount of time. They do not take into account idiots like the guys ahead of you and next to you. In this scenario, you will likely burn and die. Those non-compliers blocked your egress, and you suffered. I wish our Flight Attendants could tell you all this. Maybe you would police each other for your own safety. Then, our flight attendants would not have to tell you to put your seat up and hear words like “witch” uttered under your breath. This is just one example of rules made by the FAA to protect YOUR safety.

    Fast forward to this situation. Do you remember 9/11? Do you remember Pan Am 103? There are so many security protocols of which you are not aware. Seats assigned must match names. Luggage must match seats assigned. You cannot book on two flights simultaneously. The computer systems know this. You cannot merely give a seat to another person. That is kinda how Pan Am 103 happened–seat bought for someone then someone else showed up and took the seat. As a result, the security systems in place at every airline can immediately send me, on the flight deck at Flight Level 350 (35,000 feet), everything I want to know about you. I can conference call every government security entity that I so desire. I plan to go home to my son and the other Captain Walker at the end of every flight, so guess what? I’m not giving an inch on security. I get paid to get ALL 220 people there safely, not just you and your whiney, self-centered issues. Your refusal to play by the rules like the rest of us and merely change the name on the seat is no better than any other law-breaker.

    At some point, all this arguing on the ground in the back of my airplane becomes a threat to FAR 91.1, my edict that I ensure the safe operation of the flight. If you cannot follow orders on the ground, it’s highly unlikely you will do so at FL 350. Get one thing strait, once you board a US airliner, you are entering a DICTATORSHIP. IT IS NOT A DEMOCRACY. I AM THE DICTATOR. NORMALLY, I AM A VERY BENEVOLENT DICTATOR, BUT A DICTATOR, NONETHELESS! DON’T FORGET THAT. It is my ship. I am in command. I have the full faith and backing of the Federal Aviation Administration (thus the US Government), my company, and my co-workers. There are NO “ifs”, “ands”, or “buts” about it! I don’t care about your lawyers, or your camera phone. I have one job to do, and that responsibility–the safety of the other 199 people–trumps your wants or needs. And, if I do not do that job, including removing you for being disruptive, I could loose my licenses, livelihood, and even end up in jail. Therefore, when push comes to shove, I WILL WIN. You can take that to the bank.

    Let me take a moment and explain this. 99.99999% of the time, all goes great. I meet wonderful customers for whom I am sincerely thankful for their business. I take kids to see Mickey Mouse; military sons to reunite with their families; and, even fallen heros home to rest. But, every now and then, there is one. There is one person who cannot play by the rules; one person who thinks their situation is more important that all the others on the airplane; one who just cannot follow instructions.

    Imagine for a moment you are a Captain on a flight with someone who just cannot follow instructions, whether it be not turning off their phones for takeoff (there really is a reason for this), or someone won’t put their tray table up. You know all this before take off because the flight attendants keep calling. Would you take this insolent passenger for a ride knowing that if everything goes great, no harm done, but if one thing goes wrong, you could be called to sit before the NTSB and answer questions about your judgment and likely lose your career? You have a passenger on board who will not comply with simple flight crew requests on the ground, and you stupidly take them flying. Now you are at FL350. You cage a motor; conduct an emergency descent; and, ask your flight attendants to prepare the cabin for an emergency landing. There are deadheading flight crew in various seats in the back. They are fully trained on the operation of the over-wing exits, slides, rafts, and evacuations. As Captain, you tell the flight attendants to move the crew to the emergency exit rows to facilitate a fast evacuation giving the most number of passengers a fighting chance at survival. However, your insolent problem who refused to put up his tray table is now refusing to change seats with the trained deadheading pilots. The lives of 200 people are in your hands. What do you do?

    Now, perhaps, you understand why the law of the sea governs the skies. You know why you need that dictator at that point who knows their job, and can fly the $hit out of that plane. And, you know why the majority of us pilots will get problems removed before we ever get in the air”

  • starrfish479

    This puts a lot of things into perspective. Why can’t this go viral, instead of all of these videos about ignorant passengers?

  • Altosk

    I was siding with Delta until their uppity FA tells the parents “you will go to jail and they will take your kids from you.”

    That’s not how to handle this situation. Granted, I think the family was looking for a Dao-Type-Payout and their 15 minutes of Facebook fame. But. The minute the FA started threatening “we’ll get CPS to take your kids”…they crossed the line.

  • michael anthony

    If they were not entitled, why did Delta allow? Why did security allow them thru, since all paxs need ID? Why did they board them? It was only when Delta suddenly found themselves needing a seat, did they say Oops!! Imagine, going thru all that and then being told, you’re wrong, off the plane!

    And if Delta is so correct, then why have they scrubbed the net of the video. Good luck keeping the video you posted up there.

  • JohntheKiwi

    It does put a lot of things in perspective, for sure. Except, if “seats assigned must match names”, how does Southwest have open seating?

  • michael anthony

    Most people are not looking for 15 minutes of fame. Delta days fine, they get thru security just fine and they even get boarded. Them, suddenly Delta needs an extra seat.

    So, after all that. You would calmly say “ok”, I’m so sorry I was wrong. And walk right off with family in tow? I doubt very many people would.

  • starrfish479

    The kids were 2 and under. They didn’t need tickets to get through security. We don’t know what the parents told the agent at the gate. Conveniently, there’s no recording of that.

  • Dutchess

    Telling them they will go to jail if they don’t leave (trespassing is a crime) is “crossing the line” but telling a car rental employee you’re going falsely accuse them of sexual harassment isn’t? I think customers and employees should be held to the same standards.

  • michael anthony

    Yes, they do as well as they need ID. It’s a record of all souls onboard. AND ID to prove they belong to you.

    It’s in the narrative that the check in agent agreed, the gate agent let them on.

  • Annie M

    I like your explanation but am totally confused about the 2 year old being a lap child. Once a child is 2, they are no longer eligible to be a lap child, they must have a seat. The one year old was considered a lap child. Why is this about the 2 year old and not the one year old?

    The one year old should have been the child at issue.

    The airline was right but the behavior of the FA was terribly wrong.

  • starrfish479

    My sister has flown many times with her kids, when each of them was 2 or younger. The only “ticket” she needed for them was her ticket, with the child listed as “lap child” on that ticket. Since that was the original plan for the Schear’s, I would assume the parents had that listed on their tickets. That would have gotten the kids through security.

    As for the narrative, that is what the parents said they told the agent at the gate. Doesn’t mean that’s what really happened.

  • Rinacres

    I have flown with my children plenty of times and never have I been asked for ID for them. They just have their ticket.

  • Lindabator

    Southwest operates differently than EVERY other airline – but even THEY will not allow a non-ticketed passenger (child) to take a seat away from someone else – which is what ACTUALLY happened in this case

  • JewelEyed

    To my knowledge, unless it’s an international flight, no identification is required for lap children. I’m not actually sure what age you even need ID for domestic flights in the US. If you have evidence to the contrary, please cite it.

  • JewelEyed

    Perhaps the child was not *quite* 2 but many people are not going to call a 23 month old a 23 month old.

  • FQTVLR

    I was just thinking the same thing. The two year old is required to have a ticket. Delta’s flight attendant was very wrong in treating the family this way. But ever since I heard about this I have thought something was off about it. Why did the 2-year-old not have the required ticket? What Delta agent would really have told them that what they were doing was okay? Delta can always tell at check in (even 24 hours in advance) if a flight was going to be oversold. They would not have agreed to this. I wonder if they simply had checked in on line and then used that boarding pass in hopes that they could keep that seat. I am not excusing Delta by any means, but there are so many unanswered questions about how the family got that far without a problem. Delta was very wrong in their treatment of the passengers, but their story has some rather odd holes in it.

  • Lindabator

    Actually NOT the case — they wanted to use the seat another son had booked (but he FLEW on another flight) – so they just assumed they could still take a seat they did not pay for – just ridiculous

  • Lindabator

    a lap baby can travel on mom or dad’s ticket – but THEN they wanted them to have their own seats – does NOT work that way — the reporting on this issue was POORLY done – they had a seat for another son originally, but HE chose a different flight to fly on – that does not GIVE them a free seat – just pathetic

  • Lindabator

    correct! they wanted the child to have its own seat – which they DID not pay for — they had another son who chose to travel on another flight – doesn’t mean they ALSO get a free seat here – just ridiculous!

  • Jeff W.

    No, children do not require an ID. Most do not have them. For children under 18 who can speak, the TSA agent looks at the ticket, looks at the child and usually asks the child their first name. Hopefully the young one says the right name. TSA agent then usually makes a nice joke or comment to make the young one at ease and that is it. Been awhile since I have traveled with an infant.

    Technically, an adult does not need either and there are procedures for that. But it is much more of an ordeal for adults. Kids get a pass.

  • Michael__K

    Did the captains in the incident(s) in question exercise their ‘soul authority’ and take charge, or become involved themselves in any way?

    Is it possible that some FAs have taken it upon themselves to exercise ‘soul authority’ themselves, maybe even to the extent of reciting non-existent FAA rules, without any input from the captain?

  • AAGK

    Could someone clarify what they planned to do with Grayson if Mason hadn’t opted for a separate flight? 5 people, 5 seats, 5 tickets, no? The airline bumped a baby without his parents?

  • LDVinVA

    The people said they paid for the ticket. Why do you say they wanted a free seat?

  • Bill___A

    Most of this was well put and I certainly appreciate the information for the most part. However, I have a couple of things to say.

    For one thing: “For example, most of you don’t get why you have to have your seat-back and your tray table up for take off. Fact is, the most dangerous part of your fight is the high-speed takeoff regime– that point from approximately 100 mph to lift-off. I don’t need to get into the reasons why, but it is.” – if this is so absolutely important, and I believe it is, then WHY on MOST flights do I see the flight attendants NOT ensuring this is done. I call them the “walking blind” because they do the walk down the aisle, but they fail to see the seat backs not up, even tray tables still down.

    I am very diligent in making sure I comply, but I have also, for many years, been paying very close attention to this particular issue and I can tell you that if the flight attendants aren’t enforcing these regulations in all cases (and I assure you 100% this is a problem), many passengers aren’t going to take them seriously. I also think people should be quiet during safety demonstrations. I can think of many times where I can’t hear a thing due to people talking, and sometimes it is deadheading employees making this noise.

    I do think passengers like the ones noted here need to smarten up. Delta gate staff should have never told him he could put his kid in the seat.

    I am sick to death of these “entitled” passengers. The guy booted off the Delta flight should have been booted off. I wonder, when he bought those tickets for the flight on another airline, did he buy a seat for the little one or hold him in his lap? I am betting the latter.

    As for Dr. Dao, he also should not have made a fuss.

    However, the airlines need to get their act together too. You can’t tell me those United deadheading people didn’t know they were going until after that plane was boarded.

    Keep booting these passengers off,but it does no good if they then get a big apology and a settlement. What they should be getting is a lifetime ban on the airline.

  • Michael__K

    Rules are rules and the rules don’t say anything about protecting families or keeping them together ;) …..

  • AAGK

    Also, big deal, she had to travel with the baby on her lap. My first flight was to Hawaii at one years old and while my mom still seems traumatized bc I cried the whole time, she had me on her lap. I know a lot has changed and there are special baby seats and we know more about safety but what am I missing?

  • AAGK

    So they were going to dump a baby in the airport with a baby food voucher? Can this be possible?

  • Michael__K

    If the baby is a lap infant under 2 then they would be part of an adult’s ticket. But if a child/baby has their own seat/ticket and if they were the last member of their party to check-in, then potentially yes, if the carrier follows its own rules as they are written…

  • finance_tony

    “They notified the Delta gate agent that Mason would not be flying with them, and the agent agreed to allow the family to sit together, with Grayson in Mason’s now-unused seat.”

    That’s not truthful in the least. They most certainly did not give Grayson permission to sit in Mason’s seat. Not anymore than you have “permission” to spread out if you happen to have an empty seat next to you. That is, you can until you can’t. The seat no longer belonged to them.

    I’m one of the most vocal supporters of Dao in the United case, but this one is absolutely open and shut as far as who had permission to sit in that seat.

    (Of course this has nothing to do with the crew’s poor choice of words in the matter).

  • AAGK

    Also, let’s say the whole family traveled. Some 18 year olds are more mature than others and It is atrocious that the airline would even separate him. If a parent stayed back, then that would leave one parent struggling with 2 infants. The airline should’ve bumped the family, which it probably hoped to do, but without compensation for more than one member. That is horrific airline behavior.
    Why do airlines pretend overbooking is complicated? Offer more money until someone gets off the plane.

  • AAGK

    I assume you agree that it insane. Also, airlines cannot make rules that trump criminal/or child endangerment protections. Obv bumping a 2 year old necessitates bumping a parent. Are airlines losing their minds?

  • FQTVLR

    The 2-year-old did not have a ticket and was listed as infant in arms. Would not have been bumped from the plane unless the parent on the same ticket was bumped. (And I really doubt their story that Delta gave them the okay for this.)

  • AAGK

    I need to reread the story. Agreed that once Mason cancelled his seat, it is not in play. How did the parents plan to travel with the 2 little ones then? Those plans would be unaffected by Mason.

  • AAGK

    I reread and still don’t get it. If the child is allowed to be a lap child then what’s the issue? If not, then how did they ever plan to take him on the plane if he didn’t have a seat and is too old for a lap? These are either the worst parents or the worst airline. Why would the Grayson requirements have anything to do with whether Mason used his seat. Once Mason bailed, then the seat obv will be reassigned. I’m still confused.

  • Michael__K

    Of course it’s insane and I suppose if it was a minor they probably would look past the letter of their official Boarding Priority Rules and choose the next adult.

    But they DO still split families which I think is also pretty cruel and insane. I personally witnessed a family (I believe it was 5 passengers – 2 adults and their 3 children) forcibly separated because of an oversold flight.

  • BubbaJoe123

    They absolutely do not need ID. Where do you get this stuff?

    “Children: TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling with a companion within the United States.

    https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/identification

  • starrfish479

    If Mason had not taken a separate flight, Grayson would have sat on the mom or dad’s lap. That is how he was “ticketed”.

  • DChamp56

    The passenger was completely in the wrong, knowing his older son wasn’t on the plane and trying to use that seat for his other child.

  • MarkKelling

    Do we know for sure they did not pay for this seat?
    The other son did not simply walk on the earlier flight and take a seat. This meant either the original ticket was transferred to the earlier flight, or a new ticket was purchased. Which option was used is not stated in any of the accounts of this situation.

    If the ticket was transferred to an earlier flight, then I agree completely with you and this passenger was trying to occupy space they did not pay for. If however, the other son was flying on a new one-way ticket and the ticket for the flight the rest of the family ended up on was not used, then I would have to partially agree that the seat was paid for. But of course the airline didn’t see it that way.

    But what concerns me is the 2 yr old did not have a ticket of his own already. Unless the child turned 2 while they were at their destination, he should have already had a ticket purchased. It would have been the younger child that would have been placed in the seat since it could have flown both directions as a lap child.

  • Hanope

    Since Congress did nothing this time, quelle surprise, people will continue to video tape their encounters with airlines and hope for their own 15 minutes of fame/payout. Eventually (i.e. when the democrats take control) Congress may finally do something. I do not expect the airlines to really do anything until they are required to (just like American recently made seat pitch even less).

  • BubbaJoe123

    They paid for three tickets: Mom, Dad, and Mason (the 18 year old). Mason was a no-show, so they only had two seats.

  • BubbaJoe123

    He was ticketed as a lap child. Four people, two seats.

  • BubbaJoe123

    As lap children.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “Some 18 year olds are more mature than others and It is atrocious that the airline would even separate him.”

    Seriously? That 18 year old boy is subject to being separated from his family and sent halfway around the world to kill people.

  • AAGK

    I’ve now read many accounts, and Mr Schear sounds disturbed in so many ways. He was wrong and actually was willing to have his wife arrested and babies temporarily separated from them just to argue about the seat. No wonder the older son opted for a diff flight.

  • BubbaJoe123

    They had booked three seats, for five people:
    1. Mason
    2. Parent/Grayson
    3. Parent/daughter

    Mason flew on a different flight (sounds like on a different airline).

    So, they had two tickets, each for a parent and a lap child. They wanted to put one of the lap children in the third seat, except that seat had been sold for Mason, who wasn’t there, and hence didn’t check in for the flight, so he lost his seat.

    If they had done online checkin for everyone, and showed up at the gate with two adults, a lap daughter, and a ~2 year old in a carseat, Delta would never have known that the boy in the carseat in the third airline seat was Grayson, since there’s zero chance the gate agent would have been checking birthdays.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Not true.

    1) They bought an entirely new ticket for their son, on another flight. They had already paid for a ticket for him on this flight, and that ticket was never reimbursed. So they DID pay for the seat. An argument could be made that they no longer could use that ticket because their son flew another flight, but that’s not what you are saying…you are saying they actually didn’t pay for that seat. They did.

    2) The gate agent when they checked in TOLD them they could use that seat for their baby. So they didn’t just march on board and take it. They were given it. Once that happened, and they were on the plane and seated in it, the airline had no right to take it away from them.

  • LeeAnneClark

    They did pay for it. They bought a whole new ticket for their older son, but never asked for reimbursement for the ticket they had already bought him on this flight. The ticket wasn’t “transferred”. It was a whole new ticket.

  • BubbaJoe123

    I really hope Captain Walker is a better pilot than writer.

  • HulkSmash

    If they weren’t looking for their 15 minutes, they wouldn’t have recorded it and uploaded it to facebook with “SHARE SHARE SHARE!!!”

  • HulkSmash

    I doubt either party will do anything. The airlines have all of them in their pockets.

  • BubbaJoe123

    No ID required for persons under 18 for domestic flights. See my link below.

  • LeeAnneClark

    The part you may be missing is that the Delta gate agent when they checked in TOLD them they could use that seat. They paid for that seat. They bought an entirely new ticket for their older son for an earlier flight, but they still had the original ticket on this flight, which had never been transferred or reimbursed.

    An argument could be made that they forfeited the right to use that ticket when they bought a second ticket for the older son, but that argument no longer applied once the gate agent TOLD them they could use that seat for their baby.

    If Delta intended to give that seat away, the time to do that would have been before they boarded and were seated. Once the gate agent gave them that seat, and they were occupying it, then it was too late to remove them.

    That’s exactly what happened with Dr. Dao – he paid for that seat, he was boarded, and seated. If they wanted to give his seat away, they should have done it before he was in it. Same with this baby – the gate agent gave the baby the seat, and he was occupying it. They can’t then decide to take it away from him.

  • LDVinVA

    The pictures I have seen show 2 adults and 2 children in car seats. Are we sure they did not originally have 4 tickets – Mom, Dad, teenager and 1 child with the plan being the other child in a lap?

  • Rebecca

    I have zero sympathy for people with lap children. Zero. Kids need to be in their own seat. These morons bought 2 seats for 4 people. I don’t need to hear any more. Imagine you’re the guy stuck in a row with them.

    I have two toddlers. I’ve done my research and I’ve been annoyed by lap children. I simply have zero sympathy for anyone that’s too cheap to buy their baby or toddler a seat and use a car seat or airplane harness (which I highly recommend to everyone, I have 2).

  • BubbaJoe123

    That’s not how I understood it, but you certainly could be right… Underlying premise wouldn’t change, though: one of the seats was for the 18 year old, and once he was a no-show, they couldn’t just swap in a child car seat…

  • Rebecca

    Turbulence and hard landings. There are several cases of where planes have hit violent turbulence or crash landed and everyone escaped with relatively minor injuries, except the lap children. The lap children died. I did plenty of research before I flew my kids.

    It’s basically the same thing as how we didn’t have car seats until we were almost in middle school. Nobody really knew how dangerous it was, that’s just what everyone did. It really should be illegal for a child not to have their own seat. There’s been efforts over the past ~20 years, but lobby groups have successfully stopped new legislation.

  • Rebecca

    What the gate agent usually says, and I know this because I’ve heard lots of people ask waiting in the stroller line, is that if no one is sitting there you can put your car seat in an empty seat.

    It’s impossible for the older son to have had a boarding pass, as he wasn’t there to check in.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Since we weren’t there, we don’t know exactly what the gate agent said. Other articles I have read about this seemed to indicate that the gate agent actually ASSIGNED that seat to the baby.

    And yes, it’s entirely possible they had a boarding pass for the older boy. They could have checked in online and printed it out that way. The ticket they purchased for the older boy was never invalidated – they didn’t transfer it to buy him his new ticket, it was still a valid ticket.

    As I said earlier, an argument could be made that since the older boy wasn’t there, he could have been classified as a no-show and then his ticket would have been forfeit. But that doesn’t seem to be what happened here – it seems the gate agent allowed them to use it for the baby. The time to do that would have been before they were on the plane and seated.

    Clearly there are details that none of us know, since we weren’t there. But I believe it’s wrong to just assume the family did anything wrong (and I’m seeing a LOT of that here).

    Bottom line is, given all that’s happened lately, yanking a family off a flight on which they were already boarded and seated was not a smart thing for the airline to do. And the way they did it makes it even worse, literally lying to them about the requirement of the child being on a lap, and then threatening them with jail and taking their children away.

    Very very bad decisions made by Delta.

  • Alan Gore

    FARs, and the absolute pilot authority that goes with them are safety regulations, not for enforcement of business rules. In what way did the Schears’ quibble over a seating money grab violate a FAR, inasmuch as they peacefully agreed to give up the disputed seat?

  • MarkKelling

    Thanks. That’s what I got out of the story too.

  • Alan Gore

    More relevantly in the Schear case, that oh-so-sacred seat matching rule is intended for ID-required unrelated adults, not one small child with no ID being substituted for another child of the same family. The Schears quite reasonably assumed that if the gate agent interpreted the rule that way so should the FA.

  • Alan Gore

    So you agree, then, that flight safety would have been enhanced had the Schears’ have been able to put one baby in the seat they paid for?

  • Rebecca

    Do I agree? Yes, absolutely.

    My thing is they both acted terribly, the FA and the dad. The FA was a rude bitch with inaccurate information. The dad was a fame whore looking for a lawsuit. Both parents intended to fly their children in their laps. If they cared about safety at all, they wouldn’t have flown to Hawaii with 2 lap children. They wouldn’t have flown back with 1 or 2. They’re both wrong, and I feel so strongly about idiots that dont buy their kids their own seat, I’m done right there. Screw them.

  • KennyG

    It doesnt matter a whit whether business issues were or werent involved. Obviously you did not get the point the pilot that wrote the letter was trying to make. An uncooperative passenger on the ground has the real potential to be a life threatening a++hole at 35,000 feet. Hence any reason, or no reason, the flight crew, in particular the captain does not need to justify removing any passenger. You are simply being contrary [as usual], and attempting to justify the entitlement syndrome suffered by folks like you.

  • KennyG

    Obviously the point of the letter means less to you than his English and writing skills. Collect your reward.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b8e417b3d7231dbf1d723ff05bcf0c637208110068d1b51431636a8c7506526f.jpg

  • Rebecca

    Not purchasing a child their own seat is wrong. The FA was rude and provided inaccurate info, absolutely. But the dad strikes me as an obnoxious, ambulance chasing fame whore. Either way, I just can’t muster sympathy for parents that allow their children to fly on their lap. I just can’t do it.

  • KennyG

    FA’s maybe so, actually most likely so, but your comment has zip, zero, nada to the point I, and the author of the pilots letter was making. But nice work in continuing your unbroken streak of always being contrary and argumentative.

  • Michael__K

    Excuse me? What argument did you read into my questions? And what precisely is the point you are making and how is it on-topic to this article?

  • KennyG

    If you don’t get the point of my comment and the letter written by the pilot, then you have made my point for me.

  • Kristiana Lee

    My friend’s 1-year-old was bumped from a United flight about 10 years ago so it does happen. The argument was comical only because it wasn’t my 1-year-old.

    “You do realize that you bumped a toddler and just the toddler, right?”
    “I’m sorry sir, there’s nothing I can do. This is what the system did.”
    “So I should just leave my toddler at the gate by himself?”
    “I’m sorry I can’t do anything about this sir.”
    “And I can’t change my flight to accompany my toddler?”
    “No sir.”

  • Michael__K

    I was trying to figure out how what I thought was the point pertained to this particular article.

  • AAGK

    My dad also used to ride with me on the back of his bicycle without a helmet so you are right. I still am confused as to what the 3rd child’s seat has to do with the rest of the family. They either purchased the required number of seats for the remaining travelers or they tried to steal a seat that was no longer theirs. If the 1 and 2 yr olds can lap travel then they just needed 2 seats, plus any extra baby fees/tickets. If the toddler had his own seat, then bumping him alone is insane, or the dad is insane. It’s easy to see how this escalated when one side is clearly wrong.

  • AAGK

    Thank you!! Now I get it. Then the father is out of control. Once Mason was no longer traveling with them, then the seat was not theirs. The father tried to steal and almost got both of them arrested. What would have happened to the babies? If Mason traveled, then what?

  • AAGK

    I know. But airlines shouldn’t bump one member of a family traveling together. That was not the case here, but if it was- I don’t like it.

  • AAGK

    Got it. Dad is wrong.

  • AAGK

    Thank you for replying. The parents should’ve traveled with the kids on laps as planned. If the 2 yr old was too old/big, then he would’ve still had this issue, with Mason Present.

  • Alan Gore

    I’ll repeat this slowly, so even an airline employee can understand. The Schears, after some quibbling, assented to having their paid-for seat stolen out from under them. They were ejected anyway for no particular reason. When this became public, Delta admitted that they were dead wrong, apologized and refunded the family. Had the crew been as right as you thought they were, this would not have happened.

  • KennyG

    2 comments ago you said they peacefully agreed to give up their seats, now you say they quibbled [or argued depending on ones perspective]. Which is it?

    “I’ll repeat this slowly, so even an airline employee can understand. The Schears, after some quibbling, assented to having their paid-for seat stolen out from under them.” I will say this slowly and clearly so even someone that does not want to understand may have the slightest chance to. “After some quibbling.. Strike 1″… “The seat was not paid for… Strike 2”. The airline has the absolute right to deny any seat to any person at any time if the Captain deems it should be so.. thats Strike 3 You’re out….The point of my original comment and the letter that the pilot wrote, has nothing to do with this particular incident specifically or whether the FA’s could have handled things better or more politely or wearing a unicorn hat. A PAX that is argumentative or uncooperative on the ground can become a life threatening self entitled ahole at 35,000 feet when or if there is a flight emergency. There is nothing that any business profit or loss statement, or any ill mannered FA can say or do to justify a PAX not following instructions while still on the ground, especially if they would still like to be on the plane as it is taxiing down the runway for takeoff. Retrain all of the FA’s, pay aggrieved PAX’s for public relations purposes all you want. That still does not make it reasonable or appropriate, no matter how badly an FA speaks to or acts, for a PAX to do anything but comply. See, it really wasnt that difficult, and by the way, who is this airline employee you are referring to?

  • Alan Gore

    Folks, I love nothing better than seeing Airline Attitude on display for the whole world to see.

  • DChamp56

    That’s a “he said – she said” thing. Even IF they said that, the person on Standby needed to get somewhere too. It was selfish of the family to not let someone else get to their destination just because they didn’t want to put a child on their lap which is what they really paid for.

  • joycexyz

    The gate agent should have known better. She was flat-out wrong. Unfortunately, the Schear’s suffered the consequences.

  • Annie M

    No you have to put the childs birthdate in when you buy the seat. All news reports clearly said a two year old and a one year old.

  • joycexyz

    Where can I get one of those badges? One of my favorite activities is correcting the grammatical errors of TV newscasters–getting to be a full-time job. And I blame it on my eight-grade English teacher.

  • joycexyz

    The seat may have been paid-for, but the passenger was a no-show. You cannot substitute someone else, even another family member, for valid security reasons. The real blame lies with the agent who misinformed them. They argued the point with the FA, who is charged with making sure the passengers are ready for takeoff in a very limited amount of time. In the heat of the moment she no doubt said things she shouldn’t have (car seat not allowed, children to foster care…)–a tragedy of errors all around. Delta was not dead wrong, and your snide dig at airline employees is uncalled for. (No, I am not, not have I ever been, an airline employee. But I appreciate the difficulty of working with the public.)

  • Mel65

    It is hard to keep five people together on a flight sometimes and it depends on how they separated this woefully tearful family and the ages of the children . I flew to Germany with my mother and three siblings when I was eight and she and my younger brother sat upfront and my other two brothers and I were scattered around; but I think 8 years is old enough to be separated for a few hours in an enclosed environment with a parent with in screaming distance. Was it in this situation young child/parent ; young child/parent; other(older?) Child by itself or one child/parent 2 Children/other parent; or are you implying that they put 5 people with young children scattered throughout the airplane none of them sitting together? I would find that very hard to believe, in part because putting a two-year-old or a three or four year old with perfect strangers while mom is sitting elsewhere would certainly create some liability issues but also because my husband and I traveled many times and have never had a problem keeping our seats together with our children–and even now when they’re grown we’ve flown to Hawaii and Las Vegas with them and always were able to be either in the same row or in adjacent rows front or back.

  • Mel65

    The article pretty clearly says that Mason opted to fly on a different flight separate from the family. Personally I wondered if they were hoping to use his seat even though he had given it up by choosing another flight and maybe nobody would notice since they had his ticket that somebody else was sitting in it the whole story just rubs me the wrong way to be perfectly honest

  • Mel65

    Yeah I wondered why they didn’t just do that, too. Worst case scenario their line would have checked and they would have been exactly where they started anyway.

  • Mel65

    I feel like no gate agent in the world would have said certainly you can use a seat for which a passenger was a no-show we love that. I suspect the gate agent said if the seat is not reassigned then certainly you can put your child in it and the family just hoped that it wouldn’t be reassigned or assumed that since they had paid for it that it would not be reassigned but I cannot imagine a scenario where the agent specifically said sure go ahead.

  • Mel65

    The safety of the baby would 100% have been enhanced had been in a car seat however, that’s not the issue here in the eyes of the airline there is no difference between Mason it being a no-show and had John Smith been sitting next to them and been a no-show and they tried to co-opt that seat. Anybody who has ever flown at sense 911 knows that you cannot just swap seeds willy-nilly and I don’t leave her a moment the gate agent told them that they could do it.

  • Tim Mengelkoch

    Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t most tickets non-refundable? Furthermore, even if it was refundable, wouldn’t you lose out on the refund if you were a “no-show”? Therefore, what is the airline losing if there are no-shows? Why then, do they need to fill an empty seat if it has already been paid for? Sounds like double-dipping to me

  • Michael__K

    Separated into different flights departing on different days because of involuntary denied boarding. The kids ranged in age from maybe 5 years old to 10 years old.

  • AAGK

    Definitely. Either that or Mason was sick of dad getting the family almost arrested every time they travel and decided to go alone.

  • Attention All Passengers

    Bingo. There are always so many unanswered questions and scenarios that somehow get twisted into “false” facts by passengers, never mind the media. (Same thing with the stroller lady on AA). They are told one thing at the top of the jet bridge or at the ticket counter and then by the time they get to the airplane door or somehow slip on with all the wrong gear, they have turned it into WHAT THEY WANT TO DO, WHAT THEY THINK IS RIGHT FOR THEM. Then comes the yelling blue, bloody murder, screaming discrimination and the blame it on someone else game.
    News flash – people don’t listen and they lie all the time because they are not getting their way. Every gate agent has lived this many times. Mr. Shear and his camera happy wife are the epitome of whining, entitlement grabbing liars who have now added to the mess that every “disappointed” traveler will be doing on every flight in America. United will now become the Bank of United. American will now become the Bank of American, Delta will become the Bank of Delta (though they’ve been hiding in the bushes lately to avoid the difficult questions or comments), etc, etc, etc.

  • MarkKelling

    Could be the 2 yr old turned 2 during the trip.

  • Lindabator

    they UA folks were not deadheading travellers, but required crew – and it was a last minute callup

  • Lindabator

    the seat which was PAID FOR was for another son, who CHANGED from this flight to another one – the seat which was paid for went with him

  • Lindabator

    yes – their other son chose a different flight – and so “his” seat would not have come in play here

  • Lindabator

    if I book a flight, I have a seat. If I change flights, the seat does not go back to the family – 1 seat per TRAVELLING customer (unless you need 2 seats, and pay for oversized – which I wish all would do!)

  • Lindabator

    there WAS no seat for them — the “seat” goes to the traveller — might have been a miscommunication, but likely they failed to explain their son was on a different flight altogether

  • John McDonald

    when 1st heard this story, thought the infant didn’t have a boarding pass, but infants still need a boarding pass don’t they ? (haven’t travelled with infants for a loooong time).

    & surely carrying a car seat onboard must have twigged something, or is this the problem.

    If infant, had an infant boarding pass, then the Delta computer would have shown a spare seat.

  • cscasi

    Perhaps the Captain meant on the airline he is flying for; which is the case for almost all airlines; Southwest being an exception.

  • cscasi

    That’s what happens when one “assumes” and is wrong.

  • cscasi

    Almost anything is “possible”, but in the case of the airlines, probably not very likely as the flight attendants are well trained (not to say that one or two – like in any crowd – always does and says what he/she is supposed to). When that happens, one may lose his/her job over it.

  • cscasi

    “However, the airlines need to get their act together too. You can’t tell me those United deadheading people didn’t know they were going until after that plane was boarded.”
    No, I can’t, but then honestly, neither can you.

  • cscasi

    Perhaps because of the amount of wasted time it took to convince them to give up the seat. Once again, there is the rule of interfering with a flight crew member in the performance of his/her duties. And the gate agent has the authority to control vacant seats. This was a vacant available seat because the ticket holder was not present and was a no show.

  • cscasi

    Apparently so.

  • cscasi

    Once again, yes the seat was paid for and a ticket was issued in the name of the passenger who was to sit in that seat. When the passenger failed to show up for the flight (no matter the reason) he became a “no show” and the seat becomes open period.

  • Michael__K

    Sure, the context here is the high-profile exception cases not the typical every-day case where 99+% of flights go smoothly. But to push back on your last sentence: when did someone lose their job for abusing authority other than for physical violence?

  • Carchar

    Do you mean “eighth-grade?” I’m the spelling police.

  • KennyG

    You would probably enjoy it even more at 35k feet when one of the self entitled imbeciles you defend steps over you on his way to the emergency exit instead of following the instructions of the flight crew since he doesn’t need to do what he is told if it didn’t end in ‘pretty please with sugar on top’ and he hasn’t been shown the FA’s charm school diploma.

  • Mel65

    As a former HS English teacher, the repeated use of “soul authority” versus “sole authority” was making me crazy in this thread. Soul authority has a whole different meaning! :-)

  • jmiller45

    Thank you. People don’t seem to understand that the older son’s paid ticket went with him to the flight he moved to which left his original seat available for another passenger to occupy.

  • AAGK

    Do we know for sure that Delta said fine during the security process. The article doesn’t mention that. Perhaps dad checked the seat in as Mason and got a boarding pass issued. While security should’ve caught this, that is not saying fine. That would involve a series of deceptive actions by dad. I haven’t heard any info either way but I know Delta didn’t say fine.

  • AAGK

    It could be worse. Dad probably never canceled the ticket, did an online check in as Mason and obtained a fraudulent boarding pass. Dad may have then used this pass for Grayson, to evade security. I have no idea, but this is a possibility, which would mean dad should have been arrested for for several serious federal crimes. I haven’t seen any of these specifics reported though so who knows.

  • AAGK

    He didn’t need iD for the one year old. Grayson was probably all set. Once the dad did the fraudulent online check in for Mason and got the passes he was easily able to sneak the 1year old child in. I am not in the mood to look up the statute but dad actually may be a serious criminal.
    TSA/Delta has a security loophole apparently.

  • AAGK

    We do not have any of the details to make that call. We have no idea what happened with that original ticket, whether dad bought a new one etc.
    We do know that the family did not have tickets for 4 seats. What if dad never cancelled Masons ticket and did online check in for Mason to obtain a fraudulent boarding pass and used that to gain access to the plane for the lap child, who doesn’t have the same ID requirements, then booked Mason a cheaper seat home. Who knows?
    That’s like what a terrorist would do. All I know is that this man told the police to drag his wife and babies off the plane when they were happy to take just him. A man does not do that to his family.

We want your feedback.Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.