Delta Air Lines apologized to a family kicked off a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles on April 23 over a seating dispute — an incident caught on cellphone video that showed a threat of jail being made to the father and mother traveling with their 1- and 2-year-old children.
"We are sorry for the unfortunate experience our customers had with Delta, and we’ve reached out to them to refund their travel and provide additional compensation," the carrier said in a statement about the Flight 2222 incident. "Delta's goal is to always work with customers in an attempt to find solutions to their travel issues. That did not happen in this case and we apologize."
On video, you can hear what sounds like a woman’s voice speaking to Brian Schear as he sits on the flight before takeoff. The individual speaking to Schear — who can’t be seen on the clip — says he’ll face “a federal offense, and you and your wife will be in jail.” The person adds something about Schear’s “kids,” but the rest of what was said isn’t audible.
Schear told KABC-TV an airline staffer told him, “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.” Schear’s 2-year-old son was occupying the seat in question.
One point of contention was that Schear and his wife Brittany had originally purchased the seat for their 18-year-old son. But since he flew home on an earlier flight, the couple wanted their 2-year-old in a car seat in the seat so he could sleep during the red-eye trip.
While Delta's website says tickets can’t be transferred and names can’t be changed, federal regulations don’t preclude changing the name on a ticket provided the new passenger can be checked on a database to confirm the individual isn't a threat, USA Today noted, citing the Transportation Security Administration.
Another issue was whether or not the Schears' 2-year-old could travel in a car seat.
KABC reported that an airline employee argued to Brian Schear that with his son "being 2, he cannot sit in the car seat. He has to sit in your arms the whole time.”
However, the Federal Aviation Administration “strongly urges” infants be in car seats and permits adults to hold children under 2 in their laps. Delta’s website says, “For kids under the age of two, we recommend you purchase a seat on the aircraft and use an approved child safety seat.”
Brian Schear finally agreed to hold his son in his lap, KABC said, but by then Delta said he and his family had to leave the flight. It was about midnight, the station reported, and the Schears had no place to stay.
The response from the official standing in the aisle talking to the beleaguered dad?: “At this point, you’re on your own.”
“You guys are unbelievable,” Brian Schear is heard saying before exiting the plane. “Great customer service. Awesome. Great job.”
Here's the clip of the incident, which has been viewed nearly 3.5 million times as of Friday afternoon:
So the Schears were forced to leave the flight, scramble for hotel accommodations and shell out $2,000 to fly back to Los Angeles the next day on United Airlines, the station reported.
TheBlaze on Thursday asked a Delta corporate communications representative if an airline employee, in fact, threatened the Schears with jail, but the Delta official couldn’t answer and said the question would be passed along for a response. The airline has not responded to that question as of Friday afternoon.
Brittany Schear told the KABC that hearing a jail threat “put fear in me.”
Delta hasn't explained why the Schears were removed from the plane, USA Today reported, adding that a spokesman has said the flight was not overbooked, contrary to what is heard on the video.
The airline industry has been hammered of late for its treatment of passengers. The Delta incident involving the Schear family comes in the wake of a Delta airline pilot allegedly striking a female who was fighting someone else. An American Airlines employee was removed from duty after being caught on video challenging a passenger to a fight. And, of course, the United Airlines passenger who was dragged off a flight is likely still fresh in most people’s minds.
This story has been updated.