The United Airlines forced a mom and her two-year-old son to sit on her lap for more than three hours after the airline gave her child’s seat away to a standby customer.
Shirley Yamauchi, a Hawaii teacher has bought the ticket paying $1,000 for her son who weighs 25lbs. But she was forced to share a seat after a United Airlines stewardess told her the seat she paid $1,000 and was purchased three months ago, was given to someone flying standby.
She was travelling to Boston to attend a teachers conference for which she bought the ticket for. She also purchased a ticket for her son, Taizo – paying $1,000 for each ticket because children over the age of two are required to have their own seat.
Shirley Yamauchi had to fly with her son on her lap for over three hours on the last leg of an 18 hour trip from Hawaii to Boston
Shirley Yamauchis (left) son’s (right) ticket was given away to a passenger flying standby despite buying their tickets three months in advance
But the standby passenger has only paid just $75 for his ticket.
They were sitting in the plane to Houston when a flight attendent came to check whether Taizo was present.
‘I told him that I bought both of these tickets and he tells me that he got the ticket on standby. Then he proceeds to sit in the center,’ she said.
The mother said that she told the flight attendant about the problem, but the woman just shrugged, said the flight was full, and walked away.
‘I had to move my son onto my lap. He’s 25 pounds. He’s half my height. I was very uncomfortable. My hand, my left arm was smashed up against the wall. I lost feeling in my legs and left arm,’ she said.
Shirley Yamauchi posted about the incident to her Facebook, calling out the United Airlines employee who shrugged off her complaints that she had paid for her son’s ticket, yet they were forced to give up his seat to another passenger
Yamauchi’s son was in various uncomfortable positions on the long flight
Yamauchi’s son was scrunched up in her lap for over three hours during the flight from Houston to Boston
The mom and her son were on the final leg of their 18-hour flight from Hawaii to Boston.
Yamauchi said she wanted to speak up, but was afraid of retaliation.
‘I started remembering all those incidents with United on the news. The violence. Teeth getting knocked out. I’m Asian. I’m scared and I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t want those things to happen to me,’ she said.
‘It was very shocking. I was confused. I told him, I bought both of these seats. The flight attendant came by, shrugs and says ‘flights full’,’ Yamauchi said.
She said that she didn’t want to create a scene, remembering the recent United incidents like the Kentucky man who was violently dragged off his flight in April.
‘I’m scared. I’m worried. I’m traveling with an infant. I didn’t want to get hurt. I didn’t want either of us to get hurt,’ she said to KITV Island News.
‘I had him in all these contorted sleeping positions. In the end, very sadly, he was standing up between my knees,’ she said.
United Airlines has come under fire often this year, and has issued many apologies for a variety of issues customers have experienced with the airline
The FAA strongly advises against a child sitting on someone’s lap, saying to passengers ‘Your arms aren’t capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence.’
‘What happened to my son was unsafe, uncomfortable and unfair,’ Yamauchi said.
The staff aboard Flight 2047 didn’t helped her. In the gate she spoke to some of the agents, who directed her to customer service. Who then directed her to a hotline number.
She called to the helpline number and finally reached someone who told her she couldn’t be refunded right away or it’d cancel the rest of her flight arrangements home.
Flights home for an adjusted ticket price would be additional expenses on top of the $1,000 ticket that her son did not use.
‘It’s worrisome. Everyone who has helped me so far has contradicted each other. With their suggestions, this needs to stop. United has made errors that make national headlines, yet, it continues,’ Yamauchi said.
Finally, after five days she received an apology from the United Airlines. A spokesman for United says because gate agents inaccurately scanned Taizo’s boarding pass, their system showed him as not checked in, so his seat was released to another passenger.
The company said, ‘We deeply apologize to Ms. Yamauchi and her son for this experience. We are refunding her son’s ticket and providing a travel voucher. We are also working with our gate staff to prevent this from happening again.’
Yamauchi says the incident makes her nervous about flying United again.
‘I had bought both of these tickets way in advance. We did the two hour check-in time before boarding. I had my receipts. I had my boarding pass. Yet this happened,’ Yamauchi said.