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

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.

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.

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.”

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.

Share this story
Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Facebook

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Enterprise Holdings

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.