A Hawaii middle school teacher said United Airlines put her 2-year-old son in a dangerous situation when they gave his seat to another passenger and forced the boy to sit on her lap for the duration of a three and a half hour flight.
"What happened to my son was unsafe, uncomfortable and unfair," Shirley Yamauchi told KITV.
Yamauchi and her son hopped on their final connecting flight to Boston "with no problem" after employees scanned both of their boarding passes. Her son's cost $969.
After the pair had gotten settled, a man came aboard and showed Yamauchi his $75 standby ticket, which had the same seat number as her son's.
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"It was very shocking," Yamauchi explained. "I was confused. I told him, I bought both of these seats. The flight attendant came by, shrugs and says 'flights full.'"
The mother said that all she could think about was the reputation United has gained after incidents like the one in April involving 49-year-old David Dao, a Kentucky doctor who was forcibly dragged out of his seat, bleeding and concussed, after refusing to give it up for extra crew members, notes BBC. Dao, who also lost his front teeth in the incident, received a settlement, and United agreed to a number of changes that included offering passengers up to $10,000 for giving up seats.
"Every customer deserves to be treated with the highest levels of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect," United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said at the time, notes BBC. "Two weeks ago, we failed to meet that standard and we profoundly apologize."
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Yamauchi ended up having her 27-month-old son sit on her lap for the nearly four hours they were on the flight, despite FAA warnings that doing so can be harmful for the parent and dangerous for the child in case of turbulence, notes KITV.
"I'm scared," she recounted to KITV. "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. … I had him in all these contorted sleeping positions. In the end, very sadly, he was standing up between my knees."
Once they landed, she spoke to agents at the gate, who gave her a phone number. After getting the run-around several times, she was told that she could not receive a refund, or she'd have the rest of her flight canceled, which would cost her even more money upon her return trip from Boston.
"It's worrisome," she added. "Everyone who has helped me so far has contradicted each other. ... United has made errors that make national headlines. Yet, it continues."
In a statement, United said that they "inaccurately scanned" her son's ticket, making it appear vacant.
"We deeply apologize to Ms. Yamauchi and her son for this experience," United said in a statement. "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."
Sources: KITV, BBC / Photo Credit: Raimond Spekking/Wikimedia Commons / Brad Cailing/Facebook, Shirley Yamauchi via Daily Mail