Note: we are republishing this story in light of a significant drop off in customer service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite receiving close to $80 Billion in pandemic aid from the federal government, airlines have faced almost no penalties for their service lapses. More on this here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/how-to-improve-airline-customer-service/2021/10/20/e0f20b86-2de3-11ec-985d-3150f7e106b2_story.html
Shirley Yamauchi and her two-year-old son were forced to share a single seat for three and a half hours after a United Airlines stewardess told her that the $1,000 seat she had paid for three months earlier had been given to a standby passenger who paid just $75.
The Kapolei Middle School teacher stated that they were already on the plane in Houston when a passenger approached.
“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, adding that a flight attendant just shrugged and walked away when Yamauchi explained the problem.
“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. “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.”
“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,'” she said.
Speaking to KITV Island News, she said: “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. I had him in all these contorted sleeping positions. In the end, very sadly, he was standing up between my knees.”
“What happened to my son was unsafe, uncomfortable and unfair,” Yamauchi stated.
She tried getting help from agents at the gate, they transferred her to customer service, who told her to call a hotline number.
She was told that she couldn’t be refunded if she didn’t cancel her flight arrangements back home.
“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,” she stated.
The airline issued an apology five days after the incident, and a spokesperson claimed that the gate agents had inaccurately scanned Taizo’s boarding pass.
“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,” the airline stated.
Yamauchi stated that she is 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.”
Sources: Daily Mail