A California family says they were kicked off a flight — and threatened with jail for the adults and "foster care" for the children — for refusing to give up a seat for their 2-year-old son, despite having paid for it, in the latest controversy for a major airline that was caught on video.
Brian and Brittany Schear, of Huntington Beach, California, told NBC News that they had already boarded a Delta Air Lines flight from Maui to Los Angeles with their two infant children on April 23 when they were kicked off the plane following an argument with officials.
The Schears said they were then forced to find their own hotel, transportation and purchase new tickets for a flight the next day — all after midnight.
Brian Schear said the family had initially purchased a ticket for their teenage son on the red-eye flight, but decided to send him home early so that their 2-year-old could have a seat on the plane. The couple was also traveling with a 1-year-old.
He said they let the ticket agent know about their situation at the gate, and that the agent accommodated the family to sit together.
Brian Schear said they boarded the plane without issue, but with other passengers on the standby list for the flight, he was then told by Delta agents that the 2-year-old had to give up his seat — and then threatened with jail.
The incident came to light Thursday after the family posted video of the argument online. Brittany Schear captured the moments leading up to their removal from the flight, showing either an airline or airport employee telling Brian that if he and his family did not comply, they would all be kicked off the plane.
Brian then said, “Then they can remove me off the plane," the video shows.
An airline employee is then heard telling him, “So this is a federal offense. You and your wife could be in jail and your kids will be in foster care."
“We’re going to be in jail and my kids are going to be what?” Schear interrupted.
“It’s a federal offense if you don’t abide by it,” she said.
“I bought that seat … you’re saying you’re going to give that away to someone else when I paid for that seat. That’s not right,” Schear responded.
The employee said that because Schear’s teenage son was not present and the ticket was in his name, the 2-year-old could not sit there and had to give up the seat.
Later in the video, another employee said that Federal Aviation Administration rules stipulate that a 2-year-old cannot be in a seat, or occupy a car seat, and needed to be sitting an adult’s lap.
Schear responds that their son had sat in a car seat, in his own seat on the plane, on their way to Maui.
The FAA says on its website that it “strongly urges” parents to secure small children in an approved child safety restraint device, or car seat, throughout their flight.
Brian Schear said he and his family were not reimbursed for their trouble, either.
"They never contacted us. And honestly, we didn't contact them. This whole thing has made me so angry and ... you know ... with the money that I'm out for the tickets, I couldn't care less about that," he said.
Delta said in a statement on Thursday afternoon that they "sorry for the unfortunate experience" the family had, and had since reached out to compensate them.
"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 company said in the statement. "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."
Brittany Schear said she was most upset that the employee had threatened them with jail, and the removal of their children.
"I'm not a confrontational person ... and when you're a mother and you have your 1-year-old and your 2-year-old and they threaten to take your kids away from you, I mean whether that's possible or whether that's, you know against the law, it just, it made my heart drop," she said.
The revelation of this latest incident comes just one week after United Airlines reached an undisclosed settlement with Dr. David Dao, the subject of the now infamous video showing him being dragged from his seat and off a plan.