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Family: Delta staff threatened, 'They'll take your kids from you'

Chelsea Schilling

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A California family kicked off a Delta flight last week claims airline staff threatened they’d be sent to jail and lose their children if they didn’t give up a seat they had purchased for their toddler son.

Delta passenger Brian Schear expresses concern when airline attempts to take his purchased seat from his son

Brian and Brittany Schear are demanding an apology from the airline after an “overbooking” on a flight from Hawaii to Los Angeles resulted in a confrontation over the seat occupied by their son, Grayson.

The two said they purchased a seat for their child on the red-eye flight so Grayson could sleep in his car seat, since that’s the only place he’s able to sleep and it’s a safer option than holding a child on a lap.

The family had initially purchased a ticket for their teenage son, but decided to send him home on an earlier flight so their toddler could have the seat.

He said they told the ticket agent about the new arrangement at the gate, and that the agent accommodated the family to sit together.

The family boarded the plane but was then told by Delta agents that the 2-year-old had to give up his seat because there were other passengers on the standby list for the flight.

Brian said an airline staffer told him: “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.”

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Baby Grayson Schear

In a video of the incident posted to YouTube, Brian can be heard telling officers: “They can remove me off the plane. That’s fine.”

A female voice replies: “Then it can be a federal offense. You and your wife will be in jail, and your kids will be [inaudible].”

Brian responds, “So we’re going to be in jail, and my kids will be what?

The woman says, “It’s a federal offense if you don’t abide by the rules.”

“I bought that seat,” Brian says. “… You’re saying you’re gonna give that away to someone else when I paid for that seat. That’s not right. You need to do what’s right. I bought the seat, and you need to just leave us alone.”


Later, he says, “I paid for this seat. This is what’s ridiculous.”

The mother, Brittany, told KABC-TV 7 the threat of losing her children scared her.

“As a mother, you have a 1-year-old and a 2-year-old, it doesn’t matter whether that’s true or false. It put fear in me.”

After the initial discussion, a woman named Jenna approaches Brian, apologizes and then claims FAA regulations ban children from sitting in a car seat on a plane.

“With him being 2, he cannot sit in a car seat,” Jenna said. “… He has to sit here, in your arms, the whole time. Technically, he cannot even be on the seat.”

However, the Federal Aviation Administration website encourages the use of restraint systems and car seats rather than flying with a child on a parent’s lap. It explains: “Did you know that the safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device [car seat], not on your lap? Your arms aren’t capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence.”

Brian responds, “He sat in a car seat the whole way out here on a Delta flight.”

“That’s unfortunate,” Jenna said. “Unfortunately, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m just trying to do the best I can now.”

Watch the video:

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Ultimately, the family was forced to get off the plane and check into a hotel. Brian said he didn’t get a refund for the flight and had to pay $2,000 for United tickets the next day.

Brian told CBS: “We never thought it was going to get to the point where they were actually getting us all off the flight. As we were leaving the plane, there’s four or five passengers waiting for our seat. The bottom line is, they oversold our flight.”

In a statement to CBS, Delta said: “We are sorry for what this family experienced. Our team has reached out, and we will be talking with them to better understand what happened and come to a resolution.”

KABC-TV 7 reported, “The airline also said the family was not kicked off the plane because the flight was overbooked but did not elaborate or offer any other details as to why the family was booted from the flight.”

The YouTube video of the incident generated thousands of comments, including the following:

  • “Sick and tired of these f—ing airlines!”
  • “It is totally legal for an infant to fly in a purchased seat. In fact, it is safer in a car seat than on a lap. She is lying – and totally passive aggressive. I am sorry that happened to you.”
  • “In 2002, we worried about Arabs highjacking planes. Now we’re worried about airlines jacking us.”
  • “What is going on with airlines recently?”
  • “Apparently Delta thinks that its safer to hold a baby for an entire flight rather than have the kid in a safety seat.”
  • “Over-booking should not be legal, it’s that simple. It does NOT matter if it’s more profitable.”
  • “Why are seated customers being booted off? What kind of business is this?”
  • “Why didn’t they just cut the infants in half, giving half to the parents and the other half to Delta?”
  • “All this for one more person to get on the flight?! Let the family be!!”
  • “Rosa Parks would have stayed on that plane.”
  • “Delta is run by idiots! Not to worry, all their executives will still get their large salaries, bonuses, and stock options. Meanwhile the riff-raff (i.e. customers) will be treated like dirt to satisfy management.”
  • “Delta and United acting like dictators. Sad.”
  • “Did she just threaten to put his children in an orphanage? What a horrible person!”
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