Delta apologizes after family removed from flight

LOS ANGELES — Delta Air Lines is offering refunds and compensation to a California family that says they were forced off a plane and threatened with jail after refusing to give up one of their seats on a crowded flight.

A video of the April 23 incident was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday and added to the list of recent encounters on airlines that have gone viral, including the dragging of a bloodied passenger off a United Express plane.

Brian and Brittany Schear of Huntington Beach, California, told KABC-TV in Los Angeles that they were returning from Kahului Airport in Maui, Hawaii with their two toddlers. They wanted to put one of the children in a seat they had bought for their 18-year-old son, who instead flew home on an earlier flight.

Delta says on its website that tickets cannot be transferred and name changes are not allowed. Federal regulations do not bar changing the name on a ticket as long as the new passenger’s name can be run through a data base before the flight, according to a Transportation Security Administration spokesman.

By late Thursday afternoon, Delta still had not explained why the Schears were removed from the plane. A spokesman said the flight was not overbooked.

On the video, Brian Schear can be heard talking with a person off-camera — it is not clear whether that person is a Delta employee, a security officer, or somebody else.

After Schear says that he won’t leave — the airline will have to remove him — the person off-camera replies, “You and your wife will be in jail … it’s a federal offense if you don’t abide” by an airline crew’s order.

“I bought that seat,” Schear protests.

Schear then suggests that his wife could hold one of the toddlers during takeoff and then put the youngster in the car seat. Another person, who appears to be a Delta supervisor, tells him that federal rules require that children under 2 must stay in a parent’s lap throughout the flight.

That is false. The Federal Aviation Administration “strongly urges” that infants be in a car seat, although it permits those under 2 to be held in a parent’s lap. On its website, Delta recommends that parents buy a seat for children under 2 and put them in an approved child-safety seat.

Brian Schear spoke briefly to The Associated Press by telephone Thursday and said he has been overwhelmed by media requests. He declined additional comment said the family may hold a news conference.

The Atlanta-based airline issued an updated statement late Thursday afternoon.

“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 statement read. Delta said its goal is to work with customers to resolve travel issues, “that did not happen in this case and we apologize.”

A spokesman said Delta would not disclose the amount of the refund or compensation.

Congress held two hearings this week on airline customer service — a response to the video of Chicago airport security officers dragging a 69-year-old man off a United Express flight to make room for crew members who were traveling for work.

Executives from United, American, Southwest and Alaska testified at one or both hearings. Delta was notably absent.

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