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Family forced off Delta flight after refusing to give up child’s seat

DALLAS — A California family says they were forced off a Delta plane and threatened with jail after refusing to give up one of their children’s seats on a crowded flight.

A video of the April 23 incident was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday and adds to the list of recent encounters on airlines that went viral, including the dragging of a 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 Hawaii with their two toddlers when they were removed from the plane.

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.

Schear explains that he wants to put one of the toddlers in a seat originally purchased for his 18-year-old son. Schear says the older child had returned home on an earlier flight.

Delta policy generally prohibits passengers from using a ticket bought in another person’s name. Federal regulations do not bar such a switch as long as the new passenger’s name can be run through a data base, according to a Transportation Security Administration spokesman.

After Schear says that the airline would 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 the toddler 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.

Delta issued a statement Thursday saying, “We’re sorry for what this family experienced. Our team has reached out and will be talking with them to better understand what happened and come to a resolution.” The Altanta-based airline did not immediately explain why the family was removed from the flight.

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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