United Airlines Gave A Child's Seat Away To A Standby Passenger

by Samantha Mendoza
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News/Getty Images

United Airlines has issued an apology for yet another in-flight controversy. This time, United accidentally gave a toddler's seat away to a standby passenger, forcing the mother to carry her two-year-old child in her lap for the entirety of a flight from Houston to Boston.

Shirley Yamauchi, a middle-school teacher from Hawaii who was traveling to a conference last week, had paid almost $1,000 for her son's ticket, since children over the age of two are required by law to have their own seat on flights. United claims that the child's ticket had been improperly scanned at the airport after Yamauchi's layover in Houston, which caused his seat to be given away.

"We deeply apologize to Ms. Yamauchi and her son for this experience," United said in a statement Wednesday. "We are refunding her son's ticket and providing a travel voucher."

According to Yamauchi, a standby passenger reportedly proceeded to take her son's seat after she boarded the flight to Boston even though she supposedly explained to him that she had previously paid for her son's ticket.

"I had to move my son onto my lap," Yamauchi said. "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."

This is the latest in a string of controversial incidents that have occurred on United flights in the past few months alone. In February, a United pilot unleashed a political tirade over the intercom before a flight, causing many passengers to exit the plane. A United spokesperson apologized for the incident and replaced the pilot, stating, "We hold our employees to the highest standards ... We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience."

In April, a Kentucky doctor was physically dragged off a flight to make room for airline employees. Footage of the altercation, which broke the man's nose and knocked out two of his teeth, was widely shared on social media. The CEO of United apologized for the incident, and said in a statement that it is his "mission to ensure we make the changes needed to provide our customers with the highest level of service and the deepest sense of respect."

Yamauchi said that it is because of high-profile incidents like these that she decided not to protest against United's decision to give her son's seat away.

"I started remembering all those incidents with United on the news," Yamauchi said. "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."

United announced on Wednesday that in addition to compensating Yamauchi for her son's ticket, the airline is working with staff and personnel to ensure that this type of incident doesn't occur again.