By Associated Press
HONOLULU (AP) — United Airlines has apologized to a Hawaii teacher who was forced to hold her 2-year-old son on her lap for three-and-a-half hours after an employee gave the toddler’s purchased seat to a standby passenger.
Hawaii News Now reports that Shirley Yamauchi says she paid almost $1,000 each for two tickets because children over the age of 2 are required to have their own seat. She boarded the plane in Houston with her son, Taizo, and they took their seats.
The Kapolei Middle School teacher says a flight attendant came to check if Taizo was present before a standby passenger showed up with a ticket with the toddler’s seat number. Yamauchi says she told a flight attendant about the problem, but the woman just shrugged, said the flight was full, and walked away.
The standby passenger, who paid $75 for his ticket, then took the seat.
Yamauchi told Hawaii News Now that she didn’t press the issue for fear of retaliation. “I started remembering all those incidents with United on the news. 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,” she said.
Yamauchi was referring to an April incident where passenger David Dao refused to give up his seat on a United flight. He was dragged, battered and bloody, down the plane aisle by police — an incident that scandalized the airline for weeks, until it settled the passenger’s lawsuit.
Yamauchi said holding her 25-pound son in her lap during the flight caused her to temporarily lose feeling in her legs and left arm.
United Airlines admitted, five days after the flight, that Yamauchi’s son should have kept his seat.
“On a recent flight from Houston to Boston, we inaccurately scanned the boarding pass of Ms. Yamauchi’s son,” the airline said in a statement. “As a result, her son’s seat appeared to not be checked in, and staff released his seat to another customer and Ms. Yamauchi held her son for the flight. We deeply apologize to Ms. Yamauchi and her son for this experience. We are providing compensation as a goodwill gesture. We are also working with our employees to prevent this from ever happening again.”
Despite the apology, Yamauchi said the compensation is not satisfactory. After landing, Yamauchi says she spoke with multiple customer service representatives, who were unhelpful or rude. However, once she spoke with Hawaiian media outlets, United “sent me a very lengthy email,” she said.