As I sadly predicted, more and more of these incidents are going to occur. Flyers are going to be quicker to start recording and they are going to become more stubborn when they feels their rights are being trampled.
Some airlines are continuing to oversell flights even after the United event. One airline, Southwest, has promised to end the overbooking.
Trouble in Paradise
Delta flight 2222, a red-eye from Maui to Los Angeles, was apparently overbooked on April 23rd. This is a practice Delta appears to be continuing, boo on them. While it is legal, more consumers are becoming aware of the practice and refusing to fly these airlines.
Since this situation is a bit muddy, let me try to clear up what we know so far:
• Brian Schear
• Brittany Schear
• Mason Schear
• Child A (over 24 months old)
• Child B (under 24 months old)
The family of five flew to Maui, also on a Delta flight, while booking only four seats. That means either Child A or Child B sat on mom and dad’s lap the entire trip to Maui. That is legal as a child under 24 months is not required to have their own seat reservation.
So what is the issue?
It appears while on their trip the Schear family decided they don’t want to have a child on their lap the whole flight home. As you can hear in the video, Brian states that his child will only sleep if he is in his car seat.
From what we know, it looks as though Brian attempted to book a 5th seat on their flight home so his smallest child could be placed in a car seat and have their own seat. (and not sitting on someone’s lap for 5 hours) Since the flight was sold out, it would appear that Brian decided to book his 18-year-old son home a day early, opening up a seat for the four of them on the way home (Brian, Brittany, Child A, Child B)
Brian thought that this would free up one of “his” seats and the mom, dad and two babies would spread out, each getting their own seats.
What was this flight attendant/agent thinking?
If you watch this video, around 13 seconds-in the Delta flight attendant/agent says: “You and your wife will be in jail and your kids will be in foster care”. First of all, you know everyone on this flight is coming home from vacation, why make idiotic threats about foster care?
Delta claims they have empowered their agents to do more in an oversell situation, sounds like they need to do more sensitivity training.
Second, the father did pay for the four seats, so in his eyes he was not breaking any rules. (although the name of the passenger changed resulting in his loss, more on that later.) The flight attendant at the 3:02 mark says: “Being two he cannot be in his own car seat, he has to be in your arms the whole time“. Sorry, Miss, not true!
Taken from Delta’s Contract of Carriage (rule book): “Infants who will reach their second birthday during a journey will be required to occupy a seat, paying the lowest applicable fare for the entire journey.” This means that a two-year old IS REQUIRED to be in their own seat, sounds like the Delta attendant/agent was misinformed or lying to try to get the situation under control.
Making threats towards your customers and not knowing the safety rules when it comes to infants, holy crap, she should be disciplined if not more. After you saw what happened to United, why threaten with jail time and taking children from someone?
This is where Brian screwed up
Delta used two of their legal rights which made this situation, a situation. They legally oversold the flight. They weigh the risk reward, and clearly they think their bottom line is more important than these rare cases of bad PR. Additionally, they saw that Mason did not show for his flight, so they legally cancelled his ticket and gave it/sold it to another passenger.
I think overselling is a dirty business model, so anytime an oversell is the root of an incident, I put a large blame on the airline. The fact that Brian thought he could use a seat that was ticketed for Mason for another one of his children is his fault. Delta in this case is only obligated to reserve that seat for Mason, since he did not show, Delta cancelled his ticket and resold it. (apparently)
Brian, in this case, should have known that Delta is not obligated to let him keep four seats unless all four “matching” passengers show for those seats. This is really crappy, but they are allowed to do it.
Here is a scenario:
You put a non-refundable deposit at a restaurant for 4 chairs, $10 per seat. You put a name on each seat in advance for your family: Jim, Jane, Jack and Jill.
When you show up for your dinner, you inform the restaurant that Jill won’t be able to make the dinner so you are just going to seat your 1-year-old in Jill’s seat so they don’t have to sit on your lap. After all, you paid $10 for that seat, it should be your right to leave vacant or to fill with your infant child?
Not on an airplane! If Delta was the restaurant, this is how it would be played out:
The restaurant managers says; “we reserved one too many people for tonight’s dinner, and since Jill did not show up, we are going to need your chair.” Brian, in this case, would argue: “I paid for that chair, I am going to use it however I want. You can’t just take a seat I reserved because one of my guests didn’t show up”.
Oh yes Delta can, and they did. (crappy, I know)
Airline tickets are non-transferable. You cannot change the name to someone else, it simply doesn’t work that way. If you could, you would see Facebook posts like this: “Hey, I am not able to take my flight this weekend from Denver to Chicago, if any of my friends want to go I will call the airline and put your name on the ticket”.
This would allow a grey market to open up for flights and ultimately airlines are massive companies that want massive profits. Not allowed, that simple.
Since Mason did not show, Delta is allowed to reclaim the seat as their own. They can resell it, offer it to an employee, they could leave it empty and demand that no person sit there. If the passenger, Mason in this case, no-shows, the seat does not belong to the purchaser, it belongs to Delta now.
This is where Brian goofed up. He thought that if he bought four seats, he is entitled to four seats. Nope, airlines have their own set of rules and laws that make them almost god-like.
Could you imagine if you bought four seats for your family to attend a baseball game, and only three of you show-up. As you are stretching your legs and putting them in the vacant seat next to you (that you paid for), a manager comes up and says that seat has now been sold to someone else. That is what appears to have happened here.
This is a tough one for me because if you were the standby passenger, you would be irate if the plane departed with an empty seat you could have occupied. In the same light, what if you want to leave a seat vacant next to you, can airlines take it away?
Thoughts? Did I miss anything?