United Airlines Gives Toddler’s Seat Away, Mom Holds Son for 3 Hours

July 6, 2017 Updated: July 7, 2017

United Airlines made a passenger give up her 2-year-old son’s seat, causing her legs and arms to go numb.

Shirley Yamauchi, a middle school teacher from Hawaii, was en route to Boston for a teacher’s conference last week, she told Hawaii News Now. She was traveling with Taizo, her 27-month-old son, whose ticket cost the same as hers—close to a thousand dollars.

The first half of the trip went smoothly—Hawaii to Houston—but when she was waiting for the plane to take off to Boston, a man had the same seat number as Taizo she told KITV.

“I told him, I bought both of these seats,” she told the station. “The flight attendant came by, shrugs and says, ‘Flight’s full.'”

Taizo’s boarding pass was scanned improperly during check-in, said a United spokesman, causing his seat to be given to a standby passenger. The man sat in Taizo’s seat and the toddler sat on his mother’s lap.  

It is against the safety advice of the Federal Aviation Administration that strongly recommends a separate seat for children. But, Yamauchi said she had no better options.

“I was concerned for his safety” she told CBS News, “I had to attempt to put his seatbelt over him for the two of us, and it was very difficult.”

“He’s 25 pounds; he’s half my height,” she told Hawaii News Now. “At the very end, he was standing between my knees,” she told KITV.

Yamauchi told Hawaii News Now that she considered protesting, but she was scared to make a scene after Dr. David Dao was dragged out on an overbooked United flight.

“I thought about Dr. Dao and his incident with United, having his teeth knocked out and being dragged down the aisle,” said Yamauchi. “And I didn’t want that to happen to me.”

United said it is trying to compensate the family for its mistake.

United Airlines Airbus A319-132; N848UA@LAX;10.10.2011/622aw

“We deeply apologize to Ms. Yamauchi and her son for this experience. We are refunding her son’s ticket and providing a travel voucher” said United in a statement.

However, Yamauchi was not receptive to the statement.

“It doesn’t feel genuine. It’s forced upon them. They’re trying to fix their image or save their reputation,” Yamauchi said.

United apologized directly to Yamauchi and said it is working with its employees to prevent a repeat of the situation.