United gives toddler's seat to standby passenger, makes mom hold him for whole flight

And it's against the rules to have a child more than 2 on your lap for a whole flight.

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

There was little Taizo sitting in his own seat on a flight from Houston to Boston.

He's 27 months old, so this must have felt like something of a treat. His mom, Shirley, had paid almost $1,000 for his seat.

She was on her way to a teacher conference.

Suddenly, Taizo's fun was cut short. Another passenger turned up with a boarding pass for his seat. And promptly took it.

Shirley told Hawaii News Now that she explained to a flight attendant that she'd paid for that seat. They couldn't possibly give Taizo's seat to this standby passenger, could they?

She said the flight attendant said the flight was full and shrugged like Atlas.

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Airline horror stories

United Bans Leggings
Two passengers were denied boarding because they were wearing leggings in March. According to United, the airline had a right to deny boarding based on dress code because the girls were using “buddy passes” and were, therefore, representing the airline when they fly, similar to employees.

Photo Credit: Getty 

David Dao
Definitely not an employee, David Dao was forcibly removed from a United flight in April after he refused to give up his seat on an "overbooked flight," resulting in a serious concussion, a broken nose, and two lost teeth. Video of the incident went viral, causing United to change their policy and get slapped with a lawsuit that was quickly settled.

Photo Credit: Youtube

Giant Rabbit Dies
United also faced another controversy when a giant rabbit being transported on one of its planes died in the cargo during a flight. According to The Sun newspaper, the animal, named Simon, was the son of the world’s largest rabbit -- a four-foot long continental rabbit called Darius --and was expected to have grown larger than his father.

“Something very strange has happened and I want to know what. I’ve sent rabbits all around the world and nothing like this has happened before," said owner Annette Edwards.

Photo Credit: Twitter 

Bride and Groom Booted From Flight 
A bride and groom traveling to Costa Rica for their wedding in April were escorted off a United Airlines flight after they noticed a man sleeping in their seats and decided to move up three rows as to not wake the passenger. However, it was an "Economy Plus" seat and although the passengers said they complied to return to the seats, a U.S. Marshal removed them.

Photo Credit: Getty 

Altercation Between American Airlines and Mother
American Airlines suspended a flight attendant while investigating a scuffle between him, a mom and two babies. In a viral video, a woman is seen hysterically crying while holding a toddler, with a male flight attending yanking away the stroller for her second child.g a scuffle between him, a mom and two babies. In a viral video, a woman is seen hysterically crying while holding a toddler, with a male flight attending yanking away the stroller for her second child.

Photo Credit: Youtube

Delta Removes Passenger After He Used the Bathroom
At the end of April, a man was removed from a Delta flight after he used the bathroom while the plane awaited takeoff on the tarmac. 

Photo Credit: Getty 

Delta Worker Threatens Passengers With Jail Time
Early May, a Southern California family said they were kicked off an overbooked Delta flight because they refused to give up a seat they had bought for their young son sitting in a car seat. They were asked to have their son sit on their lap for the duration of the flight. They refused, saying they paid for the seat, to which the airline staff threatened the family with jail time.

Photo Credit: Getty 

Spirit Airlines Riot
In May, Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport descended into total chaos after nine Spirit Airlines flights were canceled, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded and increasingly irate in the terminal. The cancellations were the result of a legal dispute between the budget airline and the Air Line Pilots Association International. 

 Courtesy of Jary Romero/Handout via REUTERS

Teen Trapped in Airport Alone Overnight
According to CBC News, a 15-year-old boy was "trapped" overnight in an airport alone when Air Canada rebooked him on another flight after he missed his original one. However, the flight was almost 24 hours later and the airline did not offer him any accommodation or vouchers for food. Because he is a minor, he could not get a hotel room, he says.

(Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Passenger Forced to Pee in a Cup
Also in May, a passenger claimed she was forced to pee in a cup aboard a United flight after flight attendants told her she wasn’t allowed to use the lavatory until the pilot had turned off the fasten seatbelt sign.

The woman, who had an overactive bladder, was told the flight attendant would be filing a report about the incident.

Photo Credit: Getty 

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Did I mention this was a United Airlines flight?

"I had to move my son onto my lap," Shirley told Hawaii News Now. "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, by the by, appears to be against United's own rules. Any child over 2 years old has to have his or her own seat. Yet here the mother was holding her son for three and a half hours.

Moreover, the FAA warns against holding a child over 2: "Your arms aren't capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence."

Shirley said she was scared to speak up more because of the United incident with David Dao, infamously dragged bloodied from a flight after refusing to be bumped.

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

I contacted United and a spokesman told me: "On a recent flight from Houston to Boston, we inaccurately scanned the boarding pass of Ms. Yamauchi's son. As a result, her son's seat appeared to be not 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 refunding her son's ticket and providing a travel voucher. We are also working with our employees to prevent this from happening again."

How does one scan a boarding pass "inaccurately"? It seems like a fairly simple process.

If Yamauchi's telling of the tale is accurate, surely the most disturbing thing is that no one seems to have wanted to fix the problem before takeoff.

After the Dao incident, United CEO Oscar Munoz was at pains to explain that staff would now be given more freedom to behave with common sense.

Yamauchi says she had proof that she'd paid for the seat. She surely had two boarding passes.

Wouldn't the right thing to do have been to explain to the standby passenger that the airline had made a mistake?

Oh, you'll cry, but he paid a lot of money for his ticket too.

KITV news reports that he paid just $75.

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