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An interesting lawsuit has been filed in small claims court against American Airlines. A woman purchased an additional seat for her 18-month-old child, but an overzealous flight attendant made up some rules and did not allow her to use it. The passenger complied, tried to get a refund post flight, and was denied. She’s now filed a lawsuit and American is essentially claiming that passengers aren’t guaranteed any seat at all.
A woman named Erika was flying from Portland International Airport (PDX) to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and connecting to Tallahassee International Airport (TLH) with her 18-month-old twin girls. One infant was set to sit in her lap and she purchased a seat for the other using AAdvantage miles.
American’s policy for infants reads:
If your infant will travel in their own seat, you must buy a ticket. The infant must either travel in a safety seat approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or be able to sit upright in their seat without assistance and have their seatbelt securely fastened during taxi, takeoff, landing and whenever the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign is on.”
She flew the first leg without issue, but on the second a flight attendant told her that it was against Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and American Airlines’ policy for children under two to have their own seat. Surprisingly, a nearby woman offered to hold the other child for the flight (this is incredibly kind and a lot for any passenger to take on).
Later in the flight, the flight attendant realized she was wrong (maybe another flight attendant told her) and she apologized to Erika. The passenger proceeded to request a refund from American for the seat that she was not allowed to have her child occupy. American denied the request and cited its contract of carriage, which reads that the airline has to get a passenger from one point to another but does not mention a seat being required. American went on to say that the flight attendant could have denied the infant boarding for any reason (including the flight attendant not knowing the rules).
The trial is set for October and Erika has the contact information for several passengers seated near her (they have agreed to testify).
Anthony’s Take: American is out of line here. They could have easily returned Erika’s miles and even given her some more as an apology. This will likely cost them more than the refund and it is also quite a bit of bad PR.
(H/T: One Mile at a Time.)
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