United Airlines has apologized after reselling a toddler’s seat to a standby passenger on a flight from Houston to Boston late last week.
As a result of the incident, Shirley Yamauchi was forced to hold her 27-month-old son in her lap for the duration of the nearly four-hour flight.
That may have violated federal regulations which say all children age two and older must have their own seat. According to Yamauchi, her son was older than the Federal Aviation Administration’s age limit.
“This should not have happened,” United admitted in a statement to Business Insider. “We take our commitment to customer safety very seriously and are currently reviewing the details of the incident.”
The airline has yet to comment specifically on the age limit.
According to federal regulation 14 CFR 121.311, children who have reached their second birthday must have their own seat and seatbelt for the duration of the flight.
But without a completed investigation, the FAA can not determine at this time if United violated federal regulations, an agency spokesman told Business Insider.
Yamauchi, a middle school teacher from Hawaii, told ABC affiliate KITV that she declined to speak up during the flight out of fear that it could cause a scene.
“I’m scared. I’m worried. I’m traveling with an infant. I didn’t want to get hurt. I didn’t want either of us to get hurt,” she told KITV. “I had him in all these contorted sleeping positions. In the end, very sadly, he was standing up between my knees.”
Yamauchi told Hawaii News Now that she paid nearly $1,000 for her son’s seat.
In response, the airline has refunded both the mother’s and the toddler’s tickets from Hawaii to Boston.
In another statement to Business Insider, United Airlines wrote:
“We deeply apologize to Ms. Yamauchi and her son for this experience. We are refunding their tickets and providing compensation as a goodwill gesture. We are also working with our employees to prevent this from happening again.”
A United spokesman told The Washington Post that the toddler’s boarding pass had been improperly scanned, allowing the computer to release the seat to a standby passenger.