Footage of a family with two children under 2 years old being booted off an overbooked Delta flight from Maui to LAX seems to be the latest public relations gutpunch to the airline industry. Shot by his wife, the video shows Brian Schear calmly reacting to threats from Delta employees claiming he would be arrested for not voluntarily offering up a paid for seat and having his child sit on his lap. The confrontation ends with the family avoiding the fate ofDavid Dao, who’s forced removal from a United flight made headlines across the company. Still, the video captures an inappropriate interaction that could easily be mistaken for a mugging and arrives at a very bad time for the airline industry.
The confrontation occurred when the Schear family sent their 18-year-old son on an earlier flight so they could use his spot on the California-bound plane for their younger son and his car seat. The Schears made the change after deciding that having their baby fly as a lap child would be neither safe nor restful for their kid on the long haul. Delta officials, seeing that the seat’s original ticketed passenger was not on the plane, gave the spot to another passenger on the overbooked flight.
In the video, a Delta airline official is heard threatening the Schears with detention and mentions their kids, before they become inaudible. “You’re committing a federal offense,” the official says. “You and your wife will be in jail and your kids will be… ”
“And my kids will be what?” Shear responds incredulously.
The back and forth also includes a separate Delta official telling the Schears that it’s against FAA regulations for a child to fly in a car seat. This claim is patently false. When Schear asks if they can continue on the flight, holding their kid as originally intended, they are told no.
The video is one in a recent flood of uploads showing callous airline behavior as passengers increasingly begin to turn cameras on flight crews and officials. The trend began with the bloody and violent removal of passenger David Dao from a United airlines flight. It continued with additional high-profile videos, including one showing a mother in tears after an altercation with a flight attendant over a stroller on an American airlines flight.
While the court of public opinion has not been kind to airlines, retribution will likely come from congress. Legislators have recently lambasted airline CEOs in recent hearings and have noted they have the power to make changes to the industry. In fact, it’s an option some on the Transportation Committee are already looking into.
But until those changes come, passengers may feel the need to keep filming confrontations. That’s because before congress acts, they may feel solidarity with the Sheers who, upon being stranded in Maui were bluntly told by a Delta employee, “At this point, you guys are on your own.”