United Airlines is apologizing yet again after a mom was forced to hold her 2-year-old son for a 3.5-hour flight—because the airline gave away his seat. Shirley Yamauchi, 42, says she paid nearly $2,000 for two tickets for herself and her son, Taizo, to fly from Hawaii to Boston with a layover in Houston, and checked in well in advance of the final leg of the journey on June 29. But shortly before takeoff, Yamauchi says a man boarded and said he'd bought a ticket for Taizo's seat on standby. When Yamauchi notified a flight attendant, she says she got only a shrug. "I had to move my son onto my lap. He's 25 pounds. He's half my height," she tells Hawaii News Now. "It was unsafe, uncomfortable and unfair." United's own ticketing policy says children must be in their own seat once they reach age 2, notes NBC News. Taizo is 27 months.
Yamauchi, who is 5-2, says she "lost feeling in my legs and left arm" as she held onto her son, who had to stand on the floor when he became too heavy, per KITV. The station notes that FAA guidelines advise parents against holding kids on their laps. She wanted to complain but remembered other United incidents in the news. "The violence. Teeth getting knocked out," she says. "I'm Asian. I'm scared and I felt uncomfortable. I didn't want those things to happen to me." Five days after the flight, United offered Yamauchi a refund for Taizo's ticket, a travel voucher, and an apology, claiming Taizo's boarding pass wasn't properly scanned and gate agents believed he hadn't checked in. But Yamauchi says she saw agents scan Taizo's ticket. "It just doesn't add up," she says. (Read more United Airlines stories.)