United Gave A Toddler's Seat Away Forcing Mom To Hold Him For Entire Flight

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 
Image via Shutterstock

United sold the toddler’s seat to another passenger

Airlines are very strict about the lap child rule — no children allowed to travel on their parent’s lap after they reach two years old. But last week, United forced a woman who had already paid for a seat for herself and her child to hold her 27-month-old son on her lap for the entire flight. Why? They sold his (already purchased) seat to a passenger flying standby.

Shirley Yamauchi was traveling back to Hawaii from Boston last Thursday with her son when the two seats she paid nearly $1000 each for suddenly turned into one after she landed for a connecting flight in Houston. And she was left holding her 25 pound toddler, Taizo, on that entire flight back to Hawaii.

Yamauchi says a man boarded as the plane was getting ready to leave Houston and said he had the same seat as her son. “I told him, I bought both of these seats,” she told KITV. “The flight attendant came by, shrugs and says, ‘flight’s full.'”

She decided not to argue with the flight attendant after remembering the incident with David Dao, a doctor who was forcibly removed from his seat by United earlier this year. “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 said.

Instead, she flew the entire three hours for that leg of the trip with her large toddler on her lap. Anyone who has ever traveled with a large toddler on their lap right before the age cutoff can sympathize with how difficult this is. And she simply should not have been forced into this position since she already paid for her seats. “I had him in all these contorted sleeping positions. In the end, very sadly, he was standing up between my knees,” she said. “What happened to my son was unsafe, uncomfortable and unfair.”

So she didn’t get to fully use the $969 ticket she bought for her son to travel from Boston to Hawaii with a layover in Houston. And the man who boarded the plane and took her child’s seat in Houston? KITV reports he paid just $75 for that seat.

United released this statement to Island News about the incident:

“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 gate staff to prevent this from happening again.”

Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get more stressful to travel with children.

This article was originally published on