For his infant son’s first flight, Timothy Ketcham took the extra steps, for both comfort and safety, of buying the 6-month-old his own first-class seat.
But when it came time to board an American Airlines flight to Charlotte, the plans got nixed: Baby boy had no seat, forced to fly two hours on his mother’s lap.
“I know why,” said Ketcham, his dad in Willow Springs. “So they can put more people on the plane, right?”
No refund, no explanation
The Ketchams’ air-hassle adds to a summer of discontent in the skies that are now crowded with post-pandemic leisure fliers.
To date, Ketcham has gotten no satisfaction. No refund. No explanation. Just an offer for bonus air miles.
The situation especially galls Ketcham because he took precautions for a smooth late-July flight between Charlotte and his wife’s family in Michigan, spending extra time and money.
American Airlines did not respond to the N&O’s e-mailed questions Monday or Tuesday, but the carrier is not the only airline with a recent infant-passenger snafu.
In July, a family got booted off a Delta flight when they declined to give up a 2-year-old’s seat and place him on a lap for an overbooked flight, according to Travel Noire.
On its website, American Airlines states that infants can fly for free in an adult’s lap, or they can occupy a safety seat or a separate aircraft seat.
This irritates Ketcham further because his wife and son flew to Michigan in economy class using a safety seat.
But on their upgraded return flight, the gate agent would not allow the safety seat arrangement they had already used without any problem, and they gave the boy’s seat to another passenger.
No one gave them an explanation, he said, and when he called later, the airline didn’t understand, either.
Air travel is suffering in general this summer, Fortune reports, largely because of staff shortages. But after federal aid kept them afloat, airlines have failed to rebound due to large numbers of staff they encouraged to leave during the pandemic slowdown.
A 2022 J.D. Power survey found passenger satisfaction declining across the board.
American Airlines ranked last of seven in the first/business class index. For economy class, American ranked 10th of 12 behind first-place Southwest.
After what Ketcham called “the worst apology,” he figured American had somebody on standby for the upgrade list and targeted the most vulnerable passenger unable to complain.
If the family had planned for a long lap trip, that would be one thing. But for Ketcham, to plan around problems and find them anyway is doubly insulting.
This story was originally published August 9, 2022 11:52 AM.
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