Why Did American Airlines Make Me Move My Childs Safety Seat So Someone Could Recline
Planning ahead can go a long way when it comes to reducing the amount of stress parents face when flying with their young children. At least that was Beccas thought when she researched and decided to pay extra so her 7-month-old son could travel rear-facing in his safety seat on a recent American Airlines flight. Despite Federal Aviation Administration rules and Americans own policies things didnt go as planned when a flight attendant ordered Becca to move the child seat so the passenger in the row in front of her could recline.
Becca tells Consumerist that she purchased three seats for the flight from Honolulu to Los Angeles in May specifically so her sons car seat could be rear-facing, per safety stipulations for children under one year of age.
After examining FAA guidelines and those of American Airlines, she felt confident paying an additional $300 for her son to have his own seat so that his rear-facing carseat would fit comfortably.
Under those FAA rules, parents are urged to secure their child in a hard-backed child restraint seat (CRS) or device for the entire flight. Based on the FAA suggestions, children under 20 pounds should be in a rear-facing safety seat. Beccas son weighed 17.5 pounds at the time of the flight.
Per American Airlines own policies, infants can either be held by a parent, or by someone who is at least 16 years old, or have their own reserved seat with a safety seat approved by the FAA.
These seats must have a solid back and seat, restraint straps installed to securely hold the child and a label indicating approval for use on an aircraft, and be installed per the label on the carrier.
Beccas sons carseat met these requirements, and was placed aft-facing per the label.
The flight started smoothly, but shortly after takeoff Becca said she received unexpected pushback from the flights crew and another passenger.
American Airlines jeopardized the safety of my infant so that a passenger could recline their seat, Becca recalled. The seat in front of my infant was an emergency row seat where the female had about 6 feet of leg room, but she wanted to recline her seat. My carseat prevented that, which upset this passenger.
Becca said the woman asked if she could do something about the carseat, to which she said she couldnt, informing her fellow passenger that per the carseat label she couldnt move it to the forward-facing position.
According to the FAA guideline, a CRS must be installed in a forward-facing aircraft seat, in accordance with instructions on the label. This includes placing the CRS in the appropriate forward- or aft-facing direction as indicated on the label for the size.
Despite following these rules and pointing out the label which includes a red line stating this restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft Becca says a flight attendant continued to argue with me and requested that she adjust the carseat to allow for the patrons seat to recline.
While Americans policy notes that safety seats cant be used in exit rows or the rows directly next to one, she was able to purchase the seat specifically for that reason and wasnt informed of any issue prior or after take off. Additionally, per the FAA, if an approved CRS, for which a ticket has been purchased, does not fit in a particular seat on the aircraft, the airline is responsible for accommodating the CRS in another seat in the same class of service.
That option wasnt provided to Becca, and the flight attendant moved her sons carseat diagonally, as it would not fit any other way. At this point, the safety seat was at a big incline.
I do not understand why this passengers comfort was more important than my childs safety, says Becca, who tried, after the flight, to bring the incident to Americans attention.
She says the airline ignored her until she commented on the American Facebook page. Eventually, the airline offered her 10,000 rewards miles, but she says that would only cover about one-third of the ticket shed paid full price for.
This kind of treatment is not only unfair, it is extremely unsafe, she says. American put my child at risk. I bought a seat on purpose, and all of this occurred so that one customer could recline two inches.
Team Seat Recliners continues to be the worst of humanity.A spokesperson for the FAA tells Consumerist that no airline may prohibit a child from occupying an FAA approved Child Restraint System, if certain conditions are met.
A child safety seat should be installed in compliance with FAA regulations and the airlines FAA-approved procedures, the spokesperson continued. The FAA is reviewing the incident with the airline and will take appropriate action.