A family who went on a dream holiday to the US were told they couldn’t sit with their three young children, aged just 2, 4 and 6.
The family were stranded abroad after United Airlines refused to let the family sit together. Lois Herbert and her family took a trip of a lifetime to the US to celebrate her 30th birthday, but the trip came to a disastrous end when they arrived at Denver airport and were told something was wrong with their booking.
The family spared no expense on their £30,000 holiday, even upgrading the seven plane tickets to economy plus. When they arrived at the airport to fly home, staff at United Airlines told the family that the entire party had been bumped down to normal economy seats, and to make matters worse, the seats were scattered across the plane. The airline refused to move the children’s seats next to their parents and an argument erupted in the airport.
Lois told the Mirror: “We had paid for upgrades so we could all sit together but some of us were sat in normal economy,” said Lois, who works in social media and marketing. There was no way our kids were going to be sat away from us. I said ‘I don’t care where you sit us but you have to sit us together’. The manager just didn’t care. She said it didn’t work like that. She said there were no rules about minors having to sit with their parents.”
The parents were so concerned that the young children would not be able to cope sitting by themselves, they refused to board the plane and had to stay in a nearby hotel for a further three nights. Despite numerous attempts to have their booking changed to flights over the next two days, United refused to seat the family together. “The kids wouldn’t have coped by themselves, “she said. “If I put them down next to a stranger there would have been a melt-down when we walked away. I didn’t know who would be sat next to them. Had they all been vetted? I told the manager that there could have been a paedophile sat next to my two-year old for all we know, she said that hardly ever happens here.”
Despite the US Government passing the Families Flying Act in 2015, requiring airlines to seat parents and their children together, the Federal Airline Authority is yet to enforce the legislation. Currently, airlines are allowed to charge extra to parents who want to be sat next to their children.
A spokeswoman for United said the family were given Economy Plus tickets as a complimentary gesture and that adjustments were made to their reservations – including a name change – which impacted seat assignment. She said: “Due to a lack of seven available seats together on the flight from Denver to London, our customer service agents offered alternative flight arrangements. We re-booked these customers on the first available flight that offered seats together and provided hotel and meal vouchers. We continue to remain in contact with our customers to resolve this issue.”
Lois said they were not given a complimentary upgrade and that the family has proof of paying for the upgrade. The reservation changes happened at Heathrow on the outbound flight due to an administrative error by airport staff there, she claimed. She also said the airline had not been in contact.