A middle school teacher from Hawaii says she was forced to hold her 25-pound toddler for an entire flight after United Airlines gave away her son’s $1,000 seat to a standby passenger.
Shirley Yamauchi, 42, who was in Houston for a five-hour layover during her trip from Hawaii to Boston on June 29, boarded a United flight with her 27-month-old son when a standby passenger approached and said that her son, Taizo, was in their seat, according to NBC News.
Though Yamauchi said she purchased both tickets for almost $1,000 each since children over the age of two require their own seat, she claimed when she notified a flight attendant about the situation, the attendant simply shrugged and said the flight was full.
As the flight readied for departure, and with no assistance from attendants, Yamauchi lifted Taizo onto her lap, where he would stay for the next three-and-a-half hours.
“It was unsafe, uncomfortable and unfair,” Yamauchi told NBC News. “I couldn’t believe it was happening to me.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, United Airlines spokesperson, Jonathan Guerin, said: “This should not have happened. We sincerely apologize to Ms. Yamauchi and her son and we are refunding their tickets and providing additional compensation. We take our commitment to customer safety very seriously, and are currently reviewing the details of the incident.”
United Airlines has made several headlines in recent months. In April, the airline came under fire when officers from the Chicago Department of Aviation dragged 69-year-old David Dao from a flight at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to make room for airline employees. Dao’s violent removal was filmed by fellow passengers and spread across social media, and eventually led to an undisclosed settlement between the airline and Dao.
On that same day, another United passenger was attacked by a scorpion while he was eating lunch mid-flight. Just last month, Emily France’s four-month-old son, Owen, was hospitalized after rising temperatures on their delayed United plane caused him to go “limp” during a heatwave.
“Those are things that happen to other people. They don’t happen to you,” Yamauchi told NBC News “I had hoped United had changed their policy after the Dr. Dao incident.”
Once the plane landed, Yamauchi informed United representatives about what happened and was given various responses. She claims one agent suggested that she should have said something while she was on board.
United reportedly contacted Yamauchi and told her that her son’s ticket will be refunded and she will be sent a travel voucher for the incident.