Airline apologizes to North Jersey mom over seat dispute
A Short Hills mother has received an apology from United Airlines for the humiliating way she believes her 3-year-old daughter, with cerebral palsy, was treated on a flight from the Dominican Republic.
As an interview with "CBS This Morning" was about to begin Wednesday, Elit Kirschenbaum received a phone call from a United representative she described as "incredibly compassionate and incredibly apologetic." Late Thursday night Elit tweeted a thank you to United for their apology. "Thank you @United for your apology to my family and I on behalf of your airline and the offending flight attendant," she posted.
The problems for Kirschenbaum began on a Tuesday afternoon flight home with her 4 children age 11, 8, 6 and 3 and husband and niece according to a story posted on her Tumblr account. She was told by a flight attendant that Ivy, 3, needed to be sitting in a seat and not in Elit's lap per Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
Elit explained that although she had a ticket Ivy cannot sit up by herself and that sitting on her mother's lap had not been an issue on other United flights. The attendant's discussion with her fellow crew members developed into an argument over the rules before the pilot brokered a compromise: Ivy would be buckled into a seat and lay across her father's lap.
ABC News reporter Jake Tapper brought the tweet to United's attention and described as "cold" their one-sentence Twitter response explaining that safety regulations require passengers 2-years-old and above to have their own seat. A Twitter war erupted with support for both sides of the incident.
Elit told her story on "Good Morning America" on New Year's Day and said,"I don't want free flights and I'm not interested in contacting a lawyer as some people have suggested I should. I just want the airline to apologize.”
The airline also posted an apology to the family, explaining the FAA regulations on Wednesday and defending the unidentified flight attendant's action. "FAA regulation requires everyone over the age of 24 months to sit in his/her own seat for taxi, takeoff and landing. There is no exception in the regulations or in the United flight attendant manual that allows a lap child over the age of 2 under any circumstances.," the airline wrote. "Flight attendants are required by law to adhere to the safety regulations."
Kirschenbaum is apparently willing to give United another chance and told CBS the entire family is flying United to Mexico for a vacation and will bring an FAA-approved car seat for Ivy.
- Mom of Child With Special Needs Says Airline 'Humiliated' Family / ABC News
- Parents of child with special needs humiliated on United Airlines flight / CBS This Morning
- N.J. parents claim handicapped daughter was 'humiliated' on flight / NJ.com