More than anything else, this video is maddeningly frustrating, in a deeply Kafkaesque manner. It shows a system where slavish adherence to literal rules has destroyed reason and decency, and the result is bad for everyone— the passengers directly involved, Delta, the other passengers on the plane, and probably you and I for even having to watch this. Delta kicked a family with two toddlers off a plane and threatened them with jail for no good reason.

Here’s what happened: Brian and Brittany Schear and their kids, from Huntington Beach, CA, were flying from Maui back to LAX. The Schears have three kids: a one-year-old, a two-year-old, and an 18-year-old son. Brian Schear had initially bought three seats on the flight, deciding to carry the youngest children in the laps of him and his wife.

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After realizing that carrying squirmy kids in your lap is no picnic, Schear decided that it would make more sense to let the two-year-old sit in his car seat on the plane, which, it should be mentioned, is recommended by the FAA.

So, they bought a seat on an earlier flight for their 18-year-old in order to free the seat for the two-year-old and his car seat. That makes sense, right? Seems like a decent plan?

That plan resulted in this reaction from Delta:

The fundamental issue Delta is citing is technically valid: their tickets are non-transferable, and it does say just that on their website:

So, okay, technically, Delta is within the terms of their contract to do what they did. I get that. Does that mean it was the right thing for them to do? Fuck, no.

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Brian Schear paid for the seat his toddler was in. He bought it for one son, and ended up replacing that son with another son. This is wrong, according to the literal rules of the ticket contract. According to the rules of real goddamn life, this should be just fine.

Delta is technically in the right, and in the wrong in every possible, callous, and self-destructive way. Had the Delta employees looked at the situation, maybe even confirmed that the other Schear son was on another flight, and saw that a two-year-old child was occupying the seat, and then decided, okay, fine, you know what would have happened?

The plane would have taken off on time, flown to LAX, and Delta would have had a flight full of satisfied customers.

Instead, because this man replaced one son for another on an airplane seat, Delta employees felt the best course of action would be to involve the police, threaten parents with jail time, and kick them off the plane, forcing them to spend around $2000 for flights the next day.

This is idiotic. Rules are important, sure, but strict enforcement of this particular rule, in light of the context, made what could have been a normal flight into a fucking disaster for a family with little kids and a PR fiasco for Delta.

The Delta representative that comes over “as a courtesy” to talk to the remarkably restrained dad is perhaps the most galling part of the exchange. She lies (either intentionally or via ignorance) about FAA regulations regarding a child sitting in a car seat on a plane, and while she says “I wish I could help you guys,” it’s clear she has zero intention of doing anything helpful for the family.

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Later in the video, the dad offers to just hold the kid as the Delta employee (incorrectly) said was required(5:47 in the video) and leave the seat he paid for vacant, but for some reason Delta decided that the best plan was to kick the family off the plane.

Also, while Delta was following their non-transferable ticket rule, they were also breaking an FAA General Operating and Flight rule, in the section 14 CFR 121.311—Seats, safety belts, and shoulder harnesses:

(2) Except as required in paragraph (c)(1) of this section, no certificate holder may prohibit a child, if requested by the child’s parent, guardian, or designated attendant, from occupying a child restraint system furnished by the child’s parent, guardian, or designated attendant provided -

Delta employees were prohibiting a child from occupying a child restraint system, no question.

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So, the passengers were breaking the non-transferable ticket rule, and Delta was breaking FAA rule § 121.311. Nobody’s an angel. You know what would have avoided all this shit in the first place?

If the Delta employees just used their fucking heads and said, “Okay, fine. Let the kid sleep. Time for takeoff.”

As far as why Delta was being such hard-asses about the useless (in this context) transferable ticket rule, CNN reports that 

“Delta says the flight was not overbooked, but there were passengers waiting to fly standby, which is why they were trying to make room on the flight.”

Delta released a statement about the event that read

“We are sorry for the unfortunate experience our customers had with Delta, and we’ve reached out to them to refund their travel and provide additional compensation. Delta’s goal is to always work with customers in an attempt to find solutions to their travel issues. That did not happen in this case and we apologize.”

I hope Delta executives are looking into the eye of this shitstorm and are maybe at least considering hiring employees that can interpret rules and their relevance to real-life situations better than a literal-minded robot whose head explodes when it hears a contradiction.

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Congratulations, Delta, you were sort of technically in the right when you threatened a family with two little kids with jail time. Bang-up job.

Dipshits.