The airline takes the child’s seat in first class and puts him on his lap

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A row of American Airlines jets rests on the tarmac as seen from the roof of the seventh floor parking lot at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on the morning of Friday, July 1, 2022.

atrickett-wile@charlotteobserver

For his young son’s first flight, Timothy Ketcham took extra measures to ensure comfort and safety by buying the 6-month-old his own seat in first class

But when it came time to board the American Airlines flight to Charlotte, the plans went awry: the boy didn’t have a seat and had to fly for two hours on his mother’s lap.

“I know why,” said Ketcham, whose father is from Willow Springs. “So they can put more people on the plane, right?”

No refunds, no explanations

The Ketchum family’s aerial worries add to the summer of discontent in the skies, which are now crowded with post-pandemic vacationers.

To date, Ketchum has not been satisfied. No return. No explanation. Just a bonus air miles offer.

The situation particularly irks Ketchum because he took precautions for a seamless flight in late July between Charlotte and his wife’s family in Michigan, spending extra time and money.

American Airlines did not respond to N&O’s questions by email Monday or Tuesday, but the carrier is not the only airline that has recently encountered infant passengers.

In July, a family was kicked off a Delta flight when they refused to give up their 2-year-old’s seat and put him on their laps on an overbooked flight, according to Travel Noire.

American Airlines says on its website that infants can fly free on an adult’s lap, or they can occupy a safety seat or a separate seat on the plane.

American Airlines at CLT Airport
A row of American Airlines jets sits on the tarmac as seen from the roof of the seventh-floor parking garage at Charlotte Douglas International Airport on the morning of Friday, July 1, 2022. Arthur H. Trickett-Wyle atrickett-wile@charlotteobserver

This annoys Ketcham even more because his wife and son flew to Michigan in economy class in the safety seat.

But on the upgraded return flight, the departure agent wouldn’t let them move the seat they were already using without a problem, and they gave up the boy’s seat to another passenger.

No one gave them an explanation, he said, and when he called later, the airline didn’t understand either.

Dissatisfied passengers

Air travel in general is suffering this summer, Fortune reports, mainly due to staff shortages. But after federal aid kept them afloat, airlines have been unable to recover because of the large numbers of staff they were told to lay off as the pandemic slowed.

2022 year Survey by JD Power found that passenger satisfaction is declining across the board.

American Airlines ranked last out of seven in the first/business class index. For economy class, American ranked 10th out of 12, behind first-place Southwest.

After what Ketchum called “the worst apology ever,” he figured American had someone on standby for the upgrade list and targeted the most vulnerable passenger who couldn’t complain.

If the family planned a long trip, that would be one thing. But for Ketcham, planning problems and finding them is still doubly offensive.

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Josh Shaffer is a general assignment reporter on call for “talkies”—stories you can discuss over the water cooler. He has been with The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about extraordinary people and places.



The airline takes the child’s seat in first class and puts him on his lap

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