EAGAN, Minn. - Single parent Jennifer DeYoung keeps a close watch on her 6-year-old son Avery. That is why she became so upset February 20 while flying to a vacation in Orlando, Florida.
DeYoung said she had booked a package deal that included flights, hotel and rental car on the website Orbitz. The flights were to be on Delta Airlines. She said she requested that she and Avery be seated together on the plane.
"On the boarding pass it stated that we were sitting in different rows," recalled DeYoung. She complained to Delta personnel at Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport. "The gate agent looked and saw that it was a full flight. He told me that the flight attendants should be able to do something for me, but to go on the plane."
However, DeYoung said the flight attendants were less than helpful. She called them "rude."
"The flight attendant told me 'Ma'am, do you want to get on another flight?' and it was the last flight of the night. So, I started crying, and I had to go sit down and that was it. And finally after about 45 minutes later a different passenger towards the back of the plane offered to give me their seat." DeYoung said she and Avery were finally reunited after being out of each other's sight through the takeoff.
"I was scared that my Mom was going to be crying the whole flight," said Avery. He had been seated between two adult strangers, who he described as "nice."
Regardless, DeYoung was angry. "If I were to leave (Avery) out of my sight anywhere else for 45 minutes, it would almost be neglect and you never know who is sitting next to your child.
"A woman, actually, sitting the next row over offered to switch seats, so I could at least see him and the flight attendant said 'No, you (the other woman) paid for those seats, didn't you?'," said DeYoung.
DeYoung said she believes the problem is the result of new policies that charge extra for many aisle or window seats on airlines. "And it is harder for families to be able to sit together," said DeYoung.
DeYoung said Delta personnel she spoke with before and after the flight told her that the airline had a policy of guaranteeing that children sit next to their parent/parents on a plane only if the child were five or younger. However, Delta spokesperson Morgan Durrant told KARE 11's Allen Costantini on Friday that Delta has no such policy.
Durrant forwarded a statement about the situation: "Delta apologizes for the experience and is following up directly with the customer. Delta people strive to seat families together whenever possible and customers who purchase travel directly from Delta have an opportunity to select seat assignments at the time of purchase. We encourage customers who purchase Delta travel from a third party to visit Delta.com or call us immediately after the purchase is made to receive seat assignments."
DeYoung said the vacation in Orlando went well, but on the return flight on February 27, she encountered the same problem of different seating rows for herself and Avery. She said she was lucky. "The person that was supposed to sit next to me ended up not showing up and then they let him sit next to me."
DeYoung remains annoyed more than two weeks later. "I had never heard of a policy that a child who is not even able to read or understand the safety procedures could sit apart from their family. I think, if you book together, as a family, you should be able to sit together. If they need to put age requirements on it, maybe 10-12, at least where the child is able to understand the safety procedures."
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