Mother kicked off United flight in infant carrier spat

By Associated Press
Posted Jan. 28 at 6:07 a.m.

Federal safety officials urge parents to put their children in child seat on planes, but a California mother says that twice in the last month she has been thwarted by airlines when she tried to do the right thing.

Melissa Bradley, 39, said she was forced off a United Airlines flight at San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday in a dispute over an economy-class row too narrow to accommodate an infant carrier for her 1-year-old daughter.

Bradley was involved in a similar incident two days before Christmas on a Skywest flight from Aspen, Colo., to San Francisco, although she wasn’t asked to leave the plane in that instance.

Bradley, who has three older children, said she has been using infant and child seats on planes for years without a hitch until the recent incidents. She said she buys separate seats for her children because she worries that she won’t be able to hold them in her lap if the plane encounters turbulence.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman has been campaigning for regulations that would require all infants and young children be secured in child seats on planes rather than allowed to fly in a parent’s lap. She has said that children deserve the same safety protections as seat-belted adults.

A Transportation Department aviation advisory panel recommended last month that the Federal Aviation Administration conduct a new study of the issue. Glen Tilton, chairman of United’s parent company, UAL Corp., was a member of the panel.

United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said Bradley and her traveling party were removed from Flight 75 to Honolulu on Wednesday because she was causing a disruption by taking pictures.

Bradley said she took a picture of the narrow row because an FAA inspector with whom she spoke after the Skywest incident had asked her if she had a picture. She denied that she was disruptive.

Bradley, who owns a real estate firm in Marin County, said she called a United customer service executive two weeks before the Honolulu flight to ask what she needed to do to make sure she’d be able to use the infant carrier. She said she was told to simply to let United employees know when she checked in, which she did. But when she boarded the Boeing 777, she discovered the rows in economy seating were too close together to accommodate the Graco Snug Ride infant carrier, which is approved for airline use.

Johnson acknowledged that the rows were too close together for the carrier, but he said Bradley couldn’t be moved to wider row because those seats were full.

United rebooked her, her family and their traveling companions on a later flight to Honolulu, Bradley said. The rows were far enough apart on that plane to accommodate the carrier, she said.

“Honestly, this was the last thing I wanted to have happen on that plane,” Bradley said. “I begged them to accommodate me.”

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  1. Abbie Jan. 28 at 7:39 a.m.

    The most annoying person on Earth is a mom with a “cause”.

  2. Rich K Jan. 28 at 7:42 a.m.

    Misleading story – kicked off. She was re-scheduled. Lets get dramatic AP.

  3. Scott Jan. 28 at 8:02 a.m.

    Good for her!! Airlines have been abusing passengers for years and we have little recourse but to take the abuse.

  4. foodie Jan. 28 at 8:04 a.m.

    With her other kids in the row, why couldn’t she simply lift up the armrests? Maybe there is more to this story. I have flown with toddler seats, which are bigger. Or does United have ’special seats’ for those people travelling on frequent flyer miles, packing them in like sardines to Hawaii.

  5. Pat M Jan. 28 at 8:06 a.m.

    Misleading indeed. The headline should’ve been “Airlines Don’t Obey Their Own Rules”, with the sub-head “And You Get Punished Instead”.

  6. nancy Jan. 28 at 8:20 a.m.

    Yea, the title is misleading – it sounds like she did everything correctly and it was the airlines screw up. It doesn’t sound like she needs the money, so if she had kids with her I’m sure she just wanted to get to her destination. She was disruptive because she was taking pictures???? what????

  7. 007 Jan. 28 at 8:22 a.m.

    Amen, Abbie, Amen.

  8. Charlie Jan. 28 at 8:51 a.m.

    Marin County. That says it all. An entitled pain in the a–. When is the lawsuit. United and Skywest should dump this pain in the neck. Instead she will sue.

    Take a private plane to Aspen or Hawaii instead and you can sit in the back and b-tch to yourself.

  9. cs Jan. 28 at 8:57 a.m.

    A snugride is only approved to be installed REAR-facing by Graco, whether on a plane or car. That means that with its required recline, it takes up a lot more space front-to-back (rather than side-to-side) than a forward-facing convertible seat. No matter what you do, it’s going to be jammed up against the seat in front of it, and a few inches too little and it’s not going to fit.

  10. rod paulson Jan. 28 at 9:09 a.m.

    I’m sure she was a real “sweetie” with the flight attendants………..angry mothers on a mission.

  11. gl Jan. 28 at 9:46 a.m.

    To those of you who clearly don’t understand what’s going on here: this woman paid for a seat for her infant, and she tried to use the infant seat that is approved and encouraged by the airline. In this case, the airline even assured her it would work. Everyone who’s traveled much recently knows that the airlines have, on some planes, moved economy rows closer together to pack more passengers on the plane. In doing so, they created a few “Economy Plus” rows with the original (or perhaps slightly larger) spacing for which you can pay more — in this case, the carrier would have fit in an Economy Plus row, but it sounds like the Economy Plus was full. United messed up in assuring her that her carrier would be OK, and they handled it poorly. What an awful way to begin a vacation. Traveling with children is hard enough! I can’t understand why so many of you are reacting so harshly. She paid for a service and didn’t get it. Many of you could stand to try a little sympathy.

  12. wings9798 Jan. 28 at 10:01 a.m.

    Seems like she paid for her Economy seat and knew the car seat would not fit there and would need to be ‘upgraded’ to economy plus w/o having to pay. Her asking to be accommodated confirms this and as she has flown recently she knows economy plus would hold the seat.

    So to you that say she paid and should be allowed to fly. I disagree she knew the seat wouldn’t fit in Economy and needed the E-Plus. She should have paid for it. She was looking for the upgrade without paying.

  13. Jay Jan. 28 at 10:11 a.m.

    Some of you people are unbelievable. Way to rail against someone who wants to put her kid in a child seat. Yeah, protecting your infant from being thrown against the ceiling of a plane during severe turbulence is a “cause.” Do you all work for United or something? Live and let live, *ssholes.

  14. Southern Jan. 28 at 10:40 a.m.

    I say, ban all children under 5 from the planes.. that way everyone would be comfortable.

  15. Frequent Flier Jan. 28 at 10:51 a.m.

    United flight attendents are the worst I’ve run across in the industry. They do what they want, tell you what they want -regardless of policy, and blame anyone but themselves. If you ask a question to get clarity you are “disruptive”. They are generally quick to kick people off flights and/or report to FAA. I have quit flying them and luckily American transferred my top status and club membership to their brand. No love loss

  16. Mike Jan. 28 at 10:55 a.m.

    I agree with Jay. I had my own run-in with United recently, and it was hugely unpleasant. I admit, overzealous moms do annoy me, but my GOD..she’s trying to do right to protect her little tykes! I can only hope that Continental has some influence on United’s “Un-tied” gawd-awful customer service agents, policies, etc. I find it hugely ironic that this story revolves around the airline that heroic flight attendant Jan Brown Lohr worked for — she tirelessly fought for a seat for every child after United’s policy of holding an infant on the floor in an emergency landing resulted in the death of an infant in the Sioux City DC-10 crash years ago. Shame on United.

  17. ChicagoR Jan. 28 at 11:01 a.m.

    I don’t see why people have to drag their little kids on airplanes all the time. They just scream the entire time and make it uncomfortable for everyone. An infant isn’t going to enjoy Hawaii anyway. Until they are old enough to travel and behave well, leave them at home.

  18. Independent Jan. 28 at 11:37 a.m.

    She had a problem on her Skywest flight but wasn’t asked to leave. So what did she/they do then? So she was fully aware that the carrier has size issues on aircraft yet she still insists on using it for the UA flight?

    Sounds like she is one of those “me first” PIA type of people who like to complain if everything doesn’t go her way and then blames everybody else for her problems.

    United did the right thing by rebooking her. It’s not that the flight crew wants to be difficult – they have to follow FAA rules. Anybody that flies regularly knows that travel can be a less than perfect experience and you need to be flexible at times.

  19. RegularGuy Jan. 28 at 11:41 a.m.

    United knows (or should know) that its seat pitch (the space between rows of seats) is not adequate to allow the use of an FAA-approved infant seat. What United has done is jam those rows so close together to increase revenue that they’ve undercut FAA regulations.

    The woman may be a PITA, but her point is still valid. An approved infant seat should fit on an airliner – otherwise the airline should be sanctioned.

  20. Andy Jan. 28 at 11:58 a.m.

    1. She pays extra for a seat for her baby. 2. United recommends safety seats. 3. The seat is approved by the FAA. 4. She called in advance to confirm it would be okay and they said it would be.

    She got shafted. Any safety seat approved by the FAA should fit on ANY plane. “Safety” “recommended” “pay extra” get it?

    Planes should be required to have a certain number of seats that will fit safety seats. Since you have to specify the age of the child when you purchase the ticket and babies are required to be in these things if they have their own seats, they know as soon as you buy the ticket what you will need. If the plane didn’t have any seats that could accommodate an infant safety seat, then she shouldn’t have been able to purchase the ticket in the first place.

    She did nothing wrong. United owes her an apology.

  21. Casablanca Jan. 28 at 12:00 pm

    I feel sorry for her troubles. I know tis hard traveling with kids. But I bet she is real hot and i wouldnt mind giving her a seat on my lap

  22. Smartypants Jan. 28 at 12:00 pm

    Buy a seat in Economy Plus.

  23. Silvia Jan. 28 at 12:22 pm

    I had very bad experience with United regarding traveling with a child. I traveled with my 6 years old overseas. They gave us separate seats 10 rows apart – for a mother and 6 years old kid. After the check in I asked them why we did not get seats assigned and they told me to wait to be called.
    When they called us (we were last) I found out that our seats were 10 rows apart. I asked the flight attendant for help, but she said she can not do anything and I need to talk to the other passangers if they agree to switch. Neither of the passangers wanted to switch until my dautgher started crying and one agree to switch.
    The bottom line is that the situation was handled poorly by the United flight attendands.

  24. Karl Jan. 28 at 12:50 pm

    Andy and gl get it, many of the rest of you do not. The United spokesman definitely doesn’t get it. The airline messed up when they assured her that they could accomodate the child seat and then did not do so on the reserved flight. I hope that when a United executive reads this, they:
    1. Take actions to make sure that this doesn’t happen to any customers in the future; and
    2. If they have not already done so, either refund the fares paid by the customer for the entire family or offer them complimentary future travel.

  25. Shannon Jan. 28 at 12:59 pm

    United seems to have a major problem with children. I recently flew home from Atlanta to ORD and a family was kicked off the plane, delaying us by hours in the process because the toddler aged child had been screaming for maybe 30 minutes during the taxi process. This kid was screaming as if he was being tortured and yes, it was hard to listen to, but the kid was moved on this half-empty flight to his own space (he’d been a lap kid) and 10 minutes after that — he fell asleep and was quiet. Maybe 40 minutes later we ended up back at the gate and a management type came on the plane and told the family they had to disembark. Everyone around me (and we were maybe 3 rows away from the family) was outraged, but what are you doing to do? Any comments about being unfair will get you in trouble or even removed yourself. One of the flight staff finally made an annoucement about this after they had left the plane and called it a “safety” issue and said it wasn’t personal. And, of course, we were about 2 hours late. It was the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen in my life. I will never fly United again and I don’t even have any kids. I think they should just make themselves a kid-free airline and let it stand at that.

  26. another mom that won't fly Jan. 28 at 1:39 pm

    I have had this problem as well when traveling with young children and putting them in car seats. Even Economy Plus is hard for a rear facing car seat and almost broke mine when the person in front reclined back. front facing seats, if someone reclines back they have pinned my kids legs.

    At this time – I won’t fly with my kids because the car seats don’t fit. This was with United as well as other airlines. And I am getting so used to planning trips without flying, I doubt I would start even when I don’t need car seats for the kids.

  27. FAL Jan. 28 at 2:07 pm

    Actually the ‘economy plus’ which you refer to DOES NOT have wider seats. There are a few more inches of leg room. Also originally when that idea originated with United they would try and in most cases did leave the center seat in those rows empty for their frequent fliers. Eventually when they realized, i assume, that they could collect more revenue they filled all those seats with extra charges to sit there. But back to the original comment, those seats are the same narrow width as the rest of the plane.

  28. DaveChgo Jan. 28 at 2:43 pm

    Wow – some of you people are amazing. This is my favorite:

    “I don’t see why people have to drag their little kids on airplanes all the time. They just scream the entire time and make it uncomfortable for everyone. An infant isn’t going to enjoy Hawaii anyway. Until they are old enough to travel and behave well, leave them at home.”

    So let me understand this. If I have little kids (I do), I should not be allowed to fly with them. So no vacations or trips to relatives until they are older? Well maybe there’s a workhouse or something that I could leave my 10 month old and five year old in? Or is this paragon of humanity suggesting I just leave them home alone and let the little varmints fend for themselves? While very Dickensian of ChicagoR, it’s not terribly consistent with 21st Century America.

    And yes, I have always bought seats for my kids and brought car seats for them on the plane (including United). The worst that’s every happened is the person in the seat in front can’t recline fully. Boohoo. Courteous people these days try to limit their reclining anyway because planes have become so darned tight.

  29. Lily Jan. 28 at 3:05 pm

    Ok first of I was on the plane and there is A whole OTHER SIDE TO THIS story. I was in the row before this woman. The agents were so nice. It was the base of the carseat that didn’t fit and both agents were very polite even though this woman was screaming about FAA regulations. But they offered to just gate check the BASE so she could still have her carseat. BUT she was so busy yelling and talking about regulations that she just kept yelling NO. The agents were so calm and patient with her. A gentleman even offered from 2 rows away to give her his aisle seat and HE would even sit in the middle seat. But she refused. This woman seems to me to be looking for compensation and made all of us mothers travelling with infants LOOK BAD! I smell LAWSUIT and that’s what she’s doing.

  30. Ghost Dawg Jan. 28 at 3:07 pm

    God damn most of you people are idiots.

    This forum is more annoying than being on a plane with kids…all I hear is wah wah wah.

    Most of you broke *** people probably are the same hillbillies boarding the plane in jean shorts and a tank top while heading to Florida on FunJet once a year. All the while thinking you’re hot **** and entitled to whatever cuz, “you’re on vacation.” These are the worst people to fly with, not moms or kids. It’s the drunk **** that wants to party on a 7am flight to FFL.

    I fly all the time (10~20 times a year) and kids on planes do not bother me one bit…Quick suggestion for you whiners: break down, get a job, and buy some ANC headphones or earplugs.

    Recognize Fools –> A plane is essentially a glorified bus.

    As for this situation, this article is a piece of hot garbage that doesn’t tell enough of the story to make any judgments. But hey who’s into literacy and comprehension anyway.

    In Christ’s name we pray.

  31. Mr. Flight Jan. 28 at 3:12 pm

    This customer sounds like a real handful. I’m glad United offered to reschedule her–it’s her fault she didnt’ take it. Marin County Mommy. She looks really wound tight if you do a search for her you’ll see what I mean.

  32. Bridget Jan. 28 at 6:07 pm

    Unless you have the means to fly private, then you should have no expectation that an airline flight will do anything more than get you from Point A to Point B safely. You’re traveling with the masses, and as such, you have to take the good with the bad. I love when people give me the stink eye because one of my kids is crying. I happily give them the finger and ask them if they’d like me to address their fuking problem. Seems to shut people down rather quickly.

  33. bron009 Jan. 28 at 6:14 pm

    4 kids, wow she was busy

  34. Julio G Atlas Jan. 28 at 6:55 pm

    Maybe she should hire the guy who wrote “United Breaks Guitars” to write a song and video. If not, I’ll bet the commenters here could come up with some great titles and lyrics.

  35. blueyz Jan. 28 at 7:13 pm

    I agree with ChicagoR. My kids never flew anywhere. The first airplane ride was when they were 18. The kids that cannot sit, be quiet and ruin the beginning or end of any flight for everyone else should not be allowed to fly. Bad enough that Disney parks are filled with crying, whining, crabby kids. What does an infant remember or for that matter even belong in the parks. It’s the parents who are to blame. They want to relive their childhood and get a vacation. Go on a “staycation” in your own backyard and don’t ruin my vacation with your kids.

  36. Proud Papa Jan. 28 at 7:35 pm

    Whew. At least some people seem to understand what is truly at issue here. This mom was trying to travel in a safe way with her 1 year old — by using a FAA approved car seat — and the airline totally fell on its face. For those of you who have no idea how one of these car seats works, without the base, it is essentially useless. The base anchors everything down and is what actually makes the seat safe. Kudos to this mother for having the forseight to call the airline ahead of time, ask if there were any issues with using an FAA approved car seat, checking in with the airline at the gate and letting them know that she had a car seat to use. Shame on the airline for falling down each step of the way, and shame on you ignorant fools for assuming this is “a mother with a cause” and that she should not travel with her children . . . what at all? As far as taking a private plane . . . seriously, maybe you should take the private plane.

  37. LibGirl04 Jan. 28 at 9:05 pm

    I normally view mothers with stories like this as entitled attention-seekers. However, it seems like this mom really has her stuff together. Unless she’s lying, it appears that she did everything correctly, and it’s the airline that is completely in the wrong here. I hope everything works out for her.

  38. LibGirl04 Jan. 28 at 9:07 pm

    @Bridget – you really seem like a wonderful mom and a great role model. I’m sure your kids will never have problems in school or ever get in trouble with such a fantastic parent in their lives. —–> That was sarcasm, BTW.

  39. M. Kenney Jan. 29 at 7:14 a.m.

    @ Bridget: You are one of THOSE parents who could care less about others comfort and probably even bring your spawn to expensive restaurants and late night “R” rated movies and let them run amok. Why would you give a **** about anyone else, right?

    Urgh. It’s people like you who make me sick; Narcissistic, entitled and just plain rude. Go away and take your brats with you.

  40. Tom Jan. 29 at 9:09 a.m.

    It’s amazing that people are jumping on this woman simply because she wanted to put her child in a car seat for safety purposes! I give her credit for buying the seat to begin with, most will hold their child hoping they can get a seat for free if the plane isn’t full.

    This seat is FAA approved…. I would assume that would mean it would fit in an airline seat! Plus, this woman called ahead, she notified the people at the gate, and they did nothing! United Airlines totally blew this! Not surprising, they are a horrific airline run by complete idiots! Wonder why they lost money for years, look no further. The management is just clueless, and the way the handles this is proof.

    @Bridget…. surpised you found someone to have kids with. You’re a real “class” act. NOT!

  41. Abbie Jan. 29 at 9:47 a.m.

    @Lily, I’m so glad for your account. I just knew that it was something like this.
    So, we all agree. Ban kids from planes, and weddings and restaurants, and anywhere else I might happen to be in my day-to-day life.

  42. Rick Jan. 29 at 12:21 pm

    Thank you to Lily yesterday at 3:05 p.m. Here is more info about this woman:

    In this AP story she seems to “forget” to mention she belongs to flyersrights .org, while remembering to mention her real estate company in Marin County. Then the next day “someone” hires PR Newswire to print what looks like another “news article”. PR Newswire website says they are the global leader in news and information distribution services for professional communicators. Here is a link to that article:

    Notice the differences in this article. The PR Newswire article accuses United Airlines of violating FAA guidelines, when in fact United booked her on the next flight with roomier seats for her and her entire family. It says United forced them to wait for hours until the next flight, but neglects to mention United said she was disruptive before being removed from the plane. If she doesn’t get kicked off this flight and call the Associated Press, then nothing would have been printed. Only at the bottom do they mention that she belongs to flyers rights .org and they give contact numbers, and hers is the phone number to her real estate company. The article also states this: is currently reviewing all the options available to the Bradley family and other families that have been victims of this practice. Her husband just “happens” to be an attorney. I urge everyone to contact Melissa at the number provided and tell her your feelings about this matter.

  43. JerryH Jan. 29 at 1:38 pm

    It’s obvious the AP reporter writing this story came into it with the angle of “a mother who got screwed over by the airlines.” Then, when you really look at what happened, you realize that that’s not what happened at all. Yes, AP, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good PC story. The Trib really shouldn’t have even run shoddy journalism like this.

  44. alanauer Jan. 29 at 3:14 pm

    Reading the above is like watching an old Perry Mason episode. “The defendant is clearly, obviously, catagorically GUILTY!” “Really? Let’s look at …. So it’s obvious that the defendant is NOT GUILTY. Ane the truely guilty party? None other than the accuser!”

  45. george Jan. 30 at 10:56 a.m.

    Something needs to be done about parents with huge baby carriers and strollers. In Chicago, they use them on the busses and trains. they never dismantle them as reqired when the bus is crowded and dare anyone to say anything. When someone falls on one of these babies in a crib and the child is severely hurt, maybe then someone will do something about them. The worse are the double strollers, particularly when a four or five year old is in the stroller. These strollers should not be allowed in any public transportation vehicles.

  46. Karen Jan. 31 at 10:08 a.m.

    @ Rich K., if you are removed from a flight that you paid for, you are being kicked off. She was not a threat to the flight, she’s simply a mother trying to get from point A to B. As a single person traveling alone, if I had been taken off of that flight I would be very upset. To add insult to injury, she was a traveling mother- which I’m sure any mother could tell you how difficult it is to go to the grocery store with a young child, let alone travel with them. Kicking her off the flight, or “rescheduling” her is not convenient, necessary, or acceptable. I don’t think you’d be as understanding if it were you that were kicked off that flight.

  47. JPD Jan. 31 at 12:39 pm

    Banning all children from flying is more than drastic. (I admit to not enjoying screaming children on airplanes nor running around in restaurants). My son was a “lap baby”, I would make sure to give him something to drink or eat during takeoff to limit the pain of cabin pressure change. Coloring books, a fav toy, a book, …

    People nowadays are offended if someone at a neighboring table/seat attempts to correct behavior (“don’t stifle my child’s creativity”); when previously this was very accepted and showed children that other families also had certain expectations about behavior (home versus public-inside versus outside), as well as having a support net for both parents/children. Society was involved in educating.

    Parents teach their children how to behave and the importance of patience.

  48. Arica Primus Feb. 2 at 7:22 pm

    When I initially commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get 4 emails with the identical comment. Is there any way you possibly can take away me from that service? Thanks!