A video of Delta ordering a dad and his family off a flight shows how customer issues can escalate

Camera’s rolling.
Camera’s rolling.
Image: Reuters/Jacky Naegelen
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Now it’s Delta’s turn.

Yet another video has surfaced showing the removal of passengers off a US  commercial flight. While it wasn’t a violent dragging like David Dao experienced aboard a United Airlines flight last month, this new video, apparently posted by the passenger, shows him being told by someone who appears to a Delta employee on a red-eye flight that the passenger and his wife ”will be in jail” if they do not give up a seat that the couple had given to one of their toddlers.

The passenger explains to a flight attendant and a security agent that he had purchased a ticket for his older son, but sent him home on an earlier flight from Maui to Los Angeles so that the family could use the seat for the younger son, who was in a carseat, something federal air safety officials recommend for very young passengers.

But tickets aren’t transferable, and the older son was technically a ”no show” passenger on the flight the rest of the family took, which means the airline could use the seat for another passenger. The passenger in the video is incredulous. “But I paid for that seat,” he says. “This is ridiculous.”

The man later asks if he can just hold the toddler in his arms, rather than occupying the seat in question, be eventually he is informed that he and his whole family must get off the plane. It’s the last flight out, the passenger says, and the family has no place to go. “At this point, you guys are on your own,” he is told.

Delta has not yet responded to Quartz’s request for comment and the email address appearing with the video, which was posted by someone claiming to be the passenger, wasn’t immediately answered. According to southern California TV station KTLA, the passenger in the video is Brian Schear, a resident of Huntington Beach, California. Delta told KTLA it is “sorry for what this family experienced” and has reached out to the family for more information and to “come to a resolution.”

US carriers have been on the defensive since the Dao incident. Learning a lesson from United’s various botched apologies to the violent dragging of Dao, American Airlines in late April quickly apologized after a video surfaced showing a mother in tears on one of its flights as she asked for the return of a stroller she had brought onto the plane. Details on what caused the conflict remain fuzzy, but the airline offered that an employee handling the situation had lacked “empathy” for the passenger.

Airlines wield enormous power over their passengers but recent incidents are putting this idea to the test. What is clear from this latest videos is that smartphones plus social media are adding up to a public relations nightmare for airlines.