We were kicked off the 747-400 because they refused to allow a car seat on board and my two year old son was incapable of staying in his coffin-like seat. We were told we were a security threat, threatened to be left behind and accused of not following crew instructions.
We were flying back from China on a vacation that was business related. I had my wife, Christine, our baby sitter Kathleen and our two boys, Max, age five (5) and Rex age two (2). We flew to China by Cathay Pacific. We took on our child’s FAA approved car seat and with Rex strapped in he slept the entire way to Hong Kong. Such was not be the same on the way back.
We flew business class. I paid nearly $20,000 just for the tickets. Full fare each way. So we get aboard the new 747-400 and the seats are arranged in a herringbone pattern. Walls separate each seat from each other like little coffins. I put the car seat in and began to get Rex in his seat when I am told no car seats allowed. I explained that Rex is 2. He does not have the mental capacity to sit alone and the seats that they have would strangle him or allow him to unbuckle himself. There is a three point harness on the 747-400 that is at the right level to strangle children. When I had no luck in demonstrating that the seat was FAA approved and was the only safe way to fly, two fellow passengers stepped in: an attorney from Fulbright & Jaworski and another passenger who heads a hedge fund came to our aid to negotiate with the airline. I took the car seat out as they requested and then sat Rex in his seat – as if right on cue, he reclined the entire chair flat and unbuckled himself – we did this three times.
First class seats that had forward facing chairs were not offered to us.
After 30 minutes the captain eventually comes down and seemed to agree that the car seat was the safest. Yet his crew told him the rules, the rules must be followed (I guess that is what you get in a communist country) so faced with a crew who refused to allow us to use the car seat – the captain takes a vote of his crew – they kicked us off.
We are taken from the plane and not told of making any new arrangements. My wife is crying, my son Max who loved the seats was traumatized. Rex was loving the attention and I was left feeling helpless. I was, as father the guy who remains calm, who has the answers and relies on logic and reason – yet, here I was thousands of miles away from justice and a bill of rights and totally at the mercy of the Cathay Pacific manager, Andrew Man. I was essentially alone and had to put up the face of cool, calm and collect Jim Daily. It was all that I could bear. I stood at the window looking out at the 747 as it pulled away while surrounded by Cathay Pacific employees.
The Airport Duty Manager, Mr. Andrew Man was introduced to us. In our conversation he threatened my wife and I. He told us we were a security threat – that we had violated an order of the crew (he never told us what since we followed everything they asked us to do) He told us we were not going to get on any other flights and continued to claim we were somehow a threat -to date we know of no order that we failed to follow.
I believe that people need to know that the Boeing 747-400 is unsafe for travel by children. That the airline has no capability of providing for a toddler and no answer to the problem of an incompetent individual sitting aboard their plane. The airline allowed our son to fly in his car seat from the USA – they sold our son the ticket – then without our knowledge, without any input from us or warning to us at anytime, they refused him the only safe way to fly. Further they had all sorts of rules, but no common sense.
Threatening my family because they had no answer – how does a toddler fly if not on his car seat strapped in so he cannot let himself out?
Here is the e-mail I wrote while in their custody awaiting another flight…they did get us out on another aircraft that had all forward facing seats.
Dear Mr. Man:
Thank you for speaking to me after our my wife Christine, son Maxwell age (5), son Rexford age (2) and our baby sitter, Kathleen D. were told to disembark from the plane because our son Rexford would not be able to sit in his car seat and risked injury to himself and others by his being placed into his seat unattended.
You have advised me that I, my wife, our sons or our baby sitter violated a safety regulation by not following the instructions of captain or crew. The actual allegation of what we did or did not do was not clear to me.
Nevertheless I disagree with any such claim and would appreciate a copy of any such report of the incident so that I may address such claim directly.
Please forward a copy of any such report to my office. I reiterate that we followed all directions from the crew. When they told us to stow the car seat, we did. The delay, if any, was that our son kept getting out of his seat. This did not make us feel that our child was safe in such situation and we addressed that with your crew and the captain. Our son Rex sat alone in the seat and unbuckled himself no less than three times while your crew was there. We were never informed before boarding that car seats were not allowed and we do not believe that your plane was designed for children age 2 to sit in business class – the seats are unsafe at any speed. A child is subject to strangulation or decapitation by sitting in such seat. Car seats are the safest seat for them. Your company should revisit its policy in this regard.
We look forward to an uneventful flight out. The entire affair has left us exhausted, stressed and saddened by the entire experience. We hope that some good will come of this.
Please contact me if you are interested in any further information concerning this matter. Our home phone number is [redacted]
The airline staff being misinformed about the car seat is one thing, but there’s no need for the airport manager to get all huffy and tell James that he poses a security threat. At best, that’s uncalled for and at worst its an abuse of airport procedures. Oh, you’re disagreeing with me? You must be a security threat. Someone call the 9/11 commission.