It’s every grumpy passenger’s dream and every parent’s nightmare. An unhappy 3-year-old child and his undoubtedly unhappier father were kicked off an Alaska Airlines flight from Seattle to Miami over the Memorial Day weekend after the child wouldn’t stay buckled in his seat.
Mark Yanchuk of Everett, Wash., and his son Daniel were starting the first leg of their journey toward a family vacation in the Virgin Islands. The boy’s mother, grandmother and younger sibling were seated in first class, while the toddler and his dad sat in coach. While the plane was at the gate, the boy happily played with an iPad, but when the airline requested all electronic devices be turned off, the trouble started. The toddler was unhappy that his toy was taken away and his father couldn’t get him settled. Alaska Airlines spokesman Paul McElroy told MSNBC that flight attendants went to check on the father and the boy several times before departure to try to help calm the child, but Daniel was cranky and, like many 3-year-olds, wouldn’t sit up in the oversize seat and allow himself to be buckled in. In defense of the flight crew’s actions, McElroy noted that, “The [seat] belt was across his neck and the flight attendants were worried that he would begin to choke himself.” Yanchuk said he would never allow his son to get into such a precarious position.
The child was finally properly seated and the plane pulled back from the gate, but when a flight attendant noticed the child was lying sideways in the seat again, the captain was notified and the plane returned to the gate. Yanchuk and his son were then asked to leave the plane. His wife, mother-in-law, and 1-year-old child opted to leave as well. Their baggage, however, was able to continue on to the Virgin Islands.
Airline spokesman McElroy said, “Everybody wanted to make this work, just trying to work with the child and get him to sit upright.” Yanchuk disagrees. “I think they overreacted. I know you get kicked off planes for dangerous situations like not wearing a seat belt or running around or something dangerous. But I didn’t see the situation as being dangerous at all,” Yanchuk told MSNBC.
Alaska Airlines offered to rebook them on the same flight the next day, but Yanchuk turned down the offer. He said he would not be comfortable flying the airline again. McElroy said the family would be refunded for their flight.
Yanchuk is not the first child to be kicked off a plane for unruliness. Collette Vieau and her 2-year-old daughter were removed from a JetBlue flight after the child wouldn’t wear a seat belt, according to WJAR, a television station in Providence, R.I. Another child was removed from a Continental ExpressJet flight in 2007 after his mother refused to give her child Benadryl to quiet him down. A 2-year-old autistic boy traveling with his mom was kicked off an American Eagle flight in 2008 and Pamela Root and her unhappy toddler son were kicked off a Southwest flight in 2009 because passengers could not hear the pre-flight safety announcements.