Almost Got Kicked Off Our Flight

If you talked to me at all after my last flight from Athens to Budapest, you know that I was an emotional mess. Thank you Andi and Arpi for dealing with the brunt of that emotional breakdown and rant! You guys are the best.

I'm sorry but the lap belt does NOT look safer.
Tell me which one is safer again, Captain…

We almost got kicked off our flight

Did I end up crying on the plane? Yes. Did the pilot threaten to kick our entire family off of the flight. Yes. I can’t believe that happened, but it did. To the point of them going to remove our checked bag from underneath the airplane. What was worth delaying our flight and causing my family emotional trauma? The pilot refused to let us fly with our son in his FAA approved carseat even though we showed the flight crew the certification for airplane use and paid the extra money for him to have his own seat. Why? He said it was the company’s policy for take off and landing. This sounded wrong to me, so I asked to speak to a supervisor, and they brought in the flight regulator for the airport, NOT someone from Aegean. The details are as follows in the letter I sent to Aegean Airlines:

Dear Aegean Airlines,

On Friday, March 7th our family flew from Athens to Budapest (flight number 878) and we had a terrible experience. We purchased an infant in seat ticket for our 19 month old and the flight crew made us take him out of his carseat and put him on my husband’s lap with one of those infant lap belts for take off and landing. When we asked if the flight crew would ask the captains permission for him to fly in his aircraft approved car seat (which is made specifically for airplanes and is a 5 point harness), they told us either to put him on my husband’s lap, or to disembark. The captain was also extremely unprofessional. When he came on to speak to the passengers he explained in Greek that the reason the flight was delayed was because they were having “a problem with the Americans.” My family knows enough Greek to understand what he said. The Greek passenger next to me confirmed that was what the pilot said. When he made the announcement in English he said, “We are delayed because of a problem.”

The flight crew explained that the company policy is that children under two must always be in the infant in lap belt for take off and landing. My entire family was extremely upset about the situation, especially in light of an infant in lap passenger flying out of their seat belt several weeks ago in America where 5 passengers were then hospitalized due to invisible turbulence.

On the way back to Athens from Budapest the flight staff asked us for the papers for the carseat to prove it was safe for air travel. After inspection they said everything was fine, and commented on how well we protect our children during flight (we also had our 4 year old in a CARES harness, which turns a regular airplane seat belt into a 5 point harness).

My question is, what is your company’s policy regarding the issue of infants under two traveling? Are they allowed in a flight approved car seat for take off and landing, or not?

My experience gave me the impression that your airline values outdated company policy over the safety of my child. If this is not the case, please correct my thinking.

Sincerely,

Kristin Spencer

I couldn’t believe how rude the pilot was. It was really nice that he made that announcement to which my 7 year old daughter (fluent in Greek) responded, “Mommy, why is the pilot talking about us to everyone on the plane?”

I also want to mention that my son weighs as much as most 2 year olds, since he was only 4 months away from being 2 at the time of the flight, at which point they could not have made us put him in the infant-in-lap belt. Insert annoyed groan here.

infant in lap belt 2

I wanted to post about this as soon as it happened, but I wanted to find out what the company’s policy actually was because the flight back from Budapest was so nice and everything went exactly as I thought it would on the first flight. It was so bizarre. Everyone that reads this blog knows how I personally feel about infant-in-lap (if you’re new, welcome, and check out this article, and this one), and I was really tempted just to get off of the plane, but we really, really needed to get where we were going.

Their Response

“Dear Mrs. Spencer,

Regarding your flight from Athens to Budapest on March 7th, we are sorry for any inconvenience caused and kindly accept our apologies. We would like to confirm that infants can use their infant car seat during the whole flight, take off/landing, provided that the car seat conform to all applicable safety standards. All information in detail is also given online at http://en.aegeanair.com/travel-information/travel-guide/infants/“

Aegean agreed to refund the ticket and assured me they had taken action to avoid similar situations in the future.

So as far as customer relations taking care of the aftermath of this event, Aegean did a great job. However I have officially learned my lesson about infant-in-seat purchases and procedures, and I will definitely be printing out each airline’s infant policy before I go on any flight, making sure to bring a copy of it with me. I really felt violated when they told me I couldn’t use my FAA approved carseat for my son. I had done everything I could to make sure he was going to be as safe as possible on the flight and then all of a sudden I was accused of causing a scene and going against their company policy even though I did neither of those things.

I had a problem with Austrian Airlines in the past because they have an actual list of approved car seats and mine was not on it, but after the flight crew checked the seat and asked the pilot, he agreed that the seat was safe for flight and we didn’t have any problems.

I just don’t understand what the problem is if you are using an air approved car seat during flight! Even the FAA has said that is the safest thing for your child (which implies it is safer than the lap belt, even though they won’t say that directly). Why is this such a problem? I assume it has to do with insurance companies since that is what Austrian Airlines told us was the reason for their very short list of pre-approved car seats. But why? Can someone please answer my question? And why does the FAA approve the “infant lap belts,” when they say that is not the safest option for your family right on their website?

infant in lap belt

All this to say, make sure you know your facts when you are traveling! Even though I didn’t want to let the pilot push me around, at the end of the day I was at his mercy, despite the fact he didn’t even know the company policy he was being such a jerk about. Nice guy.

What would you have done in my situation (assuming you are as passionate about child safety as I am)? Would you have gotten off of the flight?

Happy Travels,

Kristin

And just in case you are interested, here is a report of an airplane crash where the only survivor was a small child in a carseat.

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