BOSTON (CBS) – United Airlines has apologized to a mother who was forced to put her two-year-old son on her lap for a long flight to Boston, even though she bought a ticket for him.
Shirley Yamauchi bought two tickets back in March for a flight from Honolulu, Hawaii to Logan Airport on June 29. Her son Taizo's ticket cost her nearly $1,000.
There was a 5-hour layover in Houston and that's when the trouble started.
Yamauchi said she boarded the flight to Boston with her son, but another passenger showed up and claimed the child's seat was actually his.
"I told him I bought both of these tickets and he tells me that he got the ticket on standby and he proceeds to sit in the center," Yamauchi said.
She told the flight attendant about the problem, but claims the woman just shrugged, said the flight was full and walked away.
Yamauchi thought about protesting further, but was afraid of possible retaliation because of an incident in Chicago on April 8, when Dr. David Dao was dragged off an overbooked United flight when he refused to give up his seat.
"I thought about Dr. Dao and his incident with United, having his teeth knocked out and being dragged down the aisle and I didn't want that to happen to me," she told CBS This Morning.
"I had to move my son onto my lap, he's 25 pounds, he's half my height. I was very uncomfortable. My hand, my arm, my left arm was smashed up against the wall. I lost feeling in my legs and my left arm," Yamauchi said.
"I was certain I would face an uncomfortable plane ride for the next three-and-a-half hours."
When they landed in Boston, Yamauchi said she complained. Her husband later posted pictures from the flight on social media and finally, five days later, United apologized.
An airline spokesman said gate agents inaccurately scanned the boy's boarding pass, their system showed him as not checked in, so his seat was released to another passenger.
"We deeply apologize to Ms. Yamauchi and her son for this experience. We are refunding her son's ticket and providing a travel voucher. We are also working with our gate staff to prevent this from happening again," United said in a statement.
Airlines require children over the age of two to have a purchased ticket and their own seat. Taizo is 27 months old.
Yamauchi said the incident makes her nervous about flying United again.
"I had bought both these tickets way in advance. We checked in. We did the two-hour check-in time before boarding. I have my receipts. I have my boarding pass, yet this happened," she said.
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Carl Stevens reports
for more features.