AirTran Airways Complaint - Rude flight attendant
I had never flown with AirTran before this flight, and will never fly with them again. The airline has a policy that prohibits more than
one child being held on the laps of adults occupying the same row. This policy exists because there are only 4 oxygen masks on each row, and in the event of an emergency, there would not be enough for each passenger. I completely understand and appreciate this policy. However....
My mother and I booked a non-stop flight from Atlanta to San Francisco a month in advance. We were traveling with my two children (22 months and 8 months), who, because they were under two years old, could sit in our laps, saving us the cost of extra seats. AirTran has a policy that there must be at least one adult per child under two, which we understood, and in order to help each other with the babies during the flight, we paid an extra fee to reserve our seats ahead of time (since AirTran typically assigns seats at check in).
I called the airline several days before our flight to let them know that we were going to be traveling with two children under two. She said there was no need for me to call, that they would take care of things at check in. No mention of their policy.
At check in, we informed the lady helping us that we each had a baby who would be sitting on our laps. We showed her their birth certificates, she entered them into the system, and wrote the age of one baby on each of our boarding passes, which also showed our adjacent seat assignments. She asked if we had any car seats with us, and we told her no. She said we were good to go. No mention of their policy.
At the boarding gate, an employee stopped my mother and me (each of us holding a child), inquired about the age of the children (we offered
to show him the birth certificates), at which time we pointed out that each child’s age was written on the tickets (by your check-in employee). Our boarding passes, which he scrutinized, specified our adjacent seat numbers. No mention of their policy.
At the beginning of the flight, a male attendant stopped next to our row and asked if I had a baby in my lap, as she was nursing the baby and he could see only the baby’s feet. I told him I did. My mother was sitting next to me with my 22-month old on my lap. No mistaking that there were two children on the same row. No mention of their policy.
The children were on our laps, in plain view, the whole time. We had already been served drinks at least once. Another flight attendant looked directly at us to get our drink orders. Again, no mention of their policy.
About an hour into the flight, my mother asked an attendant to take her used cup. The attendant turned to let her know that she wasn't collecting trash at that time, and when she saw us holding the babies, she asked, "Have you had both babies with you the whole time?" We couldn't figure out why she was asking us that. My mother said, "Yes, we have." The attendant pointed at my son and asked, "Where was he before?" "On her lap," I said, pointing to my mother. "And where was she?" the attendant asked, pointing to my daughter. "In my lap," I replied. "You can't have two lap babies on the same row," the attendant responded. This time we really were speechless. We just stared at her, completely at a loss. She repeated herself again, more loudly. I said, "No one told us that." She asked us whether no one had said anything at check in, and we said no. The attendant repeated a third time that we weren't allowed to have both babies on our laps in the same row. At this point, the attendant still had not told us WHY the children couldn’t be on the same row, just that AirTran policy prohibited it.
The passenger next to me mistakenly thought the policy was because two children together might be
noisy or disruptive, and tried to defend us by saying that he had been a teacher for 40 years and was used to being around children. At this, the attendant raised her voice and said "Sir, I don't care what you did for a living, all I'm saying is that these babies cannot sit in these seats." Still at a loss as to what we were supposed to do about the situation 35,000 feet in the air, the attendant FINALLY told us the reason for the policy. My mother told her she would be glad to move if she could find someone to change seats with her.
The man next to my mother stated that he was comfortable where he was and didn't feel like moving, and the flight attendant told him not to be rude to her, she was just doing her job. She also informed him that babies can't sit in aisle seats, so she turned to the woman sitting in the middle seat of the adjacent row and asked her to switch with my mother, saying that she was trying to keep my mother and me as close as possible.
Someone across the aisle kindly agreed to do this.
The remaining 4 hours of the flight were miserable for us because of this unnecessary treatment by the flight attendant.
Here’s what the flight attendant should have POLITELY said to us, and what I hope she’ll say if this happens to other passengers in the future: “I’m really sorry, but it seems the airline failed to mention that we have a
safety regulation that doesn’t allow more than one child to sit on an adult’s lap in the same row. This is because there are only 4 oxygen masks
available in the event of an emergency, and right now there are 5 people in your row. I don’t like to inconvenience you, but I’m going to have to ask
around to see if someone can change seats with you. Do you have any questions for me?” Instead,
the flight attendant made my mother and me feel like criminals, never once expressed regret or concern that we had not been informed of the
policy, or that we were being inconvenienced in any way. As a matter of fact, she offered the man next to my mother a refund for his ticket because he expressed exasperation with the whole incident! Outrageous!