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The Street
The Street
Veronika Bondarenko

A woman successfully sued American Airlines for a controversial reason

How one sits when traveling with kids has become the subject of some serious debate in recent months. 

One of the most heavily-commented-on TSA posts has been a video of a toddler jokingly grabbing the items and body parts of the people sitting behind him, serving as a reminder for parents to watch their offspring. Each day also brings with it new internet fights over whether the blame for having to ask passengers to move so that parents can sit with their young children should fall on the parents or the airlines.

Related: Internet rallies behind mother told to stop breastfeeding on flight

The problem has re-emerged in a different way when, at the end of October, a woman who had flown with American Airlines AAL won a $3,500 settlement over how a flight attendant treated her for how she sat with her kids.

An infant being fed formula from a bottle.

Getty Images

‘I was doing something that is absolutely allowed…’

When traveling with her 18-month-old twin daughters from Oregon’s Portland to Florida’s Tallahassee back in February, Erika Hamilton had purchased two seats to switch between having one child to sit on her lap and another in the seat next to her.

More Travel:

According to the complaint that Hamilton filed in Oregon’s Circuit Court for the County of Multnomah, a flight attendant on the flight following a layover in Dallas “belittled and harassed" her over not having a third seat despite American Airlines policy stating that infants under the age of two can both sit on a parent’s lap or in a seat of their own so long as they “have their seatbelt securely fastened during taxi, takeoff, landing and whenever the ‘fasten seat belt’ sign is on.”

“I was doing something that is absolutely allowed and that is already just really hard — flying alone with two kids under the age of two,” Hamilton told USA Today in an email.

The small claims court ultimately agreed with Hamilton and awarded her the $3,500 and an additional 4,500 miles over the breach of contract and “negligent infliction of emotional distress.” Hamilton had purchased the ticket for 9,000 miles and a $5.90 service fee that American Airlines also refunded. 

The airline did not immediately respond to TheStreet’s request for its take on the settlement and the situation.

‘AA placed the safety of my child at risk,’ complaint reads

According to the account that Hamilton shared with USA Today, both Hamilton and the flight attendant involved filed reports over the incident with American Airlines before the case escalated to small claims court when the airline offered her only a voucher rather than a full refund.

The flight attendant reportedly said that she saw Hamilton experiencing "difficulty" with her twins and felt "concerned.” At the time of the flight, one of the passengers behind Hamilton offered to hold one of the twins during the two-hour flight to Tallahassee and Hamilton agreed to stop the argument with the flight attendant and proceed with the flight. 

“American Airlines placed the safety of my child at risk, given it is much safer for my child to be seated in her seat, with the safety belt fastened, than to be a lap child in the care of a stranger," Hamilton wrote in her complaint.

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