Shirley Yamauchi, a teacher from Hawaii and her 25lb son were forced to endure a three and a half hour flight together- in just one seat- after a United Airlines stewardess informed her the seat she purchased for $1,000, three months earlier, was given to someone flying standby FOR $75 DOLLARS!

Yamauchi's son was in various uncomfortable positions on the long flight 

Yamauchi had bought the tickets for a teachers conference in Boston and purchased the ticket for her son Taizo because children over the age of two are required to have their own seat.


While sitting on the plane in Houston, the flight attendant came to check if Taizo was present. He was, of course, but for some reason, the airline went ahead and sold his seat to someone else. (Is anyone else tired of the constant airline problems?) When she told the flight attendant about the problem, the woman just shrugged, said the flight was full and walked away.

She said,

“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 left arm was smashed up against the wall. I lost feeling in my legs and left arm.”  1

Yamauchi posted about the incident on her Facebook page and called out the UA employee who shrugged off her complaints2:

Shirley Yamauchi posted about the incident to her Facebook, calling out the United Airlines employee who shrugged off her complaints that she had paid for her son's ticket, yet they were forced to give up his seat to another passenger Given what’s happened to passengers on flights in the last year Yamauchi was too afraid of retaliation to speak up:

“I started remembering all those incidents with United on the news. The violence. Teeth getting knocked out. I’m Asian. I’m scared and I felt uncomfortable. I didn’t want those things to happen to me.

It was very shocking. I was confused. I told him, I bought both of these seats. The flight attendant came by, shrugs and says ‘flights full.’

I’m scared. I’m worried. I’m traveling with an infant. I didn’t want to get hurt. I didn’t want either of us to get hurt.” 3

I’d say she was right to be concerned too. In the last couple of years, United has had to issue numerous apologies for their behavior:

  • A mother, Emily France, who claims her son passed out from dehydration on a plane that was grounded for almost two hours during a heat wave in Denver
  • Honeymooning couple Mike and Rachel Brumfield were left stranded at airport after alerting crews of leak and being given only a food voucher (they would go on to take a Delta flight to Venice instead)
  • UA employees shoved an elderly man, Ronald Tigner, to the ground in 2015, but only issued an apology video of the incident was released this June as part of a lawsuit
  • United Airlines issued an apology after an employee was accused of kicking passenger Lindsey Urbani who was sleeping in a chapel
  • United issued an apology to the #1 tennis player in the world, Zhang Shuai after an argument with a United customer rep who refused to allow Shuai on with her tennis racket. The rep actually TORE UP her boarding pass- in front of her.
  • United issued an apology to Henry Amador-Batten, a gay father, who was flying with his son to their North Carolina home when he was accused of inappropriately touching his son.
  • United issued an apology in April after David Dao was forcibly removed from a plane when his paid seat was given to a United Airlines employee who needed to get somewhere

Hey United- when are you going to get your act together? REALLY?

Five days after the flight, the airline finally issued an apology 4 explaining that gate agents had inaccurately scanned Taizo’s boarding pass so their system showed him as not checked in, “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.”


I should hope so. Honestly, it’s the very least they should do. Yamauchi said it best herself, ‘What happened to my son was unsafe, uncomfortable and unfair.’

Sources and References

  1. Daily Mail, July 5, 2017.
  2. DAILY MAIL, JULY 5, 2017.
  3. DAILY MAIL, JULY 5, 2017.
  4. NBC, July 6, 2017.