Kathy and Jason Fickes, of Charlotte, North Carolina, are the parents of four kids under the age of 3. The couple was looking forward to taking their children to see their grandparents in Chicago for Christmas. But just minutes away from take off, the Fickes family was removed from a U.S. Airways plane.
"I felt we were discriminated against because we had too many children in their eyes," said Kathy Fickes.
The Fickes have a 3-year-old, 20-month-old twins and an 8-month-old. They bought three tickets on the U.S. Airways website. They entered two adults and one child above 2 years old. The option for infants or kids under 2 is not included unless you look at a different part of the website and click again for a further explanation. Kathy Fickes did not see that.
"We were going to have one of the twins sit with my 3-year-old and my husband and I each hold one of the two remaining children," she said.
It was a seating scenario that Fickes say no one questioned at the Charlotte airport, not even a U.S. Airways ticket agent who rebooked the family on a later flight. Once on the plane, a flight attendant raised a red flag right before takeoff.
"She came back over and said, 'I'm sorry, due to FAA regulations we only have four oxygen masks in each row. Someone is going to have to move seats,'" said Kathy Fickes.
They did move seats, but that wasn't going to fly with the airline crew either. One passenger even offered to pay for an extra seat.
"We had already held up the plane for like 40 minutes or 50 minutes, we didn't know why because we kept doing what they asked us to do," said Jason Fickes.
Finally, they were asked to leave the plane.
U.S. Airways says the policy regarding lap children is very clear on the airlines' website. "What we had here was a case that the math didn't add up. You had two adults who wanted to travel with three lap children. The safety regulations are such that you have to have one child per one adult," said Michelle Mohr, a U.S. Airways spokesman.
The U.S. Airways policy states the adult must be traveling with the infant. The Fickes could have flown if they bought a ticket in advance for one of their kids under 2, although that child would have been required to fly in a car seat. The Fickes say they would have done that if someone explained the policy before boarding. U.S. Airways refunded the family's tickets.
After the experience, the Fickes family has decided to stay put for the holidays.