Delta hostess threatens passenger with foster care, jail

Delta is putting in a strong bid to displace United as the world's most controversy-stricken airline, with footage emerging of a flight attendant telling a passenger his kids would be placed in foster care if he refused to get off the plane.

Brian Schear was travelling home to Los Angeles with his wife and two of his children after a holiday in Hawaii in late April, when he was confronted by an air hostess who told him his young children's seating arrangement breached their protocol.

Mr Schear had originally bought the flight for his 18-year-old son, but after that child went home on an earlier flight, he then decided to hand over the seat to his two-year-old instead.

However the Delta employee can be heard telling him that infants have to be sitting on their parents' laps, rather than in the booster his two-year-old son was sitting in - and that they would have to relinquish their seats as the airline had overbooked the flight.

Mr Schear repeatedly refused that request - but the Delta hostess was insistent, and resorted to threats in an attempt to get him and his family to give up their seats.

"That's going to be a federal offence and you and your wife will be in jail and your kids will be put in foster care," she said.

"We're going to be in jail? And my kids are going to be in what?" he said in total disbelief.

"It's a federal offence if you don't abide by it," she explains.

"I bought that seat! I bought him a ticket on another flight so that my son would have a seat and you're saying you're gonna give that away to someone else when I paid for it. That's not right," he said.

After more than eight minutes of back-and-forth between Mr Schear and the flight attendant, the family reluctantly got off the plane. They reportedly spent US$2000 ($2900) on accommodation that night and flights for the following morning.

The video has gone viral since it was posted on Wednesday, and is yet another piece of negative publicity after it was widely reported yesterday that a family was filing a lawsuit against another employee for pushing a phone out of a customer's hand.

It follows a series of undesirable headlines for airlines in recent times, with United's stocks falling sharply after footage emerged of a passenger being violently dragged from his seat.