Alaska Airlines is defending its decision to remove a 3-year-old from a Memorial Day weekend flight after the child refused to quiet down and wear his seat belt. But the parents of Daniel Yanchuk are taking issue with the airline's description of their son's behavior as a "safety issue."
"He got a little bit cranky, started screaming, maybe yelling a little bit, crying," the boy's father, Mark Yanchuk, told MSNBC.com.
"I think they overreacted," Yanchuk added. "I know you get kicked off planes for dangerous situations like not wearing a seat belt or running around or something dangerous. But I didn't see the situation as being dangerous at all."
Daniel and his family were on the first leg of a flight from Seattle to the Virgin Islands. Mark Yanchuk, who is a computer salesman in Washington State, had also brought along his mother-in-law, wife and other young child on the flight, which was scheduled to stop in Miami before reaching its final destination.
Alaska Airlines spokesman Paul McElroy said the flight crew did its best to accommodate Daniel but to no avail. After being told to put away his iPad before takeoff, Daniel reportedly began crying and refused to get buckled into his seat belt.
"Everybody wanted to make this work, just trying to work with the child and get him to sit upright," McElroy told MSNBC.
"He kept lying down in his seat, his legs were dangling over the arm rest. At one point, we did have the seat belt fastened but because the child was lying down, now the belt was across his neck and the flight attendants were worried that he would begin to choke himself."
Mark Yanchuk disputes that account, saying he wouldn't have allowed his child to be buckled in that fashion. He blames the situation on being separated from his wife, who was seated in first class with her mother and other child.
"We certainly regret the inconvenience to this family, but the flight crew in their best judgment did make the necessary decision to direct the family to take another flight," McElroy said.
Although Mark and Daniel Yanchuk were asked to leave the flight, they were told the rest of their family could stay onboard. However, everyone departed together and refused an offer from Alaska to rebook them on a flight the next day.
As of now, only the family's luggage made it all the way to the Virgin Islands, which Alaska says it will be returning to the Yanchuks "soon."
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