— -- A North Carolina father is urging Delta Air Lines to make changes to its seating policy after he was assigned a seat 11 rows away from his 4-year-old daughter and had to pay $88 to switch seats on a flight with "plenty of empty seats."
The dad, Frank Strong, 40, blogged about his experience, using a hostage analogy in which he likened Delta to a kidnapper and the $88 charge to a ransom he had to pay to ensure his daughter's safety.
"In fairness to the ticket agent, who traded knowing glances with a work acquaintance when I broached the issue at the counter, she suggested I might ask the gate agent at boarding to make the switch at no cost," Strong wrote. "Faced with a dilemma of handing over ransom money to Delta in exchange for certainty, or taking a risk that an agent might fix the problem at the gate, I opted to pay."
The $88 fee Strong paid to switch seats was in addition to the $1,200+ he spent for tickets and an additional $25 baggage fee, he told ABC News today.
Strong is now calling for a "federally mandated passenger bill of rights" because he believes "airline customer service must be regulated."
One of the recommendations Strong makes for such a bill: "No airline under reasonable circumstances may separate a dependent from guardian in seating assignments," including, but not limited to, children, the elderly and the disabled.
The flight that Strong complained about was on April 23, from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Montgomery, Alabama, where he and his daughter were going to visit his mother, he said.
A Delta spokesman told ABC News today that the airline is investigating the situation and that its "customer care team" is working on contacting Strong.
"We strive to ensure that every customer has a great experience with Delta," spokesman Brian Kruse said in a statement. "We regret that Mr. Strong’s experience did not live up to our standard. We are investigating the matter and our Customer Care team is contacting Mr. Strong directly to resolve the situation. Any customer needing assistance with seat assignments may call Delta no matter where they buy their airfare. Customers may also speak to airport agents prior to boarding for assistance, as well."
Strong said he received a call this afternoon and felt Delta gave him a sincere apology.
"I think part of why this story's blown up is because it's striking a chord," he said. "The public is fed up with airlines' unfair policies. My biggest hope is that airlines will evaluate their policies and if they find they aren't accommodating, they'll look for ways to be accommodating."