The airline has since issued an apology.
Many airlines actually do have common sense policies to help parents who are traveling with young children, but those policies aren’t always clearly communicated to every member of the staff.
And usually, it’s the customer who ends up feeling jilted at the gate because of it.
A Mesa, Arizona family on their way from Boston to Phoenix told ABC 15 that they were “humiliated” by an experience they had on an American Airlines flight.
Sara Salow, who was traveling with her husband and son, were carrying a stroller, diaper bag, backpack, and small cooler filled with frozen breast milk. At the gate, the agent stopped them saying they needed to pay $150 to check the cooler or they would not be allowed on the flight.
“I'm like, 'This is a diaper bag, which I thought was exempt; that backpack is his personal item and we have the cooler — I didn't have a personal item,'” Salow told ABC 15.
Salow said she checked with the airline before arriving to the airport and was told that her and her husband’s tickets allowed one carry-on each. The airline's official policy exempts strollers, diaper bags, breast pumps, and breast milk containers as carry-on items.
The gate agent claimed they were being forced to check the cooler because they were basic economy customers. Basic economy generally offers lower ticket prices but strips away common amenities like two carry-on bags and pre-arranged seat assignments. Booking basic economy seating can also mean higher fees for last-minute bag checks at the gate.
“We were pretty mad; I immediately started crying...It really felt demeaning,” Salow said.
Other passengers offered to take the cooler on board as their carry-on item, according to ABC 15. However, this offer was denied by the gate agent. Eventually, the Salows had to leave it behind.
American Airlines released a statement, saying: “The customer should have been allowed to fly with the breast milk and we apologize that a mistake was made in this case. We have clarified our policies with our team members.”