Henry Amador-Batten said he and his 5-year-old son, Ben, were greeted at Raleigh–Durham International Airport on Friday by a group of police officers, The Durham Herald-Sun reported. He soon learned that a flight attendant had seen him cuddling with his son on their flight from Newark, New Jersey, and felt that his hand rested too close to the boy’s genitals.
Amador-Batten, who was returning home from a family visit in Puerto Rico, said he was caught completely off guard by the accusation, but cooperated with police. He said he explained to the officers that Ben was afraid of flying, and he’d simply placed his hand on his son’s lap to comfort him as he fell asleep.
In a Facebook post on DADsquared, Henry’s spouse Joel said: ‘Tonight my husband was detained after disembarking a United flight to RDU because a member of the flight crew made an accusation that my husband’s hand/arm laying across my sleeping son’s lap was too close to the “child’s genitals”.’
To make matters worse, Joel had just spent two weeks in Puerto Rico ‘dealing with his father’s quick decline and subsequent death’.
Joel continued: ‘This is not how anyone deserves to be treated. This is not something that should have happened in front of my son.
‘This is not something that anyone should have to worry about happening to them on a flight just because someone might not like the looks of them.”
‘My husband and I are parents. We are foster parents. We are in the process of adopting our second son.’
Issuing an apology after the complaint, a United Airlines spokesman wrote: ‘Our customers should always be treated with the utmost respect.
‘We have followed up with the customer directly and we apologized for the situation.’
Henry Amador-Batten confirmed that a United Airlines representative called him and asked to keep it ‘low key’ as they have a ‘lot of bad press recently’.
The couple now plan on seeking damages from the airline.
Their lawyer, Kenneth Padowitz, told the Herald-Sun: ‘Based on the horrible situation that they placed him in front of their son and other people on the plane, we are going to vigorously pursue to be compensated by the airline for this horrible embarrassing treatment.’
In the end, Amador-Batten was not charged with a crime and released. However, both he and Ben remain traumatized by the experience. “That flight attendant’s false accusation did not save a child, it put an entire family in danger,” he said. “We’re [made to] understand that families like ours, created out of choice and love, are fragile by nature. … We are not as protected nor solidified, and we need to be.”