United Airlines said it has apologized to a Durham man after a flight attendant accused him of inappropriately touching his son during a flight into Raleigh-Durham International Airport this past weekend.
Henry Amador-Batten of Durham said he was detained at RDU on Friday, May 19, after a member of the flight crew accused him of placing his hand and arm “too close to the ‘child’s genitals.’” At the time, Amador-Batten, 52, was traveling back from Puerto Rico with his son Ben, aged 5.
Henry Amador-Batten’s husband, Joel Amador-Batten, 41, shared an account of the incident on the Facebook page Dadsquared, a community for gay fathers. Henry Amador-Batten runs the Dadsquared website and is a former columnist for The Durham News.
The post was shared hundreds of times after being written on Saturday morning and thousands of times on other Facebook pages.
In the post, Joel Amador-Batten wrote that his husband and son were traveling back to North Carolina after having spent the last two weeks in Puerto Rico to handle his father’s death. The two were traveling on a flight from Newark, which was a stopover between Puerto Rico and RDU.
When the father and son arrived at RDU, he wrote that Henry Amador-Batten was detained by RDU police for about an hour while trying to disembark the plane because a flight member had accused him of inappropriately touching his son.
Amador-Batten continued in the post writing that his husband said his hand was just laying across his son’s lap while his son slept on the plane.
“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,” he wrote.
A representative for United confirmed that the incident occurred on the flight into RDU.
“Our customers should always be treated with the utmost respect,” United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said in an email. “We have followed up with the customer directly and we apologized for the situation.”
In response to the incident, the family said it has hired a lawyer and is planning on seeking damages from United.
“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,” said Kenneth Padowitz, a Florida-based criminal defense attorney representing Amador-Batten.
“To have your young child see you be stopped by the police and be questioned like you have done something wrong based on nothing would cause any traveler to be mortified,” he added. “That type of emotional distress and improper persecution of one of their customers based off zero evidence needs to be rectified.”
Padowitz said his client would be contacting the airlines to ask for fair compensation. The attorney is also currently representing a woman who was kicked off a Spirit Airlines flight for displaying too much cleavage earlier this year.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that both Henry Amador-Batten and his husband were on the plane. It was just Henry Amador-Batten and his son, Ben, on the flight.