‘I was scared I’d lose my son’: United Airlines wrongly accuses father of molesting child

Police detained and questioned a man after a United Airlines flight attendant reported to authorities that he had placed his hand close to a young boy’s genitals during the flight.

Henry Amador-Batten was travelling home to North Carolina with his five-year-old son, Ben, after attending a funeral in Puerto Rico, but the pair were unexpectedly met by police upon arriving at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

Mr Amador-Batten told The New Daily he was questioned by police in his five-year-old’s presence for about an hour following a false accusation from a flight attendant.

He said he had merely been comforting his son who has a fear of flying, having placed his hand affectionately on the boy’s leg.

The false accusation, which led to an apology from the airline, follows a major scandal over United’s violent removal of a passenger from a jet in April after the flight was overbooked.

That incident led to a public apology from the CEO and an undisclosed settlement with the traveller, but only after the airline suffered serious reputational damages.

Report sparks ‘fear’

Mr Amador-Batten said he had been afraid of having his son taken away from him during his ordeal, saying he and his family have been “struggling to get back to a sense of normalcy and [were] fearful because this is one of the worst things that can happen to a family”.

“They (police) were trying to clarify who I was to Ben. They asked if I was his guardian. I had to prove I was his father by way of identification,” he told The New Daily.

“I was scared I’d lose my son.

“It was extremely difficult for my son to understand why his daddy was being spoken to by so many police officers.

“Ben is obviously processing this. He’s been extremely sensitive since that night.

“He still won’t sleep in his own bed and says he has nightmares and wants to just be with his daddies.”

Mr Amador-Batten’s husband, Joel, vented his frustration on social media following the incident, urging friends and family to help share their story online.

He said no one deserved to be treated this way.

“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 or arm laying across my sleeping son’s lap was too close to the child’s ‘genitals’,” he wrote in a Facebook post.

“After being made to feel like a criminal in front of other passengers as they exited the plane, my husband filed a report of his own mentioning that the male flight attendant that must have accused him had treated him oddly in flight, and was promptly sent on his way.

“This is the icing on the cake for a man who has spent nearly the last two weeks in Puerto Rico dealing with his father’s quick decline and subsequent death.”

Joel said the couple were foster parents and in the process of adopting their second son.

Mr Amador-Batten added to The New Daily that the flight attendant’s accusation was “dangerous”.

“(It) could have torn our family apart and has left us still struggling and fearful,” he said.

“We’ve heard from so many gay dads who have asked us to fight this. If this helps protect our community even a little bit it will be worth it.”

A United Airlines staff member has since called Mr Amador-Batten to apologise for her wrong assumption.

“We received a call from a United representative the day after the incident. She gave us an extremely shallow apology and it was obvious that she was the person who makes these calls to help the problem go away,” he said.

“She actually asked us to please keep this ‘low key’ since United has had such bad press lately.

“Her response infuriated us even more.”

Mr Amador-Batten said the family had hired an attorney for advice on possible further action.

United Airlines have also issued a public apology.

Originally published at The New Daily.

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About Alana Mitchelson

Alana Mitchelson is a journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow her on Twitter at @AlanaMitchelson.

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