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Mum's panic after Qantas books toddler in separate seat to London

A Perth primary school teacher says she is having “major panic attacks” after Qantas booked her and her two-year-old daughter in seats away from each other on a flight to London.

Natasha Oswald did have a trip to the UK planned for Christmas Day to surprise her family who hadn’t yet met her daughter, Winnie, due to the pandemic. But she was forced to bring their flight forward when her aunt suddenly passed away and they needed to get to the Midlands as quickly as possible for the funeral.

On Saturday Ms Oswald called Qantas and rearranged their departure to November 19 on the non-stop Perth to Heathrow route. The next day she logged on to check where they would be sitting. It was then she noticed that neither she nor her daughter had been assigned a seat.

Natasha Oswald and her daughter Winnie.
Natasha Oswald says she's suffered massive panic attacks after Qantas booked her two-year-old daughter on a flight sitting away from her. Source: Jessica Kate via Natasha Oswald

“I thought that was strange so I called them up,” the mum told Yahoo News Australia. “She [the call centre operator] said, yeh that’s right, there is nothing we can do about it, so your daughter is currently sitting separately to you and legally we don’t have to have you sit with your child, as long as you are in the same class it is fine.”

Ms Oswald was speechless. “I suffer with anxiety anyway so I am already a bit anxious getting on a plane thinking about all the possible things that could go wrong,” she said before adding that “not once” did the operator who changed her initial flight mention any issues with seating.

“We had seats booked together on the December 24th flight so why would it be any different?” she asked. “Why would she book a flight for us if there’s no two seats together? If there is nothing you can do, why tell me that this flight is even available, just put me on a different flight.”

Qantas says flights were booked separately

Qantas says it is looking into the problem but has indicated to Yahoo News Australia records show the bookings for Ms Oswald and her daughter were made separately, and one month apart.

Natasha Oswald and Winnie.
Ms Oswald says Qantas told her to turn up on the day of the flight and request a seat change to sit next to her two-year-old daughter. Source: Sophie Hart via Natasha Oswald

The teacher said the only advice she has been given by the airline is to turn up on the day of their flight and hope that Qantas staff will be able to seat the mother and daughter together. “But [they said] there is no guarantee because legally they are not required to have a toddler sitting next to their parent," Ms Oswald recalled.

While fearing the worst, Ms Oswald is trying to keep a level head and make light of the impossible situation. “Could you imagine being the people sitting next to her?” she said. “Like, hi this is Winnie, she likes Bluey, here’s her snacks, she’s not 100 per cent toilet trained, so make sure you take her often and also her is her medication should she need her puffer.”

Qantas said it "will always sit children near their parents" in a statement to Yahoo News Australia. "We are looking into what has happened during the booking process that led to this not happening on this occasion."

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