An Oregon family is upset after they were kicked off of a United Airlines flight when after the pilot said their autistic daughter made him “uncomfortable.” The family was kicked off the flight as they returned from a trip to Disney World. The flight made an emergency landing in Salt Lake City after the pilot said he was not comfortable flying with the 15-year-old autistic girl on the plane. The airline claims that the family was removed for the “comfort and safety” of other passengers. However, the passengers sitting near the girl say they never felt threatened by the family with one noting the incident is certainly worthy of a “lawsuit.”
KOIN reports that Donna Beegle, her husband, and their son and daughter were headed back to Portland on Tuesday after spending a few days at Disney World in Orlando. Beegle says her 15-year-old daughter, Juliette, has high-functioning autism and was on the brink of a meltdown during the flight. Therefore, Mrs. Beegle politely asked the flight attendant if she could purchase a hot meal from first-class to calm the girl as she was not eating any of the food the family packed or that was available in economy class.
Beegle says that the flight attendant originally denied her request despite Donna offering to pay for the meal out-of-pocket. However, after Donna explained that her daughter was autistic and could have a meltdown and possibly “scratch someone” if she did not get the food, the hot meal was brought to her seat. After getting the meal, Donna says Juliette began to calm down and was quietly watching a movie when the family was asked to leave the flight.
A passenger on the plane captured the incident on his cell phone and says it clearly shows that the family was not combative and that the autistic teen was sitting quietly with headphones when she was escorted from the plane. In the video, a passenger can be heard saying, “this is ridiculous” and another says that it will likely result in a “lawsuit.”
In the video you see Donna, her husband, and Juliette leaving the plane without incident as other passengers look confused at what just took place. Those sitting around the autistic teen say they never felt threatened and that the girl was fine after she ate the food provided. They noted that when the plane was diverted and family removed, the girl was sitting quietly with headphones watching a movie.
Donna notes that when the family was asked to leave, authorities asked if anyone felt threatened on the plane. Other passengers began to take up for the family and said, “No, leave her alone.” However, that didn’t stop the family from being removed despite passenger protest.
Donna says the entire incident is an example of the “fear of autism” and that she is filing a lawsuit in hopes that an incident like this doesn’t happen to another autistic family in the future.
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