A complaint has been filed against United Airlines after an Oregon family was kicked off a flight due to their daughter with autism being deemed disruptive.
Donna Beegle was returning home with her family on Tuesday, May 5 from a Disney World vacation when her 15-year-old daughter Juliette, who has autism, started to get hungry during a layover in Houston.
“I asked the flight attendant if they had anything hot, because Juliette is very particular about her food,” Beegle told KPTV. “If it’s warm she won’t eat it, if it’s cold she won’t eat it, it has to have steam rolling off of it.”
Beegle was then told by the flight attendant that hot meals were only served to first class passengers, and there was nothing she could do to help her.
“The flight attendant said, ‘There’s not anything we can get you,’ so I said, ‘Well, how about we wait for her to have a meltdown, and start crying and she tries to scratch, and then you’ll want to help her.'”
As Donna had warned, Juliette began to get agitated. Seeing the girl upset, the flight staff provided the meal Donna had originally requested. Juliette then quieted down, and calmly started eating while watching a movie. However, the scene didn’t end there.
The next thing Beegle knew, the pilot starts announcing that they were going to be making an emergency landing due to a passenger with a behavior problem.
“The next thing we hear is we’re doing an emergency landing in Salt Lake City. We have a passenger on board with a behavior issue.”
When they arrived in Salt Lake City, the police stepped on the plane to escort Beegle and her family off.
“Police officers said ‘We have to ask you to leave the plane,'” said Beegle. “I asked them ‘Why?’ and they said, ‘The captain doesn’t feel comfortable flying to Portland with your daughter on the flight.’ People were shouting, ‘Leave her alone, let her go, there’s no issue here.'”
A video of the incident was recorded by another passenger, and its authenticity was later confirmed by Donna. It shows the police officer’s speaking to the family and then escorting them off of the plane.
“After working to accommodate Dr. Beegle and her daughter during the flight, the crew made the best decision for the safety and comfort of all of our customers and elected to divert to Salt Lake City after the situation became disruptive,” United Airlines said in a statement, according to NBC News. “We rebooked the customers on a different carrier and the flight continued to Portland.”
Beegle filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration and is hoping that the airlines will start making all flight staff undergo training in dealing with passengers with autism.
In a lengthy post of Facebook, Donna called the incident a “sheer case of ignorance. Prejudice, ignorance and mistreatment.”
A fellow passenger, Jodi Smith, told Donna that she witnessed the incident and also filed a complaint.
“I posted on your article but I wanted you to know I was on that plane and my seat mates and I were horrified and very angry with the horrid way they treated you. I talked with Jerod, the 2 female fight attendants and the pilot. I filed a formal complaint with the Salt Lake City police and posted on FB and called TV news stations. I am appalled with the behavior of the airlines and I am really glad you are doing something about it. I have photos and my seat mate an exec. with Shell Oil has video. I didn’t hear of a single person that was upset with your daughter just in case you wondered.
What do you think about United Airlines kicking the family off of the flight simply because the girl had autism? Leave your comments below.
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