American Airlines is accused of kicking the Vanderhorst family off a cross-country flight because their son, Bede, has Down Syndrome. The California family believes the incident occurred because the airline did not want a teenager with a developmental disability in first class, according to the New York Daily News.
Robert and Joan Vanderhorst were flying from Newark to Los Angeles when they were allegedly informed that their 16-year-old son posed a “flight risk.” The visibly upset and sobbing mother reportedly captured the exchange with an American Airlines official on her cell phone.
Bede’s parents were told the young man would be unable to get on the plane because he was “agitated” while in the waiting area, according KTLANews. Before the would-be passengers were told filming is not allowed in security controlled areas, Bede is shown quietly fiddling with his hat. Even though the parents of the Down Syndrome teenager tried to demonstrate that their son knows how to behave and did not pose a problem, the family was still not allowed to board their flight.
American Airlines is standing behind the decision to make the Vanderhorst group wait for a later flight. The company claims the refusal to board was made only after careful consideration and observation of the minor passenger’s behavior.
Eventually the group was allowed to fly on United Airlines, but only on a later flight and after rebooking coach class seats. Bede’s parents plan on suing for what they believe is a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act and their teen son’s civil rights. Bede Vanderhorst had flown multiple times before without incident, but this was the teen’s first time flying with a first-class ticket.