Boy with Down syndrome barred from flying first class: Discrimination or safety precaution?

A boy with Down syndrome was barred from flying in first class on a cross-country flight and his parent say he was discriminated against because of his disability.  (There is video on the link. I am having problems with my embed codes. Hopefully fixed soon.)

From The Associated Press:

“Robert Vanderhorst, his wife Joan and 16-year-old son Bede, who is disabled, were booked to fly on an American Airlines flight from Newark to Los Angeles on Sunday when the boy and his parents were not allowed on the plane.

The family from Porterville had upgraded to first class tickets at an airport kiosk, and asked the airline to seat the boy and one of his parents together — a request the airline granted — Vanderhorst said Tuesday.

When the family was ready to board, they were stopped by airline personnel, told their son was a “security risk” and would not be allowed on the flight, he said. The parents protested, and later were rebooked to fly coach with another airline.

American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said the disabled boy was agitated and running around the gate area prior to boarding, which his parents dispute. The airplane’s pilot observed the boy, Miller said, and made the call based on his behavior.

“He was not ready to fly, that was our perspective,” Miller said. “We rebooked the family out of concern for the young man’s safety and that of other passengers as well.”

But Vanderhorst said his son did not run at any time, did not make any loud noises and didn’t display any other offensive behaviors. The boy walked around with him or sat quietly in the gate area, Vanderhorst said.

A cell phone video captured by the boy’s mother shows Bede sitting and quietly playing with a baseball cap.

Vanderhorst said Bede, a freshman at Granite Hills High School in Porterville, about 70 miles from Fresno, is very charming in contact with other people. The family has flown more than two dozen times with him, without any difficulties.

“Usually my son gets his snack and falls asleep, just like most people,” Vanderhorst said. “The problem is this pilot thought my son might not be like most people. He didn’t want a disabled person disturbing other passengers in first class.”

The family says the pilot might have also been affected by the disabled boy’s size — Bede is 5′1 and weighs 160 lbs.

On the second airplane, the family was placed in the last row and no passengers were allowed to sit within two rows of them, Vanderhorst said.

He hoped that airlines would change their mentality when dealing with the disabled.

“It’s ridiculous and groundless to claim that this kid created a security risk,” he said. “It was the pilot’s insecurity. I paid for those seats and there was nothing that should have prevented us from taking that flight.”

American Airlines’ Miller said the company will reimburse the family for the upgrade fees.”

What do you think? Does the airline have a right to choose who sits in first class if they have paid? Was this a lack of understanding of a disability? Was this discrimination?

90 comments Add your comment

Bernie

September 7th, 2012
1:16 am

I saw this story and was upset upon reading it. Surely a better outcome could have been achieved if cooler heads prevailed. The issue was the disturbance of those passengers in First Class as I understood it. Surely the members of the LUCK Gene POOL Club cannot be possibly exposed to such an unwanted irritant. After ALL, they did pay more money for this Advantage! and you know how we must cater to the whims of the JOB Creators! they just may not create any Jobs for the little people who are riding on the Wings! :)

[...] Story here I've hated AA since 1992. __________________ With $16,000,000,000,000 in national debt, a family of 4 is on the hook for $204,000. Please vote Romney/Ryan. [...]

Jake

September 7th, 2012
2:35 am

Well, I guess I’m never flying A.A. again. I hope the family ends up owning a portion of the airline after this, then I’ll fly it again.

cdm

September 7th, 2012
2:39 am

As the father of a child with Down Syndrome and a frequent flyer, I will make every effort to avoid flying AA. This pisses me off. Unfortunately this happens all the time – from school to other social settings. Folks need to get aclue. Most people with Down Syndrome are some of the most compliant people in the world. How this pilot could conclude that this child would be a problem is based on pure ingnorance.

Bonnie Saxton

September 7th, 2012
2:47 am

I have one biological Down Syndrome daughter and 2 adopted ones. I also have another adopted daughter with mental disabilities. We are all flying AA in Oct so you can see how this article upset me. My daughters are all adults, seasoned travelers, courteous, cute, and well liked. But…is that going to make a difference if someone wants to make up a story about them so they can discriminate without it seeming like they are.
I also wonder why there are no public witnesses to this event. If I had been in that airport I would be all over the news with the truth of what happened. They need an outsider to step up and tell the real story.
I am sure this boy, age 16, was more on the level of a 5 year old mentally. Does that mean every child that runs around while waiting for a plane ride will be told they can’t fly. What about the crying babies who never stop during the whole ride. Or, as in the case of my friend, a dog who barked the whole trip.
If airlines are going to start the process of only allowing people they see fit, to fly, then where does it stop.
I am not flying first class. Wish I was, but maybe because we are lowly coach no one will bother us.
I have emailed AA customer service with my concern. We will see if they respond.

cdm

September 7th, 2012
2:51 am

My daughter is the most generous, welcoming person I know. Anyone that has a child or knows someone with Down Syndrome can testify to this. The pilot should have done himself a favor to learn what being human really is and spend spom time with this young man. If he had done this he would have welcomed him to first class!

kevin

September 7th, 2012
6:41 am

bernie……jealous much?

motherjanegoose

September 7th, 2012
6:56 am

I am confused and feel like there must be more to this story.

I have NEVER seen anyone denied boarding and have seen some interesting people at the gate and on the plane. Of course, I have NOT been in every airport and I rarely fly American Airlines.

EWR to LA is a long flight. Currently showing a 6 hour flight with a $600 price tag per person for a month in advance. Not sure why they would want to irritate a family of three, who are eligible to upgrade ( typically a frequent flier) on a whim. If they have flown more than 2 dozen times, with him, that is quite a bit.

I personally get antsy on a flight over 4 hours and I fly all the time. Just my opinion.

American Airlines issued a statement, I read previously online, but I cannot find it now. Anyone?

Not sure how valid this is but it is interesting: the pilot can lose their job and that is typically a VERY well paying job on that type of plane/flight:

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20100124052735AAuB4Gw

motherjanegoose

September 7th, 2012
7:01 am

rethinking….CAN be a VERY well paying job. The larger the plane, the more experienced the pilot. A cross country flight is typically a larger plane. Also seniority of the pilot.

catlady

September 7th, 2012
7:02 am

Are fat, drunk white men also a secyrity risk?

A

September 7th, 2012
7:15 am

Just shameful. AA is already in trouble; this will be the death of that airline.

Aquagirl

September 7th, 2012
7:22 am

Are fat, drunk white men also a secyrity[sic] risk?

Yes, and they’re regularly denied boarding also. And they complain loudly that those fascists won’t let them fly, they weren’t causing any trouble, blah, blah, blah.

I’m with mjg, there is more to this story. We’ve seen these stories before—outraged parent calls media, claims airline (school, department store, etc.) went nuts and OMG!!!!! Later we find out that they weren’t telling the whole truth about their child’s behavior.

But watch the angry comments pile up from people who unquestioningly accept mom and dad’s account.

Jeff

September 7th, 2012
7:39 am

I would be more willing to ban poorly behaving adults from 1st class. The adults have MORE control over their behavior, yet choose to act like a$$es.

If someone desn’t ilke it, let them exchange seats with someone in coach. You’ll see how important the issue really is when you make that proposal.

Mayhem

September 7th, 2012
7:45 am

It just kills me that some “personnel” know more about the situation with YOUR kid, than you do.

I think down’s Syndrom children are beautiful!!!

Aquagirl

September 7th, 2012
8:12 am

Interesting: A quick google search for “Robert Vanderhorst” gives you the website of a personal injury attorney by that name who lives in Porterville, CA. Unless there are two Robert Vanderhorsts in Portersville, it’s the same guy.

Yeah, wayyyyyyy more to this story.

DB

September 7th, 2012
8:24 am

American Airlines better have their ducks in a row on this one, or there is going to be hell — and a few million dollars! — to pay!

motherjanegoose

September 7th, 2012
8:27 am

@ Mayhem… respectfully…I have had many parents tell me, ” I do not know HOW you get my child to do that! He/she will never do it for me! He/she behaves so much better for you! You really know my child.”

Airline personnel may not know much about children but they do know a bit about having to ground a plane. I am just thinking off the top of my head here but a flight to LAX could connect on to an international flight. Perhaps the personnel were weighing the odds of:

1. having to ground a large plane in the middle of the US. I suppose DFW would work as it is American’s base.
2. a LOT of passengers missing their connections

In any event, it is a matter of deciding who is going to be a bigger problem…one family or an entire plane. Certainly, the trip could have been absolutely seamless and everyone potentially overreacted. I, for one, would not want the backlash on either option.

I obviously do not know the ruling on when and if they have to ground a plane. I have been on planes that were grounded for weather and the complaining you hear is ridiculous. REALLY? Did you want to fly right through tornado warnings to get to ATL and even if we do land all by ourselves :), the flight crew cannot come out to us, as it is lightening. HELLO? We will still be sitting on the plane.

Flying is really not as fun as it used to be. I took mine when they were small but it was not near the headache it is now.

motherjanegoose

September 7th, 2012
8:28 am

comment gone…guess I am only allowed two today….LOL.

T-Square

September 7th, 2012
9:00 am

Aquagirl – Don’t want to read too much into the fact that he is an attorney (I’ve met a few decent ones, even personal injury attorneys), but I’m guessing they got bumped for a semi-legitimate reason and he is screaming because he smells the case of his career. But then again, I could just be a cynic. Who knows?

Grasshopper

September 7th, 2012
9:02 am

Something is fishy about this story.

If the kid is just sitting there why would the pilot even notice him? Sounds like the lawyer is out for some quick dough and using his kid as an ATM.

BlondeHoney

September 7th, 2012
9:12 am

I’m with Aquagirl (as I usually am); there is more to this story than Dad the personal injury attorney is telling. And he is the personal injury attorney you found in Porterdale, Aquagirl; it was in the article I read on nbcnews.com

Aquagirl

September 7th, 2012
9:16 am

Something is fishy about this story.

If only we had a type of person to ask some questions—you know, like:
What was the second airline that made the kid sit in back? It wasn’t American.
Did anyone else notice this kid’s behavior?
Why would a presumably experienced pilot with a major airline suddenly get freaked out by a kid with down’s syndrome?

Then that person could write a headline that wasn’t sloppy and misleading (how many people think AA made the kid sit in back?) followed by a real story, which might be less like a press release by Mr. Slip ‘N Fall.

Instead, we get this slop, thrown into the trough by Theresa.

Yeah, there’s some shameful behavior here all right.

BlondeHoney

September 7th, 2012
9:18 am

Caught in the filter sigh

fishy joe

September 7th, 2012
9:21 am

Truth is, the FAA rules allow the pilot to remove any passenger or package he wants and really doesn’t have to give a reason.It is his call as to what or who is allowed on his aircraft. Was it smart? probably not, but it was completely legal. I’ve been in aviation for over 25 years, I agree with the others, there is a lot more to this than a captain denying to board a kid with disabilities.

BTW, AA is in backruptcy court, any claim would be subject to the judge’s discretion. Once you file, you turn over control of the company to the presiding judge until an exit plan is agreed upon by the creditors and court and debtor in possession financing is arranged.

Uh, fishy joe...

September 7th, 2012
9:48 am

…AA is about to come out of bankruptcy, so depending on if a lawsuit is filed AFTER the dismissal of the bankruptcy then they WILL have access to all of AA assets and not just those to which the bankruptcy referee agrees…but now that I re-read you last paragraph that is basically what you said…

fishy joe

September 7th, 2012
10:25 am

Uh, fishy joe…

Yep, once they emerge all is fair game but that doesn’t seem likely to be anytime soon.

!

September 7th, 2012
10:29 am

Plain old discrimination…shameful.

Do something about it

September 7th, 2012
10:32 am

Tell ‘em what you think:

AAdvantage Customer Service
1-800-882-8880

Jessica

September 7th, 2012
10:33 am

@Grasshopper, good point! If the kid was well-behaved, the pilot probably would not have noticed him. If he was acting like an unruly five-year old, the pilot may have made a reasonable judgment that an ADULT-SIZED hyperactive kid poses a safety risk to passengers.
I suppose there is some small chance that the pilot has something against people with Down Syndrome, but it seems a lot more reasonable to assume he was just doing his job. I have known some really nice children and adults with Down Syndrome, but I have met at least one who was an-out-of-control little terror. It wasn’t the kid’s fault, though, because his parents apparently didn’t bother to discipline him at all. If anyone asked them to reign in his behavior (stop him from breaking the window blinds/ripping pages out of books/hitting people), they got extremely defensive and accused the person who brought it up of being uncaring and judgmental.

samantha

September 7th, 2012
10:35 am

I have a brother with down syndrome and he is the best loving, caring and huggable person I have ever met. He is sever down syndrome and we have NEVER had any problems with him for having this special need. I believe that first class for him would be more relaxing, anyone who has relations to a person with down syndorme knows that they love less people and bigger and better space is also a plus. I say no matter who pays for their ticket to anywhere on anything has the right of thtat puchase. If hes disruptive, then you need to remove every child under the age of ten, I hear kids cry hours at a t ime, running, jumping, kicking. If I were a passenger one this flight and saw how this family was treated I would have got off and went with another air line. Sorry for this air line but he is not the onle special need child in the world and I would like to see you try and band all people with needs from all over the owld.

Mike

September 7th, 2012
10:47 am

Knowing the father is a personal injury attorney really changes the story.

I wonder if the boy’s behavior led the pilot to believe he’d get claustrophobic and try to open the door in flight?

catlady

September 7th, 2012
10:48 am

Sorry about the spelling, aqua girl. I had a stuck key.

What is miserable is when the person gets drunk AFTER the plane is airborne. Then the jerk proceeds to insult anyone within hearing distance with his speculations about the purity of the females on board. You can’t put them off over the ocean!

Marti in San Diego

September 7th, 2012
11:15 am

Post 9-11 flight crews have too much autonomy when deciding to boot any passenger.

I was a regional manager for a fairly large company a few years back. My team won an incentive trip to Cabo San Lucas. On the return flight one of my employees asked to buy benedril at the airport shop and was overheard by a member of the flight crew. The employee did have a slight rash on one forearm, but really nothing out of the ordinary.

When we got to the gate, she was told that she was a ‘flight risk’ and could not board the flight. After speaking with several airport and airline personnel, it was determined that if she got a note clearing her to fly, she could board the flight. We arranged to have a local doc (not super easy on a Sunday in Cabo) come out an examine her.

$250 later she received a shot that eliminated the rash, a check up and a clean bill of health for the employee. We presented the documentation to the gate agent and the employee was still denied boarding. Despite the written documentation from the doctor and no evidence of a rash, we finally were told that the flight attendant “didn’t feel comfortable,” and thus nothing we could do would be enough for my employee to board the plane.

Luckily there was another flight into LAX that evening, so we did manage to get her home. The experience really soured me on post 9-11 travel.

BlondeHoney

September 7th, 2012
11:20 am

Post stuck in the filter so I will try again…I’m with Aquagirl on this (and most everything else too); personal injury attorney Dad is not telling the whole story here. Wish we could hear from a witness to what happened because it doesn’t make sense that when the family did depart on a different airline, they were placed in the back of the plane surrounded by empty seats…

motherjanegoose

September 7th, 2012
11:26 am

@ Marti…while you may have realized it was a minor rash, perhaps not everyone did. Coming back into the states with something you caught outside of the states is typically not the same as flying from Kansas City to Chicago.

I had Gutate Psoriasis ( sp?) several years ago and had to fly to a meeting. NOT CONTAGIOUS. I made sure I had a note with me, from my Physician just in case. I was going to Florida and the MD said the sun would actually be good for it.

I once sat, on a flight, next to someone who hacked for an hour straight and asked if I could move to another seat. I was on a 4 hour flight and felt sure I would be sick, the next day, from the germs being spewed. I left my nice window exit row seat to be wedge into a middle seat. Worth it to me.

Read this:
http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/04/26/airplane-quarantine-scare-reminds-us-were-all-at-risk/

motherjanegoose

September 7th, 2012
11:33 am

@ BlondeHoney…and what did it cost THAT airline to keep several rows of seats empty? Let’s say 2 rows total ( just in front of them or behind too) of 4 seats per row but it is probably more like 6 or 8 seats. So, at the minimum it would be 8 seats at $600 per seat…do the math. I fly quite a bit and it is RARE for planes to have much wiggle room with empty seats. Did American have to comp. those seats to another airline or did they just eat it? Are we told which airline they eventually flew? Seems like the parents would want to extend a GIANT handshake to that airline. Does anyone know?

Aquagirl

September 7th, 2012
11:42 am

Sorry about the spelling, aqua girl. I had a stuck key.

Oh, I don’t have a problem with the occassional missspelling. :)

Knowing the father is a personal injury attorney really changes the story.

I like knowing all sides to a story and getting pertinent facts—Unlike modern day journalists who prefer misleading headlines and lots of hits on their blog.

Denise

September 7th, 2012
11:51 am

There is more to the story. I wish a witness would come forward and tell it so that people would be informed rather than getting riled up one way or the other.

I agree that children and adults, alike, cause turmoil on airplanes. I was just kicked the whole way on a flight and I promise it took all I had not to snatch that little boy’s legs. If it was his mother rather than his sister sitting with him I would have said something. (What was she really going to do? I would have really gotten pissed if a teenager would have mouthed off at me.) And no, adults don’t use inside voices either and that is aggravating. So yes, everybody can cause anybody to be uncomfortable on a flight they paid for.

What I don’t understand in this case is why, if the situation what that the kid was unfit to fly period, he was seated on another flight in COACH? If he was disruptive in first class why was he okay to be seated in coach? Was it because the pilot didn’t want him to disturb the people in first class or did the pilot feel like he didn’t want the kid that near to the pilot’s door for whatever reason? If it is because he didn’t want the first class customers disturbed then that’s some foolishness. This family was upgraded to first class so they had every right to be seated there as anyone else.

HB

September 7th, 2012
12:12 pm

MJG, it may have just been a flight that wasn’t full, so no extra cost to the airline (if Sunday night on a 3-day weekend is like Saturday nights usually are, extra seats in coach would not be unusual). Whether or not what AA claimed was true, the second airline probably felt that had to treat the young man as a security risk based on the first pilot’s judgement to cover their own butts. As for coach, there’s no reason the second airline would need to accommodate the 1st class upgrade for a customer coming from AA. They would likely offer any available upgrades to their own frequent fliers first.

Native Atlantan

September 7th, 2012
12:17 pm

@Aquagirl — simple solution for you, if you don’t like Theresa’s writing style just skip the article. Jeez….deflect much?

Aquagirl

September 7th, 2012
12:31 pm

if you don’t like Theresa’s writing style just skip the article. Jeez….deflect much?

No, deflection would be suddenly seizing on the topic of “Is Pluto Really A Planet?” Jeez…English much? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

When folks like Theresa fling poo, they don’t have to clean it up. They don’t end up with PR nightmares, months of angry complaints, or lawsuits. Bad journalism has consequences.

If you don’t give a flying flip, fine. Go read the Enquirer. I expect a little more from a Red and Black UGA grad writing in a major newspaper.

Native Atlantan

September 7th, 2012
12:36 pm

@Aquagirl….Right….so you fling your poo all over any and every blog available…..needy, very need you are.

Bernie

September 7th, 2012
12:44 pm

kevin @ 6:41 am – LOL! never and why would I ever want to be such a crude and heartless person whose God resides in their back pocket? Maybe you felt the nasty sting of a description of your self!

atlanta mom

September 7th, 2012
12:46 pm

“He was not ready to fly, that was our perspective,” Miller said. “We rebooked the family ”
So, he wasn’t ready to fly on American, but they were comfortable putting him on another airline. What’s that about?
As for “bad behavior”, I’ll take the 16 year old Down Syndrome child before a 2 year old, any time.

Bernie

September 7th, 2012
12:47 pm

Native Atlantan @ 12:36 pm – A very nasty habit of hers that provides cheap thrills of joy. sadly, that are only short lived.

motherjanegoose

September 7th, 2012
12:51 pm

@ HB fair point but why has no one mentioned the name of the redeeming airline?. After all, we are talking about EWR to LAX and that would be a LONG drive, if the family had to do it. Did I miss it?

Native Atlantan

September 7th, 2012
12:59 pm

Thanks Bernie. I know how she operates, unfortunately, she and I are normally on the same side of the discussions — especially on Jay’s blog. But the tone and tenor of her comments give us progressive a bad name.

Aquagirl

September 7th, 2012
1:11 pm

unfortunately, she and I are normally on the same side of the discussions — especially on Jay’s blog. But the tone and tenor of her comments give us progressive a bad name.

Actually Bernie and I are usually on the same side of discussions too, I’m not sure what burr got under his/her bum today. And I’m also not sure why you’re unconcerned about lousy journalism. We’re divergent here because I dislike sloppy thinking from anyone, least of all people who are supposed to be responsible for what they write.

And really, what gives “progressives” a bad name more than your gossipy exchange? If you don’t like my comments, take the advice you gave me and move along. If you think this is a wonderful post from Theresa I’m genuinely open to whatever points you’d like to make.

yari

September 7th, 2012
1:18 pm

what a shame!! this is discrimination! the boy should have been allowed on the plane! does this mean that all the crying babys that are on planes are going to get kicked off too!!!? its not like the boy was alone! his parents were with him and by what the mother says he wasnt running around or causing any kind of distraction..mybrother has down syndrome and if this would have happened to me i would be really angry! the boy should not have been treated any different i find it pointless to have to have sat the young man away from other passangers! and they reimbursed the family with the upgrating to first class?? THATS THE LEAST THEY COULD HAVE DONE!!!!

Native Atlantan

September 7th, 2012
1:37 pm

gossipy? get real….your word jumble is tiring….so, I’d make the same recommendation to you…drop it.

  

September 7th, 2012
2:08 pm

Way too much emotion-based responses here. Perhaps need to get all the facts first before calling for American Airlines employees to be lead to the guillotine, eh?

There is reasonable suspicion that the young man in question was not, at the time in question, acting in a way not suitable for the plane & its passsengers.

Man, does everyone believe everything they read these days without critical thinking?

Pat

September 7th, 2012
2:15 pm

He was put on a United flight, was assigned row 25 but later told they would have to sit in row 27. Rows 25 and 26 were empty but when passengers tried to move to those rows to get more space were told that no one was allowed to sit in those rows effectively isolating the family, as if they were contagious. I would be insulted as well.

Regarding the initial episode. They were told he could not board because he was a flight risk because he was running, yelling and excitable. The video from his mom shows him calmly sitting playing a bit with his hat. Granted that doesn’t mean nothing happened earlier but AA has never released videos or objective witnesses to support their story. The part that got my attention and really convinced me that AA was lying was that they said he was running. Most children with DS do not have an easy time running due to low muscle tone and problems with balance. When you combine those problems with his weight. I have no doubt that he was not running. That, the video from the mom and the lack of evidence from AA have me completely convinced that AA was making up a story likely because someone in first class did not want to sit near him. That said I hope AA somehow comes clean, says they reviewed the tapes and it turns out one of their employees was wrong..whatever. There will always be ignorant people. But AA let it go on and on. I don’t even think they should necessarily fire anyone–that could ensure that they hate people with disabilities if they don’t already. AA does however need to realize that they cannot deny someone a seat merely because it makes someone in first class uncomfortable. In that case where would it stop?

Grasshopper

September 7th, 2012
2:40 pm

Pat, quit pretending you know what happened. You weren’t there. You don’t know.

I’ve seen plenty of agitated kids with Down’s Syndrome. It’s not their fault but I can understand why a pilot who is responsible for the safety and comfort of several hundred people would have some hesitation about allowing an unruly 160 pound board an aircraft.

Uh, Pat...

September 7th, 2012
4:37 pm

…Grasshopper is correct – and, you evidently, have never been to a Special Olympics where running and jumping is done by Down’s participants quite nicely, thank you very much…

William Quantrill

September 7th, 2012
4:55 pm

Maybe if they put the little window licker in a crate he could ride in steerage with the dogs and cats. NOBODY wants to sit on a plane with a fat retard acting up. Tranquilizer darts could be another option.

Kat

September 7th, 2012
5:14 pm

Even if they were re-booked onto a later (in coach) flight, why was there a two-row barrier around the family?

Tiffany

September 7th, 2012
6:20 pm

There has got to be more to this story…it just does not make any sense. All of the Downs syndrome kids I have ever met have been truly sweet and loving people. Either the pilot had a fear of disabled people in general and over reacted to this child, or he must have seen something alarming. There should be a witness in this situation who could shed some light.

Bernie

September 7th, 2012
6:29 pm

The Problem is that this occurred in FIRST CLASS….. with the ELITES.
They paid too much for their area of the Plane to tolerate the Little People’s problems.

Stevve

September 7th, 2012
7:01 pm

Just when you think our country couldn’t get more disgusting…this!

Uh, Pat...

September 7th, 2012
7:10 pm

Enter your comments here

If they were in first class...

September 7th, 2012
7:10 pm

…sounds like the Democrat pilot was discriminating against a republican…

Bernie

September 7th, 2012
7:21 pm

If they were in first class… @ 7:10 pm – Most Pilots are Republicans…:) they are the only ones who can afford such lessons! LOL!
If he were a Democrat the kid would fly the PLANE! just to make ALL the Republicans on board NUTS! That would mean ALL of 1st CLASS! :)

Fresh Spring

September 7th, 2012
7:33 pm

LOTS more to this story than we are privy to. Seeking media attention/sympathy ? hmmmm

Autism Mom

September 7th, 2012
8:07 pm

I am the mother of an autistic child – because of the scope and nature of his disability and how he behaves, I would never book him into first class. I am his mother. I can make that decision, to what he can handle, what is respectful of others, and what is fair to us. Bede’s parents booked him into first class because he wasn’t going to be a disruption. Their call. The life of a special needs parents is that you are constantly second guessed when you are out in the community – if for no other reason you are out and there is still a whole huge segment of the population that don’t want to see our kids, period. The whole institutionalization thing…

That said, my other son and I flew first class from DC to Dallas in March. There was a baby in first class that screamed the entire way. No one asked the parents to move, the pilots didn’t say they would be distracted – we all had to suck it up, including my kid, silently engrossed in his DS for the duration of the flight. AA’s line was a load of crap and United shoving that family in the last row of coach with rows between them and anyone else is just crap. My fervent hope is that this family proceeds with an ADA claim through the government so rules and case law can replace “pilot discretion” and the trampling of the civil rights of the disabled and their families.

Bernie

September 7th, 2012
9:57 pm

William Quantrill @ 4:55 pm – A Mean and not so nice comment. This one must be a Mitt Romney Republican. You can tell by his cruelness.

Heather

September 7th, 2012
10:04 pm

Excuse me Mr. Quantrill, but that comment you made saying that this individual could be put in a crate and ride with the cats and dogs, plus calling him the R-word is very, very insulting! People with disabilities deserve the same respect as others do. As a person with high functioning autism/Asperger’s syndrome, I find the R-word insulting and very derogatory! Comments like the one you made make people with developmental disabilities feel bad about themselves. People with special needs have made many contibutions to society, lots of them have jobs, and lots of them have advocated for themselves and others with disabilities to make society more accessible and accepting
of them(myself included). And just to let you know people with special needs have abilities too! So please don’t use the R-word! It is a terrible word.

Sally

September 7th, 2012
10:24 pm

The “redeeming” airline is United. I’ve flown several times on American, their customer service is the absolute pits. Even though I have the misfortune to live in DFW, I still fly Delta whenever possible, even if it means changing planes. American has treated me that poorly in the past.

Robert

September 7th, 2012
11:53 pm

What many of the commenters seem to be lacking is personal experience. My 5 year-old daughter has Down syndrome, and my wife is the president of our local DS support group. There are many holes in the story, but they are in people’s perceptions. First, there are still many people–even some doctors–who misunderstand DS and assume DS people are “retards” and “reckless.” People with DS by definition have hypotonia (low muscle tone), so AA’s argument that he was “running around” and “being dangerous” is ludicrous and an obvious lie. Second, DS people are almost uniformly sweet and accepting for others (a natural naivete). Because of my daughter and my wife’s organization, I am around DS people all the time and I have yet to met a “dangerous” one. Lastly, the most likely explanation fits the pattern I have seen and experienced: many still feel it’s all right to discriminate against DS people, perhaps out of fear. I used to fly American Airlines…not anymore.

Noneemac

September 8th, 2012
12:22 am

Grasshopper, no American Airlines pilot flying EWR to LAX is responsible for the “safety and comfort of several hundred people.” AA flies one nonstop flight per day from EWR to LAX. The aircraft is a 737-800, which seats either 148 or 160 pax, depending on the configuration.

Samantha, were you drunk when you chimed in? Your spelling and grammar are atrocious. If you live in the South, congratulations. You have confirmed so many stereotypes and set your region back a decade.

I would love to hear from anyone who thinks they now how AA managed to convince another airline to take their “undesirable” family of three and block two entire rows for them. Please, someone convince me how AA’s purported security issue trumps another airlines revenue-management protocols.

Noneemac

September 8th, 2012
12:24 am

Pardon my typo. I meant to type “know,” not “now,” in line 1 of paragraph 3.

1 chromosome too many

September 8th, 2012
5:25 am

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Christy Love

September 8th, 2012
11:56 am

Now I know why children behave the way they do. They just watch “grown ups”.

Porterville resident

September 8th, 2012
4:20 pm

Waaaay more to the story. I have a relative that is a neighbor of this family. He says the 16 year old boy is a holy terror. A bus comes to pick him up everyday for school with a guard assigned just for him. He has to sit in the back with the guard for the others’ protection.

Robert Vanderhorst is a high profile, if not the highest profiled attorney in this area. He is out for blood, as usual.

Mohan

September 8th, 2012
7:51 pm

It is interesting how the media and bloggers are all over this story. Reading accounts of the teen and family being asked to take another flight are shocking indeed.
A few years ago, we lost our baby while on an international flight. I have tried to reflect on that incident and the stress parents traveling with children undergo.

Parents traveling with children undergo a lot more stress planning and preparing for the trip. … to be asked to take another flight can be excruciating. In this particular situation, all the facts are not in front of us. I wonder if one ought to give a benefit of doubt to the airline ground staff also? (Especially if other passengers had noticed something that would have alarmed them)

(ref: my Amazon book “A child lost in flight” http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008E9KKCW )

KenM

September 9th, 2012
1:06 am

If being agitated and running around at the gate are grounds for barring children and their parents from boarding, most families could not fly. At issue is not how the children behave before boarding, but how they behave after boarding and before take-off.

There is no doubt that this child and his parents were discriminated against unlawfully.

Airlines have been exercise too much muscle lately, barring people because of the way they dress or their appearance among other reasons, despite the fact that such behavior is perfectly legal and protected by the US Constitution.

Airlines serve at the pleasure of the FAA. And the FAA answers to the American people through our elected represents. It is about time that the Congress directed the FAA to pull the airlines’ tickets when they bar people for capricious reasons.

Passenger

September 9th, 2012
10:42 am

As a passenger who has listened to babies scream, had children kick my seatback, and endured other similar behaviors non-stop from Georgia to California, I would like this pilot’s name so I can fly with him every time I fly.

I understand fair and non-discriminatory, but I also think if I sit there and behave my 64 y/o self, then I deserve the same behavior from others. The rest of the passengers, the flight crew and everyone else on the plane has the right to a safe and semi-peaceful flight. There will be exceptions, I am sure, and that is fine. But if the pilot thinks a passenger might be a problem serious enough to warrant that passenger not being allowed to fly, then the pilot owes it to everyone else on that flight to keep that passenger from flying. Perhaps the pilot was worried about the child getting trapped in the lavatory and going berserk? Heck, I worry about that..or having the seatbelt warning come on, hit an air pocket and cause me to levitate?

And since the family flew isolated in the rear of the plane that they did fly on, perhaps the original pilot WAS afraid the child might go for a door in mid-flight? He is a big boy and might be difficult to stop if that was his goal?

Perhaps Amtrak would be an option? Beautiful scenery, getting to sleep on a real train? Eat on the train? I would think any child would love that.

ann

September 9th, 2012
11:52 am

It is clear that the airline was trying to ensure the comfort of the elite…who also get the protection of a curtain and better access to rest rooms…we poor plebes just have to make do with inadequate arrangements. Heaven forbid that first class passengers should be disturbed by having to share space with a person with disabilities. I hope the lawsuit to follow will be very successful…

ann

September 9th, 2012
11:55 am

I can only hope that the lawsuit that will follow this discriminatory action will be very successful. May I also inquire about the far ranging powers that airline personnel seem to possess? Is there no regulation? No oversight? No common sense?

Grasshopper

September 9th, 2012
11:57 am

Noneemac
September 8th, 2012
12:22 am

“Grasshopper, no American Airlines pilot flying EWR to LAX is responsible for the “safety and comfort of several hundred people.” AA flies one nonstop flight per day from EWR to LAX. The aircraft is a 737-800, which seats either 148 or 160 pax, depending on the configuration.”

Oh! Well if it’s only 160 people that makes a huge difference doesn’t it?

Debbie Jones

September 9th, 2012
12:53 pm

I agree with someone earlier who said if the young man were just sitting there playing with his hat, the pilot would not have noticed him. There must be more to the story.

motherjanegoose

September 9th, 2012
4:07 pm

@Passenger, Grasshopper and Debbie…thanks!

@ ann…most anyone can fly in 1st class, if the are willing to pay the price. BTW… the beef is also different at Ruth Chris than Wendys!

I have never paid for a 1st class seat. I have been upgraded often due to being a frequent flier. I try to be on my best behavior, when I sit with those who are spending thousands of dollars to sit in a roomier section than those who bought their last minute seat for $129 r/t. This, to me, is no different than those who pay more to live in certain neighborhoods. The expectations are simply different and the benefits too.

I typically find the flight crew to have more common sense than the passengers, as they have spent more hours in a plane.

Observer

September 9th, 2012
7:28 pm

Two sides to every story….what we know as facts today, down syndrome teen denied access to flight and his dad is a personal injury atty.

Mary M.

September 9th, 2012
7:30 pm

Knowing a person with Down Syndrome is a gift. I have flown with my friend with Down Syndrome whenever possible we fly first class because it makes traveling easier. It is hard to imagine that this pilot spoke with the boy or knows someone who has Down Syndrome and still made this decision.

Dean

September 10th, 2012
12:14 am

this seriously upsets me, i will avoid flying with them and am considering calling to complain about this. the actions by the airline company were seriously flawed.

My name isn't Medium Coffee

September 10th, 2012
3:42 pm

Unfortunately there isn’t any proof of discrimination. People are getting too wrapped up in what they want to believe about the situation. It seems like the parents are really hung-up on their son’s disability, to the point that they expect him to be treated differently because of it (allowed to fly after he’s been assessed a flight-risk).

I wrote an article about it, please feel free to let me know what you think:
http://www.mynameisntmediumcoffee.com/2012/09/awful-big-bad-airline-denies-first.html

Polis

September 10th, 2012
4:59 pm

Mia C

September 10th, 2012
5:06 pm

Dear Porterville Resident: If you knew anything about how special education works…sigh. That is not a GUARD on the special education bus, it is an AIDE. That is how the special ed bus works- there are aides on it to help the kids and they will not let a child get off the bus unless they are being handed directly to a teacher, aide, or parent. This is for ALL special ed kids that ride the bus, not just this one.

And if this kid was really a handful when he flies, why would the parents fly him all over all the time? Answer: they wouldn’t. Because it is beyond exhausting dealing with a developmentally disabled person when they don’t want to cooperate.

Teechur

September 11th, 2012
2:19 pm

After teaching for almost 35 years, at many grade levels, those aides on the bus ARE there to help the students. BUT, they are also there to keep order. The Porterville person did not say, but if he is the only one on that bus, that might indicate a problem with his behavior. I don’t know from what is written here. I do know that it is doubtful that the pilor wanted him off his plane for no reason. This is just like the parents that come to school, hear the teacher’s side of the story and refuse to believe it. Always take what a parent of a special needs child says with a grain of salt.

Amber

September 11th, 2012
3:29 pm

If discrimination was really the cause of the pilot’s decision and the parents are sincerely upset about it, then there should be a settlement that AA requires its pilots to do work with disabled people and attend sensitivity classes. NO monetary settlement should be necessary. This is an issues of morals and repairing moral wrongs. Nobody was monetarily damaged. Is this story is as they claim it to be then this pilot disrespected the boy and his family. People need to learn that not everything can/should be fixed with a monetary payment.