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Mom plans to sue after autistic daughter removed from plane in U.S.

46 Comments
By TIM FOUGHT

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46 Comments
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she purchased a chicken sandwich and asked for it to be warmed in a microwave. The crew refused, she said, telling her the sandwich would get soggy.

Allow a sandwich to get soggy vs. emergency landing... it's a tough call. I'm glad I don't have to make such difficult decisions in my line of work.

3 ( +12 / -8 )

The crew made the right decision. They did what they could to satisfy the girl, even bringing her a meal from the 1st class. If she is prone to have tantrums, then her parents should travel by car. It is not the girl's fault, she can't decide what's best for her. It is her parents who are to be blamed. Sorry to say that, but it's true.

-1 ( +19 / -19 )

Lost in N,

Too me it looks like the crew's thinking caps were a little late kicking in

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

Airplanes don't have microwaves onboard, just heaters.

11 ( +13 / -3 )

After about 40 minutes, Beegle said, the crew got the teen a hot serving of jambalaya from first class, “and she was perfectly happy.” Shortly afterward, however, an emergency landing in Salt Lake City was announced, and they were removed, she said.

OK, so....?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I believe Autism should be given more attention. Autism spectrum disorders are a variety of different developmental disabilities that affect the brain and can cause problems with communications and behavior in those affected. Children with autism spectrum disorder have restrictive and ritualistic behavior that affect their eating habits. Some of them limit what they eat and are picky eaters. There are a few media portrayals of people with autism but more needs to be done to advocate it and the struggles involved by those affected. I have a personal connection to autism and the challenge it creates since I have a autistic family member. Hopefully more people become educated about autism.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

The family has flown overseas and domestically 22 times with their child. Did they not once bring some hot food...soup etc. and a doctor's note so TSA would not freak out? 22 times....hmmmm...makes me wonder.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

@M3M3M3 Allow a sandwich to get soggy vs. emergency landing... it's a tough call. I'm glad I don't have to make such difficult decisions in my line of work.

This!

But in defence of the flight staff ... paranoia among airlines is rampant these days so for them even an autistic girl with a tantrum could crash an airplane!

7 ( +10 / -3 )

its the parents responsibility to control there children whether they have a handicap or not. if they have special requirement they should bring that with them or ask the airline to supply it beforehand. parents knew that she was prone to tantrums and should be able to control here in any location. Airlines have enough to worry about with terrorism than the added problems with disruptive passengers. if the parents cant or wont control there children they need to take a car.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

I'd be sympathetic except direct quotes of the mother from other news sites indicates her advisement to the flight attendant was more in the nature of a threat and/or ultimatum:

"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.'"

12 ( +13 / -1 )

If someone is violent, i want them dealt with accordingly irrespective of any mental disabilities they may have. If an autistic individual is unable to control his or her temper, that responsibility falls on their carers, not company employees or members of the public.

The risk is that we end up regarding mental problems as an excuse for violent behaviour - or worse - indulging that person's behaviour, instead of correcting or mitigating it.

Autistic or not, if this girl attacks people indiscriminately, at some point she is going to get a fist in the face for her troubles.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

AS for this 'microwaving the sandwich' request... Planes don't have microwaves, and no one in their right mind should microwave a chicken sandwich anyway, not unless they want the person eating it to get food poisoning.

As for the actual plane diverting incident, it does sound a bit extreme, although the parents should have contacted the airline before the flight to explain they will need special assistance and dietary requirements for their daughter. It would have made things much easier, and the mother's comments about scratching and violence wouldn't have been see as such a red flag by the crew. It doesn't matter if a person is ill, or has autism or any other problem, if there is a risk of violence the flight crew have no option but to act. Passengers with challenging behaviour fly all the time with no problem, it's all about planning and communication between the passenger and the airline before and during the flight. That doesn't seem to have happened here.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

A.N. Other: "The risk is that we end up regarding mental problems as an excuse for violent behaviour - or worse - indulging that person's behaviour, instead of correcting or mitigating it."

I agree, but the funny thing is that whenever there is a crime committed and reported on this site there are many who, immediately, rush to that person's defense and say the person cannot be held accountable and that it is not their fault.

It may well be up to the caregivers to deal with problems such as this -- to an extent. But, did the airline let the girl onboard knowing her illness? My guess is yes. They therefore know that the possibility of this kind of thing occurring is just that -- a possibility. And they therefore share in the responsibility.

Now, what could they have done instead of rerouting the plane and kicking the family off? I'm not sure. For starters the could have heated up the sandwich -- certainly less of a problem than what they ended up having to do.

And yes, it does sound like what the woman said was kind of a threat.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Emergency landing because of a tantrum?

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

I've been on a plane with a crying baby and that was annoying, I can't imagine what this would have been like for the passengers. While I have some sympathy for the child I'm afraid I have to fall back on Star Trek 2: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few... or the one."

4 ( +5 / -1 )

the funny thing is that whenever there is a crime committed and reported on this site there are many who, immediately, rush to that person's defense and say the person cannot be held accountable and that it is not their fault.

No there isn't. Please show one example on this site - anywhere - where people have said that the person cannot be held accountable and it is not their fault.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

@Thunderbird2: I have to fall back on Star Trek 2: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few... or the one."

I think the needs of the many were just to keep flying for another hour or so and land at the destination on time... but the crew probably just got angry and lost all objectivity. They shouldn't have been removed and then simple dumped on a different unsuspecting airline. It's not something Jean-Luc Picard would have done. As he said:

"There is a way out of every box, a solution to every puzzle; it's just a matter of finding it."

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Strangerland: "where people have said that the person cannot be held accountable and it is not their fault."

Click on your history, amigo. You have been one of the number one defenders of people who it is even SUGGESTED might be suffering from mental problems (and clearly given what I quoted it was in the context of people with mental disorders), and you LITERALLY have said "they are not culpable"; that's likely why you were so quick to jump on my comment. No backtracking, now, or denying it!

Thunderbird2: "I've been on a plane with a crying baby and that was annoying, I can't imagine what this would have been like for the passengers."

There's been controversy of late over airlines who have declined people who want to fly with infants for that reason, or that the people had to book special tickets or something, and while I also find it unnerving when there are babies crying or kids being fussy (or adults, for that matter!), if there is no rule in place then it is ultimately the airline's burden to deal with it.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

and no one in their right mind should microwave a chicken sandwich anyway, not unless they want the person eating it to get food poisoning.

Huh? It was a chicken sandwich, not raw chicken between two slices of bread.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

M3M3M3,"There is a way out of every box, a solution to every puzzle; it's just a matter of finding it."

Fine if you have endless time and patience, but not for a stressed flight crew who may be close to their wits' end even without this puzzle.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Click on your history, amigo. You have been one of the number one defenders of people who it is even SUGGESTED might be suffering from mental problems (and clearly given what I quoted it was in the context of people with mental disorders), and you LITERALLY have said "they are not culpable";

I have never said this.

What we have here is that you have reading comprehension issues. That's why I told you to provide an example - when you try to, you will realize that you have misread every single time.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Readers, please stop bickering.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@siouxchef I hope you aren't a real chef, because reheating cooked chicken has to be done very carefully. Anyone working in the catering industry or public health knows this.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Will Starbucks heat a sandwich for you that you bought somewhere else? Of course not. No one handling food will heat up another shop's or restaurant's products. The airline has no idea when the chicken sandwich was made or purchased.

If the parents know that their daughter will only eat a hot meal, they should reserve her one when they buy their tickets. They were on a flight of a little over 4 hours duration, and there hasn't been meal service in coach on flights under 5 hours in about 10 years now, outside of cookies/pretzels/chips and the rare sandwich. They have no right to not make any kind of reservation for their daughter and then demand a hot meal that has to be provided from first class. Bullying flight crew is never a good idea.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Mom plans to sue....

Gotta be an American.

They were on a flight of a little over 4 hours duration, and there hasn't been meal service in coach on flights under 5 hours in about 10 years now, outside of cookies/pretzels/chips and the rare sandwich.

Depends on the airline, the world does not revolve just around the US of A.

They have no right to not make any kind of reservation for their daughter and then demand a hot meal that has to be provided from first class. Bullying flight crew is never a good idea.

I agree, and while it may not be a popular opinion I get the impression that Mom felt she was "entitled" to special treatment because of her daughter and got ticked off because "she" didn't get what she wanted.

I also agree with the folks placing the blame at the feet of the parents, the girl is not responsible for her behavior and the parents have a duty to ensure that their daughter is taken care of by them, and not expect everyone to bow to their needs, particularly on an airplane.

paranoia among airlines is rampant these days so for them even an autistic girl with a tantrum could crash an airplane!

I prefer the paranoia to becoming a statistic or news story. I am with the airline here, I hope the judge who gets the case tosses it out.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The pilot and the rest of the flight crew should be commended for dealing with an unruly and threatening parent, next time the parents should make better preparations before taking a flight. Making threats of violence to others, or in this case oneself, or their child is not going to make the flight crew bend to your will. Better planning should have been put in place, and the airlines should have been notified long in advance of the special nature of their child's needs.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

This child is not the center of the universe. If the mother had made it clear to the airline the facts about her daughter (before they boarded), then it would be the airline's responsibility to act accordingly. It doesn't appear that was the case. I'm sorry for the child, but the mother should have done a better job of 'designing' the trip.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I think that both parties are at fault.

1st, United doesn't have a "nice" service, they treat their customers with contempt and they aren't useful in getting a solution that is their responsibility. I say so because once they left me stranded in a conection in an international flight, leaving me completely alone, a foreign in a unknown city to me, looking for a hotel on my own.

2nd. The parents should program the trip more carefully, as someone said, a flight under 5 hours doesn't serve a hot meal, and it is not simply asking the crew to re-heat it (even if they had a microwave or something that would allow a chicken sandwich to re-heat) it is a delicate matter, sanitary issues arise when handling food that is made outside standards of an airplane, I know is sounds weird, there are health and sanitary standards in the workplace that must be observed at anytime (where I work, I cannot eat outside the canteen that is designed for that, I cannot bring food from outside, and if for some reason i bring my own food, I have to take full responsibility for all posible health problems that might come form eating such food).

The Mother threatened the crew with the tantrum of their daughter, that threat alone is enough to change planes,

can be a picky eater and sometimes lashes out if she doesn't get what she wants, but she hopes a lawsuit would lead to training for airline employees about dealing with people who have autism.

Typical of an American, if the girl gets violent because doesn't get what she wants, it is the parents that should ensure that she doesn't get violent, not dumping that responsibility on an airline

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My younger brother is autistic and my parents have long been hesitant about bringing him to Japan from the U.S. because he has his moods and fixations.

We are getting the perspective of the mother in this article but I would like to hear the perspective of the flight attendants and captains who had to make the extreme decision to ground the plane as if it was an emergency. I mean her saying to the cabin crew that they have to warm up food or her daughter could scratch someone is almost threat-like especially for someone unfamiliar with autism.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This women should never become a Mother. Rising children even children with autistism need routine. Routine is the most important element in the life of young children It is obvious that she dose not understand the importants of routine. Picky eaters are due to given in to the child demands and for allowing for the child or children to have others options of food choice, Where routine should be in place. E.G eat your food or you have the option of going to bed and stick to it. I bet this mother has always given. The airline allow for all sorts of passages and give you to opportunity to do so when you book a flight. Or take the food choices of the child in a bag. Now she has blaming the airline for her poor parenting skills.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I personally think the mother has a case. First of all the airlines should by now be trained to deal with many types of passengers. I think they missed the boat on this one and decided to throw the family off the plane. I remember flying to Japan from Los Angles and that is at least a 12 hour flight and their was a baby on board. The baby cried from take off and periodically through out the entire flight. My question is this, should the pilot have turned the plane around and threw the mom and baby off the plane. Perhaps maybe the baby had a problem. What is the difference noise is noise disturbance is disturbance regardless of the age and considering the mom told the crew about her daughters conditions they rather get rid of the problem than dealing with it. The young girl was causing no problems she was looking at a video in my case the baby cried ever hour on the hour and nothing happened the plane continue until it landed and last I heard the baby was still crying going through customs and immigration at narita!!!

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Depends on the airline, the world does not revolve just around the US of A.

This was a domestic flight in the US, on United airlines.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I saw many commenters on other English news sites and the mother (Dr. Donna Beegle—an advocate for poverty)'s Facebook page defending the mother use the term 'Angel' to describe the children with ASD. Just like many parents call their children with Down Symdrome 'Angel-chan (天使ちゃん)' in Japan. I just don't get it.

Kids are all equally precious angels that can turn into lil' demons at times...the airline company tried what they could do to accomodate the family's needs in order to maintain the peace for everyone on board, however, the mother's choice of words—"Wait until she meltdown and start scratching"—was an issue.

It is not up to us to judge wether landing was neccessary—it is strictly up to the pilot who is responsible all the lives on the plane.

If the mother was simply filing a complain, people would be more sympathetic to the families with Autism and possibly willing to learn more about the desease, but sueing the airline company...the mother play it wrong. Now most people will find this case as "an entitled parent using reverse discrimination to get first-class meal."

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This family should be put on a "no fly" list on all flights within the U.S. Let them use another method of transport (car, bus, train, hitchhike) to get from point A to point B and back.

Problem solved.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I would have an element of sympathy for this family except here on this report and here in the US this woman story keeps changing. There has been no mention of "wailing" and no suggestion from her that she threatened if they don't help her she will have a meltdown. If I could actually get to the truth behind what happened I could form an opinion on it, but one thing stands out a mile - if they have had that much experience of flying with an autistic child, why weren't they better prepared?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"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.'"

If the mother actually said this, then the flight crew was 100% in the right to kick them off the plane. Threatening the flight crew with physical harm to a passenger or crewmember unless she got her way SHOULD have landed this woman in jail. This is tantamount to extortion. "Do what I want or someone is going to get hurt!"

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This was a domestic flight in the US, on United airlines.

I know this but what I was commenting to was a blanket statement regarding flight services: Please reread the quote.

They were on a flight of a little over 4 hours duration, and there hasn't been meal service in coach on flights under 5 hours in about 10 years now, outside of cookies/pretzels/chips and the rare sandwich.

I can tell you from experience that this is not true outside of the USA, and if this is standard practice IN the US I will forever choose to not fly on a US carrier. It isnt about the food really, it's about the overall services that no longer are offered and used to be common.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

15 yr old is a minor. Parents are 100% responsible for all behavior and control.

I wasn't there, but I have been on flights where adults had tantrums and the flight crews behaved poorly, which lead to escalation.

Gag and straight jacket would be my solution, no inconveniencing 200+ other people.

I'd put that entire family on my "no fly list" if I were United. They can drive or take a bus or some other airline. Flying is not a right.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Yubaru, I was commenting on the situation in the U.S., where the incident occurred. There's no need for me to address how in-flight meals are handled in other countries. You get a full meal on the hour and a half flight to Seoul on Korean Air, but that has nothing to do with this situation.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

My comment was about the girl being described as "perfectly happy", then they announce that the plane is landing. It sounds like the episode was over so why take action?

As for the flight attendants, they took 40 minutes to bring the family a meal from first class. There's no reason to wait that long if the food is right there. It's an autistic child and it's not like we're asking the world from United. My guess is that there was an attitude/power struggle going on.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

@siouxchef I hope you aren't a real chef, because reheating cooked chicken has to be done very carefully. Anyone working in the catering industry or public health knows this.

You seem to be confused (I'm guessing you've read not to use a microwave to cook chicken or not to defrost chicken more than once--both risky behaviors; microwaving a chicken sandwich presents no risk.

It's chicken--not a magical food that circumvents how microbiology actually works.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Americans always sue first and ask questions later. The stewardesses can't be expected to be nurses and be able to handle any passengers particular medical condition. They do however know what sort of behavior is appropriate on an airplane. The flight ended without incident but the child's behavior did inconvenience a whole lot of people. The event was handled by the captain and the crew as they saw fit. That's how it works on an airplane in flight. There was really no harm done except inconvenience to everyone on the plane - not just the kids parents. I hope the lawsuit is laughed out of court. But in the US who knows? It could turn into the next trial of the century.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The stewardesses can't be expected to be nurses and be able to handle any passengers particular medical condition.

They sure can't. But if bringing hot food, which is on the plane, can avoid a person having a meltdown due to a mental condition, maybe they should just give it to her and everyone can move on with their lives.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Superlib. It is a behaviour issue of a 15 old girl. This is a insult to people with Autism and the parents who have listen to professional advice. Advice on how to manage a autistic child so they can enter the general education system. advice so they can be apart of the community. My Ex-wife is a Special educator who deals with helping parents preparing their autistic children to enter school, to enter the work force and be part of the community . It not brain surgery, it just putting in place routine. This women just want to blame anyone for her situation and poor parenting skills. Autistic people travel on flights around the world everyday and they are not getting put off flights.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

@John-san I was wonderifcng if this girl is really austism child or a spoiled brat. Thank you for your explanation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

But if bringing hot food, which is on the plane,

Which the parent neither ordered nor paid for, but expected would be made available. They need to take care of their child's needs and not leave it up to chance.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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