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An Autistic Child’s Tantrum Is No Reason To Treat A Family LIke Criminals

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united-airlines-plane-justin-sullivanThere are a lot of things to contend with when flying: long lines, boring waits, tiny leg space, and crappy food. One thing you’re usually pretty sure you won’t have to deal with is a pointless emergency landing or getting kicked off the plane for an innocuous reason, but that’s exactly what happened to an Oregon family after their autistic child became ‘disruptive’ during a plane ride.

According to NBC affiliate KGW, Dr. Donna Beegle and her family were on a United Airlines fight on their way home from a trip to Disney World when their autistic 15-year-old daughter became upset. The plane was stopped in Houston for a layover and the girl was hungry, so Beegle asked a flight attendant if they could have some food.

Donna asked a United flight attendant if Juliet could have something hot to eat. She says the flight attendant told her only first class passengers get hot food. Donna told the flight attendant her daughter would probably have a meltdown. And she did… One of the flight attendants eventually brought Juliet some hot food. Beegle offered to pay and thought that would be the end of it.

Once her daughter was done eating, the flight had resumed and Beegle says they settled down to watch a movie with no further disruptions. The next thing they knew, there was an announcement by the captain that the plane was making an emergency landing because of a disruptive passenger. They landed in Salt Lake City and Beegle and her entire family were escorted off the aircraft by police.

A passenger sitting a few rows behind them took video of the police removing them from the plane, and from the video you can see their daughter is totally calm. You can also hear another passenger seated near them state that the emergency landing is “ridiculous.” Beegle told KGW she was shaking the entire time and the experience “ripped my heart out.” Beegle has since filed complaints with both United and the FAA and intends to sue the airline. She says her goal is not money, but mandatory training for all employees.

United released a statement in support of the crew on the airplane, saying the girl was a risk to the safety and comfort of other passengers, but I think they went way overboard in this situation. Could this mom have prepared better for their flight? Absolutely. But diverting the flight and having police escort them off the plane like criminals, especially when the situation had long been resolved, seems extreme and almost like a bigger disruption than the initial incident.

This isn’t the first time United has made some questionable decisions about the health and safety of their customers. Just a few weeks ago I wrote about a different family on a United flight who was forced to sit in vomit, and not long before that, a woman was chastised and humiliated by a flight attendant while breastfeeding on a United flight. Whether this girl was disturbing other passengers or not, United employees could definitely use some additional training on all fronts.

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(Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images News)