A family is suing United Airlines after being kicked off of a flight on their way home from Disney World. Their daughter, Juliette has autism, and the crew grew concerned that Juliette was being “disruptive.” Juliette’s mother, Donna Beegle, says the situation happened due to sheer ignorance, and has filed a discrimination suit with the hope that United will implement appropriate training for its personnel. The airline says they acted in the best interest of the crew and passengers.
According to a long Facebook post by Donna, the issue started because Juliette is a picky eater (as many people on the spectrum are) and only likes hot food. She refused her dinner before the flight, and after she got on the plane, also refused the snacks Donna had packed. The in-flight meal only had cold options available, but Donna still bought a cold chicken sandwich for Juliette to try…
When Juliette wouldn’t eat the sandwich, Donna asked the flight attendant if she could purchase one of the hot meals from First Class. She was told no. For 40 minutes, she tried to get rice from First Class, explaining to the flight attendant that her child has autism. Eventually she even tried persuading him by wielding the fact that she was a platinum member on United. Still no. After asking for chips (as Juliette would eat something salty) she was told that they unfortunately didn’t have any.
Juliette began to cry at this point. It was a long flight, and Donna, well-versed in her child’s triggers, knew that Juliette was going to need to eat something or she was going to have a meltdown. So she told the flight attendant, “after she has a meltdown and tries to scratch in frustration, will you help her then?”
“Juliette has flown since she was six months,” Donna wrote. “She has been to five countries, 24 states and we have never experienced anything like this. Most often the flight attendants go out of their way to make Juliette comfortable and happy. This was a sheer case of ignorance.”
The flight attendant walked away, and came back with hot food. Donna thanked him and offered to pay, but he left without saying anything. A short time later, after Juliette had eaten and was contentedly watching a movie, an announcement came on that they were going to make an unexpected landing in Salt Lake City because a passenger was having issues.
After they landed, paramedics came on board and asked Donna if Juliette had scratched anyone. Baffled, Donna said no. Immediately after the paramedics left, two police officers came on board and asked the family to leave. After arguing with the police and asking the rest of the plane if they had been bothered by Juliette (which was met with a resounding “no”), the family finally disembarked. They were rebooked for a different flight on a different airline.
Donna is now filing a law suit against the airline. The airline released a statement about the incident, saying:
“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. We rebooked the customers on a different carrier and the flight continued to Portland.”
Autism awareness is so important, especially as the rate of diagnoses keeps increasing. Be supportive of people with special needs, and let’s raise awareness! <3Whizzco