Culture & Entertainment

Was this airline justified in diverting plane due to autistic child's 'behaviour issue'?

By: Teresa Sousa
Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

Was this airline justified in diverting plane due to autistic child's 'behaviour issue'?

By: Teresa Sousa

[HTML1] Donna Beagle was flying from Houston to Portland with her husband, son and autistic 15 year old daughter, Juliette. While the family had dinner in Houston, Juliette refused to eat. Her mom brought some snacks on board for her because "if her blood sugar lets go, she gets frustrated and antsy. We try to anticipate that and prevent that." After boarding the plane, Donna requested a hot meal and explained that Juliette refuses room-temp food. She received a sandwich which wasn't as warm as Juliette would have liked. Sensing Juliette getting frustrated, Donna asked the flight attendant for a hot meal from first class that she could purchase. She was refused. "Please help us out here", said Donna to the flight attendant. Again he refused. "I have a child with special needs. I need to get her something." He said "I can't do that." She then went on to say "How about we wait for her to have a meltdown, she'll be crying and trying to scratch in frustration. I don't want her to get to that point." After that conversation, the attendant brought over some rice and jambalaya. Juliette ate it and was able to calm down. She settled into her seat and quietly watched a video. Within half an hour, an announcement came over the loud speaker saying that the plane was making an emergency landing because of a passenger with "a behaviour issue." Police officers came on board and said "The captain has asked us to ask you to step off the plane. He is not comfortable flying on to Portland with Juliette on board." and then they were escorted off the plane. "It just killed me for her to be treated this way. It was awful. It was completely uncalled for." said Donna. A fellow traveler, Jodi Smith, who was sitting three rows behind Juliette said "This was just ridiculous...she was calm. She had done nothing. I've been on flights where kids have screamed for 4 hours and they've never diverted a flight." Donna has filed complaints and a lawsuit against United Airlines, but not for money. She would like to see airline workers receive autism training. She believes that had the flight attendant been aware of the challenges that a person with autism experiences, together, they would have been able to find a workable solution. Instead she said "he was disrespectful, he was rude." Do you believe the airline was justified in having Juliette and her family escorted off the plane due to "behaviour issues"?   photo courtesy of Steven Damron/Flickr.com
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Was this airline justified in diverting plane due to autistic child's 'behaviour issue'?

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