American Airlines Won’t Let Teen With Down Syndrome Fly First Class

Bandit_Driver

Gold Member
http://www.lifenews.com/2012/09/04/american-airlines-wont-let-teen-with-down-syndrome-fly-first-class/


American Airlines Won’t Let Teen With Down Syndrome Fly First Class
by Steven Ertelt | LifeNews.com | 9/4/12 5:27 PM

This is the 3rd story I’ve posted like this. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m becoming more sensitive to stories about people with Down syndrome being treated unfairly, or if the media is starting just starting to report more stories like these. Either way, I think this story deserves to have some attention.

American Airlines refuses to allow a teenager with Down syndrome to fly first class?

The Daily News published a story today about a 16 year old boy with Down syndrome, and their family, being denied boarding on an American Airlines flight. The family claims they purchased first-class tickets for their Newark to Los Angeles flight, and were kicked off the plane before ever even getting on it, because their teenage son had Down syndrome. In fact, the family believes that American Airlines specifically didn’t want their son to be in first class because he has Down Syndrome.

After the Daily News published their story American Airlines released the following statement:

“Asking the family to take the next flight was a decision that was made with careful consideration and that was done based on the behavior of the teen. Our customer service team worked with the Vanderhorst family and the EWR [Newark airport] team, as well as the crew, tried to get Bede comfortable. Unfortunately, the crew determined he was still agitated.”

My first thought?

“Maybe it was a good thing American Airlines didn’t let the teenager board the plane.”

I’ll be honest, I’m very skeptical when I hear a story like this. I’ve noticed that some parents of children with special needs are hyper sensitive, and interpret every un-fun situation that happens to their child as someone singling them out because they have special needs. There 15 month old with Down syndrome can’t ride The Texas Giant? It’s because he has Down Syndrome! Their 3 year old with Autism can’t buy pancakes after 10:30 in the morning at McDonald’s? It must be because their daughter has Autism! Their 15 year old with cerebral palsy can’t buy a last minute ticket to see the new Harry Potter movie because the movies sold out? No way! It has to be because the movie theater doesn’t like people with cerebral palsy!

My second thought when I first read this story was:

“Oh brother….it’s another one of those parents.”

In American Airlines response, they said that Bede Vanderhorst (the teenager that wasn’t allowed on the plane) was “agitated” and that they couldn’t get him “comfortable.” If that was the case, and the teenager was out of control, then American Airlines shouldn’t have let him on the plane. Down syndrome, or no Down syndrome. I don’t want to fly with someone who is “agitated” and could pose a risk to the flight. This doesn’t have anything to do with their son having Down syndrome, it has to do with him being out of control. It’s not American Airlines fault that their child has some behavior problems. (I would group “being agitated” as a behavior problem.)

I also read that the parents were already talking about suing American Airlines, which only made more suspicious that these parents were indeed those parents.

Again, these were just my initial thoughts.

Then I saw this video….see website for video

When American Airlines told the family that their son couldn’t board the plane because of “security concerns” Mrs. Vanderhorst grabbed her camera phone (thank the Lord for technology!) and recorded some of American Airline’s gate agents telling them that their son wouldn’t be allowed on the flight. You can hear the mother sobbing in the background, and very hurt because of the way they felt they were being treated.

Even when I heard that part of the news interview, I still thought, Yah, but maybe their son was acting out of control. Let’s see some video of their son. Then the camera pans over to their son, who is not “agitated” at all. In fact, it appears that he is simply sitting quality in his seat, waiting to board the plane.



No matter how thin the pancakes, there’s always two sides…

I’ve learned in life that there are always two sides to every story. It’s easy to jump down the airlines throat and assume the worst. I’ll be honest, I would have liked to have seen some video 20 minutes before this one. Perhaps their son was behaving inappropriately and the parents weren’t paying attention because they were to busy checking email on their iPhone (anyone else guilty of this beside me?) The then, once the family found out they weren’t able to board the plane, they scolded their son, told him to sit down quality, and that’s the only part that made the video. I have no way of knowing since I wasn’t there.

On the other hand, American Airlines said in their statement that the pilot’s talked to the family and tried to help their child get “comfortable.” The family claims that is an outright lie, and that no pilot spoke to them prior to their son getting kicked off the flight. Also there are no witness’s to their son’s claimed “bad behavior.” I’ve been to many airports, and very seldom are they not busy… especially on a Sunday afternoon. It sure seems that if their son was indeed behaving so inappropriately as to cause a safety concern for other passengers, there would have been a lot of witnesses.

Again, I wasn’t there, and I have no idea what really happened. To be honest, I’m 100% sure American Airlines as a company doesn’t deny passengers with Down syndrome, or any other special need, to board a flight, regardless of where they sit. Could you imagine the liability on their hands if that was the case?

However, I could see an uninformed (and perhaps ignorant) gate agent that doesn’t know anything about Down syndrome make a really bad decision. Perhaps she saw someone who was different than her, and instead of getting past her uncomfortableness and simply talking to the family, and maybe even asking if their son required any special assistance on the flight (he wouldn’t have by the way, but maybe she didn’t know that), she made a very poor (and hurtful) decision.

By the way, in case you were wondering if it’s hard for someone with Down syndrome to fly on an airplane, check our this video of our son’s fist flight, and you tell me.

What do you think of this story? Did American Airlines make a huge mistake? Are the parents blowing things out of portion? Or, is it just to hard to tell? By the way, have you ever felt discriminated against while traveling with your child with Down syndrome? Or on the other side of the coin, do you have any fun travel stories to share? (I like those better!) Be sure to leave a comment below and tell us about it.

LifeNews Note: Rick Smith is Noah’s Dad and he’s creating an online story about his son who was born with Down syndrome on his blog. In addition he manages Noah’s Dad’s Facebook community, Noah’s Dad Twitter stream, and Noah’s Dad Youtube channel. He and enjoys using social media to show the world that children born with Down syndrome are worthy of life.
 

Pilotforhire587

Lycra Man
Stories like this make me sick... I have a special place in my heart for special needs kids. Oh and while we are on the subject, both of the Target stores near my house have a few teenagers working the registers and customer service that have down syndrome. After seeing that I try to avoid Wal-Mart, sorry Zap, and shop at Target when ever possible.
 

dustoff17

Well-Known Member
On the other hand, if you're the person sitting next to (or in front of) an agitated child (Down's, undisciplined, bad behaivior, whatever....) that won't calm down, you WANT the airlines to look after your comfort. Even if in coach the airliine has a responsibility to the entire airplane (not just one child or family).
This is especially true in First or Business class; there is a reason most people buy these tickets.

I wouldn't expect a ticket agent, gate agent, FA or pilot to know anything about Down's, Austism, or any other subject OUTSIDE of thier expertise. What I do expect is they will conduct themselves in a professional manner and do what's best for the passengers as a whole.

These stories are almost always skewed but if this one holds true, AA did the right thing.....IMHO
 

ChasenSFO

hen teaser
I've boarded people in first class as a gate agent with downs, never thought twice about it. This makes me sick. If you bought a first class ticket, the last thing you deserve is a "great, I bought first class to segregate myself from people like you" reaction from the other passengers and staff.
 

ChasenSFO

hen teaser
You're reading a lot more into that story then I did.
Obviously I wasn't there, but I strongly suspect this was the mentality. I've been called onto planes about kids kicking seats in first class, crying babies, you name it. But if they bought a first class ticket, and aren't raising any safety concerns, then they should sit in the seat they paid for, and not be sent to coach just to annoy the Priceline crowd. Admittedly, I was notorious for letting my moral compass supersede policies, but sometimes you have to think outside the box to do what's right.
 

I_Money

Moderator
http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-family-kicked-off-flight-downs-syndrome,0,1076711.story

My wife wanted to know your thoughts as pilots? Do you think it stems from a legitimate concern i.e. it is known in the industry a lot of children with down syndrome struggle flying? Do you think the pilot just lacked a full understanding of the child's ailments? Or do you think it was used to get him out of First Class? Are you allowed to remove people on flights for concerns that they might cause trouble when they have been well behaved and not intoxicated?
 

exneophyte

Well-Known Member
I can say as a passenger who has paid for first class, the reason I paid for first class was peace and quiet or perhaps a little business chat. On one airline who will remain nameless, they allowed rambunctious kids who were with their parents onboard in first class with me. The kids proceeded to kick my seat and jump over it grabbing my hair from SFO->MSP. I stayed calm because I felt the parents were the issue(they were hammered drunk) and as a result weren't in a position to correct their kids. It did give me a negative opinion of the airline(the kids were acting out before they boarded in the boarding area) and mostly I was angry at the parents.

My mother-in-law is a special ed teacher/manager/director of education. She has introduced me to a a new level of sensitivity when it comes to disabilities. That said, I do believe that a disability that results in the legitimate discomfort of the nearby passengers, should be able to reasonably be denied boarding. In saying that, "discomfort" is not legitimate when the only limitation is that the person couldn't walk onto the plane themselves or maybe they couldn't stop talking about how excited they were. If they can't prevent themselves from encroaching on your space and the parents can't manage it, I believe you are encroaching on the territory where maybe that person should be denied boarding.

In the case that was in the news recently, I think the family was accommodated on the next flight. So why were the the passengers better enabled to handle the down-syndrome passenger? I do question this.

In this case, with the facts at hand, I have to side with the airline. The airline shouldn't have to educate themselves with the intricacies of every disability. Some things make a flight unsafe and uncomfortable for the 100+ passengers who are onboard the flight.
 

dustoff17

Well-Known Member
I can say as a passenger who has paid for first class, the reason I paid for first class was peace and quiet or perhaps a little business chat. ...........
In the case that was in the news recently, I think the family was accommodated on the next flight. So why were the the passengers better enabled to handle the down-syndrome passenger? I do question this.

In this case, with the facts at hand, I have to side with the airline. The airline shouldn't have to educate themselves with the intricacies of every disability. Some things make a flight unsafe and uncomfortable for the 100+ passengers who are onboard the flight.
Agreed.
We discussed this one already:
http://forums.jetcareers.com/threads/american-airlines-won’t-let-teen-with-down-syndrome-fly-first-class.152081/
 

Hacker15e

Dunning–Kruger Observer
How many people with Downs have you guys ever met?

Loud...rambunctious....crying....screaming....hyper....These are NOT the typical traits of an adolescent with Downs Syndrome. Downs kids are quiet, relaxed, and very emotionally soft folks.

I can't speak for what the AA captain did or did not observe, but there has to be more to this story than has been revealed by either side, because something does not add up.
 

jskibo

Done
How many people with Downs have you guys ever met?

.
Our neighbors eleven year old has Downs and is deaf as well. Generally well behaved, sometimes louder grunting sounds when stressed, stuff like dogs freak him out. He does like to lock his parents out of the house......his dad yells at him in sign language. :)
 

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
Airlines generally don't take it lightly when they deny boarding or remove a passenger from the aircraft.

However, when it hits the media, it's always portrayed as flippant, hasty and uncaring.
 

MQAAord

Scheherazade
Staff member
How many people with Downs have you guys ever met?

Loud...rambunctious....crying....screaming....hyper....These are NOT the typical traits of an adolescent with Downs Syndrome. Downs kids are quiet, relaxed, and very emotionally soft folks.

I can't speak for what the AA captain did or did not observe, but there has to be more to this story than has been revealed by either side, because something does not add up.
Yeah, those are NOT typical traits of a teen with Downs.
 

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
Not that a service animal and a human passenger are comparable so pleeeeeeeeease save the hate mail and death threats, but it doesn't add up at all.

We had a "service dog", or at least a person who bought the service dog smock off of eBay and the dog constantly barked at passengers, took a big steaming dump in the AISLE which the owner refused to take care of and was generally a pest.

The cabin crew had it's hands tied because they were afraid if they removed the ill-behaved dog and the passenger, there would be a lawsuit, hours of testimony, threats of suspension or termination, blah blah blah.

For the most part, we just want to get the aircraft boarded and on our way. We're not traipsing the aisles looking for conflict, reasons to remove passengers or anything else other than getting from Point-A to Point-B because 45 minutes thereafter, we're flying to Point-C for a short, crappy layover.

After almost 20 years in the business, sadly, people do a lot of crap in order to "draw the foul", get some cash and some miles then they move on to their next opportunity.

10-hour plus flight? Someone is going to slip 'n fall or have a crisis in the first hour of flight which is magically going to be solved by a seat in business class. Seen it.
 

Rudabega

Well-Known Member
A safety issue is exactly that, a safety issue. There were plenty of people there to see a person with mental problems throwing a epic fit. If the kid can't be kept under control he has no place being confined in a aircraft with other people, first class or coach. I learned this one first hand and I'm with the captain.

You never know when a 300 lb mentally ill passenger is going to start screaming and hitting you on the head with a wooden spoon as you are on final. Ahh, Alaska memories.
 

Murdoughnut

Well sized member
Not that a service animal and a human passenger are comparable so pleeeeeeeeease save the hate mail and death threats, but it doesn't add up at all.

We had a "service dog", or at least a person who bought the service dog smock off of eBay and the dog constantly barked at passengers, took a big steaming dump in the AISLE which the owner refused to take care of and was generally a pest.

The cabin crew had it's hands tied because they were afraid if they removed the ill-behaved dog and the passenger, there would be a lawsuit, hours of testimony, threats of suspension or termination, blah blah blah.

For the most part, we just want to get the aircraft boarded and on our way. We're not traipsing the aisles looking for conflict, reasons to remove passengers or anything else other than getting from Point-A to Point-B because 45 minutes thereafter, we're flying to Point-C for a short, crappy layover.

After almost 20 years in the business, sadly, people do a lot of crap in order to "draw the foul", get some cash and some miles then they move on to their next opportunity.

10-hour plus flight? Someone is going to slip 'n fall or have a crisis in the first hour of flight which is magically going to be solved by a seat in business class. Seen it.
I think people are just slapping service dog jackets on their pets anymore. Was in a restaurant the other day with my wife and a woman was holding a dog the size of a chihuahua with a service dog jacket on. What service does he perform - cleaning gutters?
 
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