June 25, 2008

Autistic toddler kicked off airplane

My mother just forwarded this story to me:

ABC story and video

Monday, June 23, 2008

The mother is telling her story exclusively to Eyewitness News.

An American Eagle flight taxiing to a Raleigh-Durham Airport runway was turned around Monday, but not because of a terrorist threat.

The crew was kicking an autistic Cary toddler and his mother off the plane.

As the American Eagle flight headed down the taxiway, two-and-a-half-year-old Jarett Farrell wasn't a happy traveler.

His mother says she was doing all she could to calm the autistic boy, but got no sympathy from the flight crew.

"If they just would have been a little more understanding I think that none of this would have been a problem," Mother, Janice Farrell said.

But it became a big problem for everyone on the plane. Farrell says that's because the flight attendant was indignant.

"She kept coming over and tugging his seatbelt to make it tighter, 'This has to stay tight'. And then he was wiggling around and trying to get out of his seatbelt. And she kept coming over and reprimanding him and yelling at him," Farrell said.

One of the pilots came back to the cabin with a stern warning and Farrell says the frustration level escalated.

She says Jarrett picked up on that and things only got worse.

"He just melted down. He saw me getting upset. He was upset. He was on the floor rolling around," she said.

The pilot returned to the cockpit, turned the plane around and headed back to the terminal.

"The pilot made an announcement that there was a woman and her child on the plane and the child is uncontrollable. And at that point I just broke down," Farrell said.

Farrell says when she got back to her home in Cary she called her husband and they decided that she should call American Airlines corporate. She says a company representative apologized and said the incident should never have happened.

But that's not what American Airlines told Eyewitness News.

A spokesman in Dallas says Jarret was pitching a "raging fit".

And that Janice, who was in a front-row seat, refused to allow her bag to be placed in an overhead compartment, even though there was no under seat stowage.

He says that with a "passenger not complying with FAA regulations, this was the right decision."

Farrell says even though her travel bag had things to calm Jarrett, she did indeed give it to the flight attendant.

"She took my bag and put it up top," Farrell said.

Farrell is taking the train to see family in New Jersey and she and her husband say they will never fly American again.

(Copyright ©2008 WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)


the dragonfly said...

So sad...

Sarcasta-Mom said...

These stories just make me so mad and sad at the same time. That's for sharing another piece.

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San Diego Momma said...

I've heard of incidents like this before...
I think the airlines need to give their staff some sensitivity training and tips on how to handle passengers with children.

I view this as frustration on the flight attendant's part, who could not handle a "spirited" child.


Jennifer said...

Ok, so it seems like there are 2 very different stories running here, and someone isn't telling the truth. The fact of the matter is this...if the child was inconsolable and REALLY causing danger to himself or to others, then the pilot had no other choice but to turn the plane around. BUT, if the flight attendant was causing the situation to escalate and the pilot wasn't allowing the mother to try to calm her child within a reasonable amount of time first, then I think this was handled incorrectly. The problem is that the FAA has very strict guidelines that have to be followed when it comes to flying, and whether an inconsolable autistic child, an inconsolable non-autistic child, or an adult causing problems, the flight crew must err on the side of caution by removing the danger.

Unfortunately for this mom, if this was her first time to fly, then she was blind-sided by both her child's loss of control as well as the less-than-cooperative flight attendant. But, if the mother wasn't doing what she could to follow the FAA regulations about storing her bags, and truly lost control the child to point of him being a danger to himself or to other around him - and was still on the ground - think about what might have transpired had they gotten into the air and he'd lost it?

And, just so you'll know, I am not unsympathetic to this families plight, as I have a friend with an autistic child. I know what its like when he completely falls apart, and how hard it can be to get through to him as the parent. But that said, my father has worked in the airline industry for almost my entire life, so I understand what is required of the staff and, specifically, the crew in charge of this flight - if something goes wrong, they are responsible.

It really seems like it was a no-win situation for everyone.

Kelsey S said...

WHat oh WHat is this world coming to??