Down-Syndrome Teen and Family Kicked Off Flight [VIDEO]
A family from California is saying they were not allowed to board their flight because their son has Down Syndrome. They are now claiming they were discriminated against by the airline because of their son's disability.
Robert and Joan Vanderhorst were flying with their 16-year-old son Bede on American Airlines from Newark to Los Angeles on Sunday. The family had upgraded to first class tickets at an airport kiosk, and had asked the airline to seat the boy and one of his parents together, and the airline had no problems complying.
When they went to board the plane, they were stopped by airline personnel and were told they could not board the plane. They were told their son was a security risk to himself and other passengers on the plane. His parents tried to protest but in the end they were rebooked to fly coach on another airline. On this flight they sat on the last row with no one allowed to sit within two rows of them.
American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller said the disabled boy was agitated and running around the gate area before boarding. The airplane's pilot observed the boy, Miller said, and made the call based on his behavior. "He was not ready to fly, that was our perspective," Miller said. "We rebooked the family out of concern for the young man's safety and that of other passengers as well."
But Vanderhorst said his son did not run at any time, did not make any loud noises and didn't display any other offensive behaviors. The boy walked around with him or sat quietly in the gate area. The boys mother even captured a video of him sitting quietly playing with a baseball cap. The family says they have flown more than two dozen times and never had any issues, that their son typically falls asleep just as any passenger does. He believes that the pilot thought he would be a disturbance since he wasn't like the rest of the passengers on the plane.
"It's ridiculous and groundless to claim that this kid created a security risk," he said. "It was the pilot's insecurity. I paid for those seats and there was nothing that should have prevented us from taking that flight."
He hopes that airlines will change their mentality when dealing with the disabled. The spokesperson for American Airlines says they will reimburse the family for their first class seats.