Shame on American Airlines for "Disabled Profiling".
This past weekend, a California family was getting set to fly home from Newark, New Jersey when the pilot of the flight they were on wouldn't allow them to board as he deemed their 16 year old son a flight risk. Why would he do this you ask? It was because the boy had Down's Syndrome.
You see the family decided to treat themselves for this flight home and fly first class. But the pilot says he observed the young man as "excitable, running around, and not acclimated to the environment." The pilot then told them he didn't want the boy sitting so close to the cockpit because he feared he was a flight risk and would most likely cause a disturbance.
You know, that sounds like most kids that I've encountered. Heck, I can't "acclimatize" my own 2 year old for dinner at the kitchen table most nights. This is nothing new. Kids and young people (including those with Down's) are going to be disruptive from time to time. They're going to act out and cry and yell and laugh and whine. They're not all perfect angels. So why was this family targeted? Was it because the pilot didn't want this teenager with special needs in First Class, disturbing the other passengers who paid top dollar to fly across the U.S. in comfort. Or was it because he didn't want this kid knocking on the door of the cockpit every ten minutes asking to see how they fly the plane.
And American Airlines (not like they had much choice) backed up their pilot by saying it must make every effort to protect their passengers. Seriously! Could a 16 year old with special needs put an entire flight at risk? What about an adult who has to have a couple drinks before he can fly and then gets a few more drinks in him and then the flight has to be rerouted to another city where everyone else is inconvenienced for hours because his behaviour became erratic and he couldn't "acclimatize" to his environment. That happens more often then we think.
However, this family has flown with their son before and has never had a problem, while flying economy. Funny. As soon as they upgraded to the "Country Club" seats, they were treated like refugees that had no right to sit where they had planned to. No surprise, with the threat of the airline taking away their seat as well, no one spoke up to defend this family and this discrimination.
And just when you thought it couldn't get worse, the family was booked on a competitor’s airline (United), and was seated at the back of the plane with no one permitted to sit near them. Perfect. Treated like lepers with zero compassion.
I guess that will teach them to try and enjoy a flight by upgrading to First Class and feeling human when travelling by plane. I hope it is a lesson for all of us. Please think about using another mode of transportation for your next trip other than flying. The extra travel time might just be worth your dignity.
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