An Oregon woman plans to sue United Airlines after she and her family were kicked off a flight because her daughter has autism, she said.
Donna Beegle and her family were flying from Houston, Texas to Portland on May 5 when her 15-year-old daughter Juliette became hungry, she told KPTV.
The family had been travelling back from Disneyland, and had a layover in Houston. Juliette didn't eat dinner there, nor would she eat some snacks her family brought on the plane with them.
“I asked the flight attendant if they had anything hot, because Juliette is very particular about her food,” Beegle said.
The flight attendant brought them a cold sandwich, which Juliette wouldn't eat, she told ABC. Then her daughter became frustrated.
Beegle tried to persuade the attendant to bring some hot food from first class, but he refused.
Eventually, he brought some rice and jambalaya, and Juliette was "fine."
Then, approximately 25 minutes later, Beegle heard an announcement that the plane would be making an emergency landing in Salt Lake City because of a passenger’s “behaviour issue," she said.
Beegle said paramedics boarded the plane but departed when they observed Juliette watching a video. Police soon came aboard, approached and asked whether anything was wrong, and Beegle responded "no."
She then said she was told the captain had asked for her to leave the plane. Beegle protested, saying Juliette hadn't done anything, but the captain didn't feel comfortable continuing to Portland with the girl on board, she claimed she was told.
The police, she said, later apologized.
“The child would make noise every now and then, no louder than, say, a baby crying,” he said. “I don’t think they should have landed a plane for her being fussy.”
Marilyn Hedlund, another passenger, agreed with the airline's decision, saying, "There was a lot of howling, and we thought well, what's going on? And it never stopped."
The "crew made the best decision for the safety and comfort of all of our customers and elected to divert to Salt Lake City after the situation became disruptive," United Airlines said in a statement to NBC News.
Beegle and her family took a Delta flight from there to Portland.
She has filed complaints with both United Airlines and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and both will be investigated.
Beegle also plans to file a lawsuit against United so staff can receive autism training, she told ABC.
"If they had autism training when I explained to him when I needed something hot, we could have found a workable solution together," she said.
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