Fri, Sep 07, 2012
Pilot Said The 16-Year-Old Was 'Not Ready To Fly'
A California family attempting to fly from Newark to LA last Sunday was barred from boarding the American Airlines flight on which they had just upgraded to first class tickets.
Robert and Joan Vanderhorst and their 16-year-old son Bede had purchased the upgrades at an airport kiosk, and had asked the airline to seat the boy, who suffers from Down Syndrome, next to one of his parents. The airline agreed to the request, according to a report from The Associated Press.
But when it came time to board, they were told that Bede was a "security risk." Matt Miller, a spokesman for the airline, said the boy, who is just over five feet tall and weighs 160 pounds, was "agitated" and "running around the gate area" prior to boarding. A cell phone video made by Joan Vanderhorst seems to dispute the airline's assertion. The pilot said the boy was "not ready to fly."
The family protested, but was not allowed to board. They were booked on another airline in coach for their trip to LA. On that trip, they were seated in the very last row of the airplane, and no other passengers were seated within two rows of them, according to Vanderhorst.
Robert Vanderhorst said he believes that the pilot assumed that Bede would be disruptive, and didn't "want a disabled person disturbing the other passengers in first class."
American has offered to reimburse the family for their upgrade fees.
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