Is this a case of “fear of autism”?
Last week, an Oregon family was forced to evacuate a United Airlines flight during a layover in Houston after their 15-year-old teen with autism made the flight crew uncomfortable, according to NBC News.
Dr. Donna Beegle has filed a complaint against the airline, claiming the crew acted “without compassion” in their treatment of her daughter Juliette, who became upset after becoming hungry.
In a Facebook post describing the incident, Beegle explains what happened:
“The attendant sold me chicken sandwich but it was not hot and Juliette would not eat ... I asked if there was some hot food in First Class. It was a very long flight and I wanted her to get something in her system.”
The airline could not accommodate Juliette, however. “The flight attendant went to ask and a [sic] male flight attendant in First Class,” Beegle posted. “He came back to tell me that they could not serve the hot food from First Class because we were in economy. I offered to buy the rice they had. He said no. For 40 minutes, I kept trying to think of something that they had that she would eat. He told me no every time.”
Juliette began to cry in frustration, and 30 minutes after taking off, the plane made an emergency landing in Salt Lake City where law enforcement agents boarded the craft and asked Beegle and her daughter to get off the plane.
Fellow passengers chanted “leave her alone!” in protest and several YouTube videos of the incident are making the rounds.
In a statement to KPTV, United Airlines said, “After working to accommodate Dr. Beegle and her daughter during the flight, 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. We rebooked the customers on a different carrier and the flight continued to Portland.”