A US couple and their teenage daughter with autism were told to get off an airplane after the pilot said the girl was making him “feel uncomfortable” and made an emergency stop.
Donna Beegle was travelling with her 15-year-old daughter Juliette Forbes from Houston to Portland when the United Airlines pilot landed the plane at Salt Lake City and had the family escorted out, KOIN reported.
Ms Forbes has trouble expressing herself and Ms Beegle realised that she had not eaten in some time. Her daughter was calm but she knew there was a risk of her getting upset and so asked the cabin crew if there was a hot meal she could buy.
The only hot food available was for first class passengers, and the stewardess told Ms Beegle that she couldn’t make an exception – even if she were to pay for it.
It was when Ms Beegle explained that if her daughter did not get a hot meal she might “get to the melting point” and maybe scratch someone, that she received a dinner tray, ate and remained calm.
Her daughter was, she said, “extremely picky” when it came to food.
Around half an hour later Ms Forbes was watching television when the pilot announced they were making an emergency stop in Salt Lake City, Utah, because of a passenger “at the back of the plane who has behaviour issues.”
Police and paramedics came on board when the plane had landed to tell the family they had to leave and that the pilot had said he did not feel comfortable flying with her there.
Ms Beegle said she stood up and asked passengers if anyone had a problem with her daughter. “The people were like ‘no, leave her alone’” she told KOIN.
She said the incident was caused by a “fear of autism,” and that “I get the ignorance but it has to change.”
She is in the process of filing a law suit and said she hoped to raise awareness of autism and make sure airline employees have are appropriately trained.
United Airlines issued a statement saying: “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.”