US mother with special needs daughter launches hashtag campaign after claiming United Airlines 'humiliated' family

Ivy Kirschenbaum, three, suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy

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The Independent US

A US mother has set up a hashtag campaign after her three-year-old disabled daughter was allegedly "humiliated" while boarding a plane.

Elit Kirschenbaum was travelling back to New Jersey from the Dominican Republic on a business class ticket, along with 16 members of her family, including toddler Ivy and her three other children.

But she said that one of the stewardesses on the United Airlines flight treated her young daughter, who is a stroke survivor and suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, with "zero compassion" and argued about the fact that Ivy was sitting on her mother’s lap.

Writing in a Tumblr post, Ms Kirschenbaum said:  "She looked at me with my daughter on my lap and immediately said that she needed to be placed in her seat.  I informed the woman that Ivy has special needs and is unable to sit independently."

She added that the other three flight attendants disagreed with the fourth, with one reportedly consulting a handbook that backed up Ms Kirschenbaum, who had purchased an individual ticket for her daughter.

She said her husband "pleaded" with the stewardess, while her children and niece were "sobbing" and other passengers also became involved.

Eventually the pilot decided that Ivy should take her own seat for take-off and landing .

The post went on: "She had to lay across my husband’s lap for this duration as she is unable to sit up.  She was permitted to return to my lap for the other portion of the flight. 

"My family was humiliated in front of a full flight of passengers.  The flight ended up taking off almost an hour late."

On Twitter a number of users expressed their support for Ivy using the hashtag #UnitedWithIvy:

A spokeswoman for United told ABC News, "The parents, who were ticketed in first class, wanted to hold the child in their lap rather than have the child take the seat they'd purchased for her in economy. Federal safety regulations require any child over the age of two to have his or her own seat, and flight attendants are required by law to enforce that safety rule. As we did in this case, we will always try to work with customers on seating arrangements in the event of any special needs."

Writing on Twitter today, Ms Kirshenbaum said she had received an apology from United. She wrote: "Thank you @United for your apology to my family and I on behalf of your airline and the offending flight attendant. #unitedwithivy".