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-   -   UA Pilot Diverts to Remove Autistic Child From Plane for Safety Reasons (https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/united-airlines-mileageplus/1678775-ua-pilot-diverts-remove-autistic-child-plane-safety-reasons.html)

DelrayChris May 11, 15 4:23 pm


Originally Posted by mrboom (Post 24800535)
She threatened that her child would become a danger.

With the "meltdown" comment.

mduell May 11, 15 4:33 pm


Originally Posted by waxearwings (Post 24800477)
For all those angrily and absolutely defending UA, I'm curious about something: Suppose the family had been thoroughly prepared with a hot meal in an insulated bag, and some terrible thief had surreptitiously stolen it from them prior to boarding. If all the other facts alleged by Mom were the same (i.e. family notices no meal, panics, asks to buy hot meal, gets cold sandwich, asks to buy hot F meal, gets rejected, then tells FA daughter might scratch if doesn't get hot meal, gets meal, everyone is calm and happy, plane diverts to SLC), would UA still be justified in diverting?

Yes. If you're on an airplane threatening injury to yourself or others, the safest place for everyone involved is on the ground. The lack of preparation on the doctor's part exacerbates the issue, but is not the root cause.

waxearwings May 11, 15 4:40 pm


Originally Posted by mrboom (Post 24800535)
But that is not what happened. She threatened that her child would become a danger.

Sorry, but you are missing a major part of the story. She threatened that the daughter COULD have a meltdown IF she didn't get hot food. And guess what? They gave her hot food! And she was fine! Problem solved! A victory for reasonable accommodation.

So why did they divert again?

Seems the most reasonable explanation is punitive. I'm sure the crew did not take kindly to being pressured in to providing an extra service that passengers should not expect to get. But diversions should not be about retaliation, punishment, or karmic justice delivered to supposedly unfit and over-entitled mothers. They should be about actual threats to the safety and security of the crew and passengers.

[This is my last post on the subject.]

joder May 11, 15 4:50 pm


Originally Posted by waxearwings (Post 24800624)
Sorry, but you are missing a major part of the story. She threatened that the daughter COULD have a meltdown IF she didn't get hot food. And guess what? They gave her hot food! And she was fine! Problem solved! A victory for reasonable accommodation.

So why did they divert again?

Seems the most reasonable explanation is punitive. I'm sure the crew did not take kindly to being pressured in to providing an extra service that passengers should not expect to get. But diversions should not be about retaliation, punishment, or karmic justice delivered to supposedly unfit and over-entitled mothers. They should be about actual threats to the safety and security of the crew and passengers.

[This is my last post on the subject.]

Well put. Very well put.

While I have had some great F/As, I have also had some that I feel do not take kindly to providing even basic amenities even though they have to.

This airline is all Jeff'd up for sure. On the off topic of Jeff'd up, I am still wondering when UA is going to pull out of IAH because of WNA's international expansion out of HOU...?

mrboom May 11, 15 4:51 pm

Decisions for the sake of safety are not made on could have, would have or should have.

United Airlines issued this statement to FOX 12 about the situation:

“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.”

Read more: http://www.kptv.com/story/29020437/t...#ixzz3ZsC5YQZ8

Safety trumps all and hindsight does not change the outcome or the decisions that had to be made in real time during the incident.

Thankfully, the UA crew thought of the well being of the entire plane and not just of the problem mother and her family.

milepig May 11, 15 4:58 pm


Originally Posted by MKEflyer95 (Post 24795558)
If this was on Delta or American, they'd probably take this situation more maturely without having to divert the plane.

On what possible evidence are you making this statement? More "mature"?? How do you define this?

joder May 11, 15 5:11 pm


Originally Posted by milepig (Post 24800692)
On what possible evidence are you making this statement? More "mature"?? How do you define this?

Based on percentages of carrier ratings I would would see this as a reasonable argument. Not to say that it wouldn't happen on those other two. I see it a lot less likely.

JBord May 11, 15 5:32 pm


Originally Posted by waxearwings (Post 24800624)
Sorry, but you are missing a major part of the story. She threatened that the daughter COULD have a meltdown IF she didn't get hot food. And guess what? They gave her hot food! And she was fine! Problem solved! A victory for reasonable accommodation.

So why did they divert again?

Seems the most reasonable explanation is punitive. I'm sure the crew did not take kindly to being pressured in to providing an extra service that passengers should not expect to get. But diversions should not be about retaliation, punishment, or karmic justice delivered to supposedly unfit and over-entitled mothers. They should be about actual threats to the safety and security of the crew and passengers.

[This is my last post on the subject.]

There is no evidence that this was done in retaliation or to punish anyone. No FA can order the captain to divert a plane. They inform the captain of the situation, and that's it.

Your logic just doesn't work. You emphasized that the hot meal solved the problem. But you still haven't answered the question posed earlier...what if the situation resurfaced 20 minutes later and there were no more hot meals? Logic would dictate that the parents, understandably, couldn't predict when a meltdown might occur. So how could the FA believe everything would be fine for the remainder of the flight? In fact, the FA provided the meal, then correctly informed the captain of the situation, and the captain decided to divert. You are quick to defend the parents, but why not the FA for doing his job?

Since that was your last post, I suppose someone else attacking UA could answer these questions.


Originally Posted by joder (Post 24800755)
Based on percentages of carrier ratings I would would see this as a reasonable argument. Not to say that it wouldn't happen on those other two. I see it a lot less likely.

I don't see how "carrier ratings" have any logical correlation. This is a safety issue, not a customer service issue. As far as safety ratings are concerned, even the new UA scores pretty well. Proactive handling of situations like this can't hurt the safety record. Hoping the situation goes away could.

Tchiowa May 11, 15 5:38 pm


Originally Posted by waxearwings (Post 24800624)
Sorry, but you are missing a major part of the story. She threatened that the daughter COULD have a meltdown IF she didn't get hot food. And guess what? They gave her hot food! And she was fine! Problem solved! A victory for reasonable accommodation.

So why did they divert again?

Seems the most reasonable explanation is punitive. I'm sure the crew did not take kindly to being pressured in to providing an extra service that passengers should not expect to get. But diversions should not be about retaliation, punishment, or karmic justice delivered to supposedly unfit and over-entitled mothers. They should be about actual threats to the safety and security of the crew and passengers.

[This is my last post on the subject.]

They wouldn't have diverted under the circumstances you describe. What i suspect happened is that after the mother made the threat an FA contacted the pilot, the pilot decided to divert, then told the FA to do whatever was necessary to keep things under control until he could get the plane on the ground.

I admire the strength of your last comment. You're a bigger man than I am.

kmersh May 11, 15 5:51 pm

For interest, I asked my friend (the Pediatric Psychiatrist) how he would have personally handled this incident if he were the parent and what if anything United could have done differently. To be clear is he NOT a frequent flier and thus some of his thoughts might seem inaccurate and for that I ask you understand that he does not fly all that often and is not familiar with what exactly United does or does not offer.

First: he said he would have spoken with UA a few days before the flight to ensure that his daughter's record was notated that she is a Special Needs Individual with Autism. He did say that patients have said to him when attempting to contact United that they were shunted to an offshore call center and the agents there had no idea what Autism or even how to add notes like that to a record.

My personal thought: So, if the Mother attempted to contact United prior to the flight and got an offshore agent who was unable to help her than that is 100% in United's court and they need to better train all phone agents to handle Special Needs cases.


Second: On the day of travel he would say something to gate agent explaining that his daughter is Autistic and has Special Needs and present a letter from her treating Physician explaining the Diagnosis and asking for consideration and assistance from the airline.

Third: Upon boarding he would say something to the Flight Attendant or the Captain if he/she were available and again present the letter from the Physician explaining the Diagnosis, etc.

Fourth: If his daughter needed Hot Food he would attempt to offer her what he could easily heat up, Cup-O-Noodles (etc.), but admitted he might forget to pack said food stuffs or it got lost, etc. and he would have to move on to plan B, attempt get something from the airline in the line of a hot meal to prevent further issues.

Fifth: He said he would hope that the Flight Attendants would be understanding enough to try and offer something anything, but he realized that on a confined metal tube there might not be anything to offer. He said he would explain to the FA (NOT IN A THREATENING WAY) that without some hot food a Meltdown could occur but he would do his best to control it and he hopes they would understand and be as supportive as possible. He did say that if the Mother threatened the FAs that WAS WRONG, but not out of the real of normal as the stress and strain can cause otherwise normal nice people to do less than smart things, like threaten the Flight Attendants with a Meltdown and scratching.

Sixth: If things were not able to brought under control he would ask to speak with the Captain and maybe suggest a Medical Diversion as simply getting his Daughter on the ground where he has more options at his disposal might be the best course of action at that point, though he admitted that might not work so well for United.

In summary he said that essentially with Autism there is not always a cut and dry solution and we as humans are not always perfect as much as we strive to be and most of all, MISTAKES WILL HAPPEN! The only thing he was sure of what that there should be NO LAW SUIT as both sides probably did not act perfectly.

I am not exactly sure what else to add, it was an unfortunate series of events, but the family got home safely and the flight was able to continue on safely, so all's well that ends well, I guess.

cfischer May 11, 15 5:52 pm

^ to United for handling this situation very well. I hope they will take the mother to court for the threats she made on the plane.
I have seen a similar situation a few years ago in Boston (luckily before takeoff) where a girl and their parents were ultimately escorted off the plane by police (absolutely the right decision in this case as well). If the scene we were witnessing during boarding (the girl started to erratically yell she didn't want to fly, cried to for 'help', attempted to climb over the seat in front of her ... the parents argued she would calm down in flight ... didn't convince anyone) would have happened during flight we would have diverted as well.

kmersh May 11, 15 5:56 pm


Originally Posted by JBord (Post 24800849)
There is no evidence that this was done in retaliation or to punish anyone. No FA can order the captain to divert a plane. They inform the captain of the situation, and that's it.

Your logic just doesn't work. You emphasized that the hot meal solved the problem. But you still haven't answered the question posed earlier...what if the situation resurfaced 20 minutes later and there were no more hot meals? Logic would dictate that the parents, understandably, couldn't predict when a meltdown might occur. So how could the FA believe everything would be fine for the remainder of the flight? In fact, the FA provided the meal, then correctly informed the captain of the situation, and the captain decided to divert. You are quick to defend the parents, but why not the FA for doing his job?

Since that was your last post, I suppose someone else attacking UA could answer these questions.



I don't see how "carrier ratings" have any logical correlation. This is a safety issue, not a customer service issue. As far as safety ratings are concerned, even the new UA scores pretty well. Proactive handling of situations like this can't hurt the safety record. Hoping the situation goes away could.

My friend said that the Parents of Autistic Children come to learn what sets off their children, how to control it and when it could will occur again. While my friend does not know anything about the child, he said it is entirely in the realm of possible that the Mother knew that if she were able to settle her child down she would be okay for X amount of time (like the rest of flight etc.) AGAIN JUST SPECULATION ON MY FRIENDS PART!

drowelf May 11, 15 6:04 pm

This incident made the ABC World News tonight. No real details in the 45 second story, but they did have a statement from the mother and some footage of the police on the plane and a few seconds of passenger comments from someones cell phone video. Apparently she is now suing United.

The story slant was not favorable to United.

MikeMpls May 11, 15 6:08 pm

PR disaster for United, here's one headline:

Passengers Shout "Leave Her Alone!" As United Airlines Removes Girl With Autism From Flight

If only the cops had shown as much spine as the paramedics and refused to participate in the charade!

And the exit row comment from the kid's apparent chief detractor among their follow passengers is just priceless -- complete ignorance.

dutyfree May 11, 15 6:12 pm

I'm with the passengers and police officers, who almost unanimously stated that the UA crew overreacted. The FA lacked common sense and compassion - should have just given the child a warm meal when first asked. I've seen crew members (on other airlines) bend over backwards to help kids with and without special needs.

Future solution: Maybe UA should start offering JAL's hugely popular "Ramen de Sky." My kids, when young, didn't mind the 11-hour flight because of the unlimited instant noodles.


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