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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)

reamworks May 12, 15 9:51 am


Originally Posted by divemistressofthedark (Post 24803817)
Amen. My read on this from the beginning is that this is a mother who asked for food for her child and was treated badly by airline staff. I admit it resonates, because I personally am so tired of being treated like airlines are doing me a huge favor to transport from A to B even though I've paid for my ticket and my household's taxes help fund the TSA, FAA, etc.

What shocks me is many comments like yours and on other sites frame this as a "class war". It's as if some evil, greedy, "Scrooge McDuck" / "Mr. Monopoly Moneybags" types with their monocles in First Class are enjoying their hot meals in first class while some poor family is forced to sit in the back of the plane with (horrors!) cold food! And isn't it awful that not one of these fat-cats in the front of the plane rushed over to volunteer his warm roast duck confit on a bed of farro risotto and glazed asparagus to help a poor little girl with emotional problems even after the girl's family offered to pay for a warm meal with the sweat of their brow!

Sorry, but "class war" arguments like this don't get any sympathy from me. First class is open to everyone who wants to pay for the ticket. For many people, it's not worth it. The benefits of each fare class are clearly described.

hiima May 12, 15 9:58 am

Did nobody read the entire story? The girl got her damn hot food. The mom made a threat and were kicked off. They were kicked off for making a threat. If a grown man said that he's gonna punch someone if he doesn't get a got meal, he would surely be taken off the plane.

andyh64000 May 12, 15 10:29 am

Shockingly the mother says she plans to sue...

MattR23 May 12, 15 10:34 am

Here is the mother's story in her own words: https://www.facebook.com/donna.m.bee...16056981803855

dchristiva May 12, 15 10:38 am

Like many before me in this thread, I support UA here. As a parent, I know that I'm not putting my child's welfare (or the welfare of others) in someone else's hands. I take care of my children's needs rather than having to rely on "favors" or special dispensation. The child should have been fed on the layover, or the parents should have contacted UA ahead of flight time to address the special concerns/needs.

And warning that scratching is apt to follow a meltdown seems like enough of a "threat" that, as the pilot, I would have made an emergency landing elsewhere and asked the family to disembark, too.

worldwidetraveler May 12, 15 10:40 am

Where was the father?
 
The mother of the potentially "beserk" teenager (mother claimed her daughter could meltdown,etc. if she didn't get her way) seems to be getting a lot of press in the media. But the father who was accompanying them has not been interviewed. Wonder why he isn't speaking out? Was he even sitting next to his daughter to help his wife if the daughter had a meltdown??

beachmouse May 12, 15 10:51 am

I have been in physical confrontations maybe 2-3 times in my life, all back during my teenage years. I don't start things; I'm probably as non-confrontational as you'll find in an American. Thing is, if someone else instigates, I will defend myself hard and with no regard for my attacker. If someone hits me, I do my best not to let myself get hit a second time.

If if was in my seat just reading a book on my phone minding my own business and hands came over the seatback and scratched my face, the seatbelt would come off and I would have done my best to deck the instigator.

I am not proud of this, but I'm hyper-defensive of my person and especially my face and this is the unthinking reaction you'd get from me. I suspect that many people would have a similar reaction to that kind of physical assault.

"If there was a physical incident, she would be subdued without violence," is not a given even that's what people like to say.

America is the land of lawsuits. (I think about 1/3 of the entire economy of Alabama consists of people suing each other.) So I would like to thank UA for not putting passengers in a situation where they would probably get personally sued by Mama Grizzly if they suffered from an unprovoked attack from their daughter and a hair on her head was harmed while the other passenger was defending themselves.

transportbiz May 12, 15 11:16 am

Everyone contributed to this cascade of events that resulted in a drama far exceeding where it needed to go. The family should have not boarded the plane since the autistic daughter had refused to eat on the layover, knowing they had nothing for her in flight. The mother could have bought a pizza or something at that airport. When asked politely, the FA would have reheated it had it been necessary (probably, FA dependent). The mother had the greatest knowledge of how best to travel with her daughter, and should have taken the responsibility to address anticipated issues ahead of time. Expecting the FA's to "solve" the problem she allowed to occur isn't appropriate, or responsible. There's no way to pay for a FC meal, no accounting for which to even structure said payment. This woman is teaching her daughter terrible lessons in personal responsibility.

The FA's could have been more empathetic and de-escalated the situation. The captain, likewise could have intervened, certainly he should not have diverted without having personally made an assessment of the risk, and attempting to de-escalate as well.

Everyone failed here, but the beginning of the failure was the mother, and her opinion that her lack of planning should constitute an emergency to be taken on by others.

DocP May 12, 15 11:21 am


Originally Posted by canddmeyer (Post 24803854)
If the child was good enough for United to have booked her on another airline then the child is good enough to fly United, unless of course United chooses to discriminate against the autistic.

United made an emergency diversion to SLC. They do not have direct flights from there to her final destination. The options were another airline, ground travel, or a multi flight reroute. A nonstop home on Delta was the most reasonable option.

Soccerdad1995 May 12, 15 11:22 am


Originally Posted by saneman (Post 24796263)
I would imagine the girl would be annoying to listen to for a couple of hours more. But come on, safety threat???? What are we , a bunch of wusses these days? If I am a passenger, I would want to just get home ASAP instead of stopping midway and waste my time. I could control that kid one one quite easily even if she was Linda Blair in the Exorcist.

And you would be facing civil and potentially also criminal charges if you did decide to "control" that kid. Good luck with that.

invisible May 12, 15 11:42 am


Originally Posted by beachmouse (Post 24804275)
If if was in my seat just reading a book on my phone minding my own business and hands came over the seatback and scratched my face, the seatbelt would come off and I would have done my best to deck the instigator.

You touch that girl (or any other creature falling into category of 'child' according to legal books of US) and you have a good chance to be a sex offender rest of your life.

I know how it sounds but I see a child in distress in US - my first action would be to remove myself from the situation as soon as possible.

zombietooth May 12, 15 11:53 am


Originally Posted by transportbiz (Post 24804445)
Everyone contributed to this cascade of events that resulted in a drama far exceeding where it needed to go. The family should have not boarded the plane since the autistic daughter had refused to eat on the layover, knowing they had nothing for her in flight. The mother could have bought a pizza or something at that airport. When asked politely, the FA would have reheated it had it been necessary (probably, FA dependent). The mother had the greatest knowledge of how best to travel with her daughter, and should have taken the responsibility to address anticipated issues ahead of time. Expecting the FA's to "solve" the problem she allowed to occur isn't appropriate, or responsible. There's no way to pay for a FC meal, no accounting for which to even structure said payment. This woman is teaching her daughter terrible lessons in personal responsibility.

The FA's could have been more empathetic and de-escalated the situation. The captain, likewise could have intervened, certainly he should not have diverted without having personally made an assessment of the risk, and attempting to de-escalate as well.

Everyone failed here, but the beginning of the failure was the mother, and her opinion that her lack of planning should constitute an emergency to be taken on by others.

A well reasoned and level-headed argument.^

I was on a flight last year where an autistic child went ballistic in BF about two hours out of SFO, on the way to NRT. The rather large child somehow pried open a panel in the overhead and exposed the emergency oxygen masks in the center 4-seat section of the PMUA, 2-4-2, 777. His family was seated surrounding him, mother on one side, father on the other, and his brother next to him. When the father got up to go to the lav, the boy stood up on the arm rests/drink rails and started prying on the overhead panels with something (maybe a butter knife?) and before the mother could stop him, he had the panel open. I observed this from the next row forward in the rear-facing pair (row 8).

The FAs heard the commotion and responded immediately, whereupon they summoned a pilot, maybe the Captain, from the flight deck. He talked to the parents and admonished them to better control their son, and got the panel closed in concert with another deadheading? pilot.

He returned to the cockpit and we continued on our way to NRT. No announcements were ever made, and the FAs, while vigilant, were very kind to the family.

I believe that this was the better way to handle a situation like this. Our Captain assessed the risk and, seeing that he was dealing with an autistic child, decided that there was no safety issue with continuing on our flight.

I believe that the pilot in the case discussed here overreacted, and did not correctly assess the actual risk.

JBord May 12, 15 12:00 pm


Originally Posted by Soccerdad1995 (Post 24804499)
And you would be facing civil and potentially also criminal charges if you did decide to "control" that kid. Good luck with that.

Perhaps this was exactly what the FA and Captain were thinking, and the captain decided to divert the flight out of an abundance of caution, to de-escalate the situation, and to allow the family to get home with a certain amount of dignity, all without putting other passengers in danger or forcing them or the crew to have to restrain the child.

If the child would have attacked someone, she would have been restrained. Very likely, as this was taking place, the mother would have jumped into the fray. Perhaps she'd have to be restrained as well. And it's possible at that point the flight would have diverted anyway.

I do wish people would stop blaming the FA. The sequence of events doesn't warrant it:

1. Mother asks FA for hot food.
2. FA refuses, not necessarily understanding the need at that point.
3. Mother warns that child might attack other passengers.
4. FA gets a hot meal.
5. FA informs the captain of the situation. Although we don't know what was said, it's likely the FA just explained the situation to the captain.
6. CAPTAIN decides to divert. The FA can't order a diversion.

Clearly, UA was correct in how it handled this situation. But for those of you who believe UA acted inappropriately, it's not a very intelligent argument to blame the FA for the diversion.

pruss2ny May 12, 15 12:04 pm


Originally Posted by zombietooth (Post 24804686)
A well reasoned and level-headed argument.^

I was on a flight last year where an autistic child went ballistic in BF about two hours out of SFO, on the way to NRT. The rather large child somehow pried open a panel in the overhead and exposed the emergency oxygen masks in the center 4-seat section of the PMUA, 2-4-2, 777. His family was seated surrounding him, mother on one side, father on the other, and his brother next to him. When the father got up to go to the lav, the boy stood up on the arm rests and started prying on the overhead panels with something (maybe a butter knife?) and before the mother could stop him, he had the panel open. I observed this from the next row forward in the rear-facing pair (row 8).

The FAs heard the commotion and responded immediately, whereupon they summoned a pilot, maybe the Captain, from the flight deck. He talked to the parents and admonished them to better control their son, and got the panel closed in concert with another deadheading? pilot.

He returned to the cockpit and we continued on our way to NRT. No announcements were ever made, and the FAs, while vigilant, were very kind to the family.

I believe that this was the better way to handle a situation like this. Our Captain assessed the risk and, seeing that he was dealing with an autistic child, decided that there was no safety issue with continuing on our flight.

I believe that the pilot in the case discussed here overreacted, and did not correctly assess the actual risk.

wonder if there is a different risk assessment when u are talking about someone essentially vandalizing a non-essential (to the plane's ability to fly) component of the plane v a potential physical assault of a passenger.

again...aware that the girl did not assault anyone or even threaten anyone...but once the mom made the statement, UAs liability in case anything did happen went thru the roof

fly747first May 12, 15 12:10 pm


Originally Posted by zombietooth (Post 24804686)

I believe that the pilot in the case discussed here overreacted, and did not correctly assess the actual risk.

United is unquestionably the worst network airline in the U.S. these days. Terrible management has created a ghastly corporate culture where employees act like the customers who build their revenue are "overentitled" despicable creatures who do not deserve any sympathy or even basic mercy.

I do believe that the mother blew things out of proportion but so did the United crew.

It's interesting to see that these incidents don't have at AA/US and DL nearly as often as UA. Again, the company's culture continues to foster a negative environment for everyone in it.


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