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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)

cmdinnyc May 11, 15 7:53 am


Originally Posted by kmersh (Post 24797316)
I was talking about the diversion with a long time friend who is a Pediatric Psychiatrist and does treat patients with Autism.

He said first and foremost that without ever meeting the patient anything he says is speculation but he did have some thoughts.

My friend's main point was that it was an unfortunate situation that maybe could have been handled better by both sides, but neither side is really at fault and a law suit DOES NOT accomplish anything.

He said that Autism patients can have challenging diets based not necessarily on taste but on routine and the act of seeing food around her could have caused her to want to eat something (even if she is not hungry as routine plays a huge part) and if she needs it to be hot, no amount of cold food (even food that is supposed to be served cold) would fill in as a replacement for food that is heated.

What we do not know and none of the articles state is if the Mother asked about heating of food she brought on-board with her, all we know is that she asked for a First Class meal, that could be out of desperation as she was ill prepared and did not have food to heat on-board or just as easily could have been because the FA said the only food we can heat are First Class meals. We just do not know. As an anecdote, I am not a fan of cold food though I can eat it and would not cause a stir if that was all that was available to me, but a while back (circa 2014) I was flying United and the meal options in First Class were a cold (and by that I mean cold soggy bread) sandwich or a salad with cold protein. I asked the FA if she could heat up the sanwhich to take off some of the chill and hopefully repair the bread (even a little) and she flatly refused saying that it was against United policy to heat food that United did not intend to be served heated, which I took to mean I am too lazy to bother with any special requests and that was in PAID First Class.

With regards to the diversion my friend felt it was actually compassionate to divert, but calling the Police was a little much, just allowing the PAX to deplane would have been enough, maybe have EMTs available to take the patient to a hospital if need be for further treatment, but Police really in my friend's learned estimation did not really serve any sort of purpose. He said United was right to divert, but it should been a Medical Diversion as opposed to a Security Diversion, taking it in the Security direction was inappropriate in his opinion, but not materially wrong, the diversion was still the compassionate thing to due considering the costs to United which they took for the diversion and having to pay to put the patient and her family on another airline for the remainder of their journey.

Bottom line neither party is wrong and both parties did not handle it right either, the only clear thing is that a law suit is not called for and hopefully the patient's family will come to understand that and drop the suit, opting to work with UA to improve understanding of Autism and make the Airline better for everyone.

Thanks for this post. It sums up my understanding of the situation as well. Sometimes nobody is "wrong" and things just "happen". This seems like one of those times.

Even with the lawsuit piece, nobody knows if the family really thought about it or if a reporter just asked a question that caught them off guard. Just like no one here knows what the FAs said or did, or what the pilot knew or didn't know. And even if the family did want to file a lawsuit to raise awareness or force policy change, you're not going to get a lawyer on a contingent fee basis to take the case if there's no potential payout.

OccasionalFlyerPerson May 11, 15 7:54 am


Originally Posted by reamworks (Post 24797358)
It boils down to the threat. It has nothing to do with them appropriating a meal they didn't pay for.

The mother said the daughter would start scratching other passengers if she didn't get her way. (Source: http://www.katu.com/news/local/Autis...303146891.html)
And that was when I just kind of said, ‘You know what? Maybe after she has a meltdown and she's crying and trying to scratch, then you'll help us,’” Beegle said.
Passengers were threatened. United did the right thing, 100%. The mother who made that threat should be on the "Do Not Fly List".

And anyone who thinks United did the wrong thing should be on the Do Not Fly list, too! :p

Where does it say that the threat of violence was to passengers? It could easily be the flight crew who were the target of the threat of violence.

MSPeconomist May 11, 15 7:57 am


Originally Posted by mrboom (Post 24797307)
Crew and pilot made the correct decision, especially after the mother made demands and threats. I have no tolerance for passengers that feel their situation entitles them to whatever they want.

Every passenger is in the same situation on that plane. You buy the class ticket you want and you travel according to the rules for that fare. Very simple.

I don't think it was the right decision for UA to rebook the family onto a DL flight. What if the meltdown and scratching occurred on the DL flight? Don't DL passengers have a right to fly safely? Plus, it's not pleasant for passengers on the next flight to be subjected to a fifteen year old child who howls during the flight.

acader May 11, 15 8:03 am


Originally Posted by cruisr (Post 24797685)
And there seem to be other passengers who support the actions of UA. A classic Rashomon effect.

Hedlund, who supports UA, was in row 2 as well. It would have been extremely difficult for her to know what was happening many rows behind her. If you see the video, Hedlund is the lady looking over her shoulder in 2D (52 second minute of the video). The FA in question asked everybody in biz class if we could file a report. Except Hedlund who volunteered and another gentleman who gave his business card to the FA, none in biz class wrote a report.

Emma1420 May 11, 15 8:34 am


Originally Posted by halls120 (Post 24797379)
If Mom was aware of her child's needs to have a hot meal, it was on her to check with United before the flight to find out whether her special needs could be accommodated. I feel bad for the burden shouldered by these parents, but it's on them to find out beforehand what is and is not available.

If I were the judge in this case, I'd rule summarily in UA's favor, and award them court costs.

ICAM. Did the airline even know that the passenger may have a special need in advance? I am assuming as the parents thought they could get a hot meal on board the answer is probably no.

Perhaps the FA didn't handle this situation as well as they could, but it's ultimately up to their parents to insure that they have everything they need on a flight. If the family had been traveling via the bus would they have assumed they would have access to hot food? Because flying (especially in coach) really isn't anything more than bus that goes more quickly.

OccasionalFlyerPerson May 11, 15 8:50 am

I am wondering if there is another dimension to this.

A problem that I can see if the flight had just continued to its destination is that it would have created a public precedent concerning how passengers can behave in relation to flight crew. I.e. that the mother could have demanded something with threats of violence, and then be seen by the other passengers to have gotten her way.

IMHO if such precedents are created, it isn't just a matter of the pilot feeling put out because the crew 'lost' or something, but a general erosion (over time if there are similar incidents) of flight crew authority, which could lead to passengers being more likely to argue the toss with flight crew, and not follow their directions, which would have safety implications.

I don't think it's necessary for this to apply for it to be the correct decision to deplane the family. Just the threat of violence is enough in my eyes. But, I see many comments (e.g. in the Independent newspaper) saying that since the girl had calmed down, there was no need to deplane the family. I've been thinking that the precedent that would be created could have been considered by the pilot.

dsquared37 May 11, 15 8:52 am


Originally Posted by OccasionalFlyerPerson (Post 24797704)
Where does it say that the threat of violence was to passengers? It could easily be the flight crew who were the target of the threat of violence.

The quote posted above doesn't mention who would be scratched. Is it not possible the girl in question has a history of self inflicted wounds?

kmersh May 11, 15 8:55 am


Originally Posted by halls120
If Mom was aware of her child's needs to have a hot meal, it was on her to check with United before the flight to find out whether her special needs could be accommodated. I feel bad for the burden shouldered by these parents, but it's on them to find out beforehand what is and is not available.

If I were the judge in this case, I'd rule summarily in UA's favor, and award them court costs.


Originally Posted by Emma1420
ICAM. Did the airline even know that the passenger may have a special need in advance? I am assuming as the parents thought they could get a hot meal on board the answer is probably no.

Perhaps the FA didn't handle this situation as well as they could, but it's ultimately up to their parents to insure that they have everything they need on a flight. If the family had been traveling via the bus would they have assumed they would have access to hot food? Because flying (especially in coach) really isn't anything more than bus that goes more quickly.

Both good points and I did forget to mention that my friend counsels the families of his patients to alert all relevant parties to the Special Needs of the family and try and enlist their help if need be. He even writes a letter if requested to the relevant entities which a family member can hand over to an employee as further proof of the Special Need and to ensure the employee that an MD has sanctioned the event as safe to patient, family and the general public, he said that he has written letters to many airlines and generally after the employee is alerted they are much better according to after the fact reports from the families.

However and this is big, we have no idea if the Mother alerted the Flight Crew, to her daughter's Special Needs or if she was remiss. Recently on a flight on another carrier I witnessed a passenger board and from 1B I could overhear the passenger tell the FA standing by the door that he was having stomach issues and might have to use the lavatory a few times throughout the flight and he wanted her to be aware in case he had to jump out of his seat and run to the lav during the flight. As he walked away, she said to a colleague fairly loudly, why do Passengers tell me about their personal issues, I really do not care, use the lav, don't use the lav that is your problem, not mine. Obviously "stomach" issues are less serious than Autism, but still we have no idea if the Mother did in fact mention to an FA prior to the flight about her daughter's special needs and the FA just blew her off, we just do not know.

Again, there is no right nor wrong it here, it is a series of unfortunate events, could it have been handled better? Very possibly, we just do not know and may never know.

Tchiowa May 11, 15 8:59 am


Originally Posted by MSPeconomist (Post 24797714)
I don't think it was the right decision for UA to rebook the family onto a DL flight. What if the meltdown and scratching occurred on the DL flight? Don't DL passengers have a right to fly safely? Plus, it's not pleasant for passengers on the next flight to be subjected to a fifteen year old child who howls during the flight.

As a UA flyer I say "No, the DL passengers don't have that right. Just us UA flyers." :rolleyes:

mrboom May 11, 15 9:14 am


Originally Posted by MSPeconomist (Post 24797714)
I don't think it was the right decision for UA to rebook the family onto a DL flight. What if the meltdown and scratching occurred on the DL flight? Don't DL passengers have a right to fly safely? Plus, it's not pleasant for passengers on the next flight to be subjected to a fifteen year old child who howls during the flight.

What would the other courseof action be, to refund their fares and leave them in SLC?

I fly DL more than UA and would not want to be subjected to potential issues and delays during the flight.

miasmal May 11, 15 9:22 am

No comments from DL as to how their flight went?

channa May 11, 15 9:23 am


Originally Posted by MSPeconomist (Post 24797714)
I don't think it was the right decision for UA to rebook the family onto a DL flight. What if the meltdown and scratching occurred on the DL flight? Don't DL passengers have a right to fly safely? Plus, it's not pleasant for passengers on the next flight to be subjected to a fifteen year old child who howls during the flight.


What's wrong with acknowledging you can't handle something and sending the business to another provider who may be able to do a better job.

I have very strong respect for companies that do this. Don't bite off more than you can chew...

JakiChan May 11, 15 9:24 am


Originally Posted by username (Post 24797284)
Well, I would not want to be near a kid close to meltdown when she has a cup of hot noodles. Those things also have terrible nutritional values. I can totally understand why the mother did not do this.

No. The news article that I read said that all the mother said her kid needed was some hot food. Noodles are hot food. If the kid is that picky then she clearly couldn't fly. And when the kid finally got hot food she was fine - that's the crux of the complaint. We're talking about airline food here - clearly nutrition was never a factor.


Originally Posted by username (Post 24797284)
I would hope the mother's real purpose is to raise awareness. It is not easy to have any child nowadays and a lot harder with special need children.

If it was, then I condemn her horrible judgement. Wrong place, wrong time.

rufflesinc May 11, 15 9:25 am


Originally Posted by dsquared37 (Post 24798004)
The quote posted above doesn't mention who would be scratched. Is it not possible the girl in question has a history of self inflicted wounds?

Thats how I read the quote.

Neil35 May 11, 15 9:29 am


Originally Posted by reamworks (Post 24797358)
It boils down to the threat. It has nothing to do with them appropriating a meal they didn't pay for.

The mother said the daughter would start scratching other passengers if she didn't get her way. (Source: http://www.katu.com/news/local/Autis...303146891.html)
And that was when I just kind of said, ‘You know what? Maybe after she has a meltdown and she's crying and trying to scratch, then you'll help us,’” Beegle said.
Passengers were threatened. United did the right thing, 100%. The mother who made that threat should be on the "Do Not Fly List".

And anyone who thinks United did the wrong thing should be on the Do Not Fly list, too! :p


Originally Posted by OccasionalFlyerPerson (Post 24797704)
Where does it say that the threat of violence was to passengers? It could easily be the flight crew who were the target of the threat of violence.

The mother changed her wording between interviews. The earlier version (see below) can't be that helpful to her case.

By the way, I don't think threatening to scratch the flight crew is any more acceptable than threatening to scratch other passengers.


Originally Posted by Miles Ahead (Post 24791988)
Two other links:

http://koin.com/2015/05/09/she-wasnt...use-of-autism/

http://www.kptv.com/story/29020437/t...ane-mid-flight


She told KOIN 6 News she explained that if her daughter didn’t get a hot meal, she would “get to the meltdown point” and maybe scratch someone. Juliette soon got a first-class meal.

Emphasis is mine.

saneman May 11, 15 9:36 am

how tough is to restrain that girl if she did end up overreacting? I wonder if a sleeping pill is more prudent for such cases. (don't know what the medical ethics are for such a case).

And from what I read in one of the accounts, the mother did offer to pay for the meal.

While the burden of this situation lies more on the parents, it seems based on another flyer's account, except for one drama queen passenger a few rows ahead, most of the passengers around that autistic kid didn't seem bothered for their safety. And if you placed the girl between the parents, how would she even be able to scratch another person outside the family?

Here is another passenger (not just the other flyertalker and the guy who filmed it):

Another traveler, Jodi Smith, who was sitting three rows behind Juliette, said she heard the entire conversation with the first-class flight attendant.

"He was being totally ridiculous," Smith said.

"Then the medics came on, then the police ... They went right straight to Dr. Beegle. You could hear them saying their daughter was perceived as a threat," Smith told ABC News. "I stood up and said, 'Absolutely positively not.'

"This was just ridiculous... she was calm, she had done nothing," she said. "I've been on flights where kids have screamed for 4 hours and they've never diverted a flight.
Seems like the FAs again using terrorism as an excuse to get paranoid about safety threats and inconveniencing passengers who didn't seem bothered by this. While some people don't mind seeing their precious time wasted in the name of a trivial security risk, I do.

JVPhoto May 11, 15 9:45 am

She didn't have an episode/fit/outlash (not sure what the right term to use is) so of course no one was bothered by her sitting there. But when she stands up and digs her nails into the person in the row in front's face?

What if she had the e/f/o 5 min later? How much time was left on the flight? Would a screaming (near) adult who is being forcibly restrained by her parents for 2-3 hours something the plane needs to go through?

mrboom May 11, 15 9:46 am


Originally Posted by saneman (Post 24798224)
how tough is to restrain that girl if she did end up overreacting? I wonder if a sleeping pill is more prudent for such cases. (don't know what the medical ethics are for such a case).

[/B]
While the burden of this situation lies more on the parents, it seems based on another flyer's account, except for one drama queen passenger a few rows ahead, most of the passengers around that autistic kid didn't seem bothered for their safety. And if you placed the girl between the parents, how would she even be able to scratch another person outside the family?

You are correct, ALL the burden lies on the parents to determine if their child can travel by air safely. It is not the airlines burden to accomodate the mother's demands or threats.

Odds are that most of the other passengers around them have very little knowledge of flying rules and regulations and will sympathize with the family because they are ignorant of the seriousness when a passenger that becomes unmangeable during a flight.

It is very selfish of the family to subject all the other passengers to this type of trouble when they know the risks of traveling with the daughter.

Loren Pechtel May 11, 15 9:56 am


Originally Posted by MKEflyer95 (Post 24795558)
I have a very high-functioned form of autism as well and looking at this, I thought this is just wrong of United to do. I've always liked flying and I know what to expect. But she probably isn't into aviation as me so she doesn't know that she's not supposed to cause a distruption on the plane. There was nothing her parents could really do to stop her from crying about getting no hot food. If this was on Delta or American, they'd probably take this situation more maturely without having to divert the plane. If she was flying alone they'd probably give her a first-class meal. When I was 9 and I flew alone, I got put in first class. Originally I had an economy seat but that flight turned out to be the best I've been on. If her parents would've informed United that she was autistic BEFORE the flight, then maybe she'd get to fly first class and get a first class meal and no distruptions.

The issue is not her creating a scene. The issue is the threat of violence. I would support UA in saying she is not allowed to fly again.

Cargojon May 11, 15 10:02 am

Parent of autistic child here:

UA was wrong to divert the flight. It was apparent that the child had calmed down, was not bothering anyone, and the crew was obviously not trained to handle someone with this kind of disability. I don't blame them personally, but more suitable training would have gone a long way.

Mom was 100% wrong to throw out the "scratching" bit. Once you cross that line, in the minds of FA, crew, etc it incorrectly gets pigeon-holed into the "this pax is a threat" mindset. It's the same reason that you never argue with a FA, TSA, etc no matter how wrong they are because you're invariably going to get the "do you want to fly today?" line. My 5 year old daughter still cannot drink well from an open cup - juice boxes are a requirement. TSA is hit and miss on getting them through security, but I always bring at least one extra for the TSA to open up and smell/examine/make me drink, etc. If I ever got a super-uptight TSA agent that simply refused them through in their entirety, it would be a problem. Thankfully, it never has. Could it? Sure. Is that reason for us to never fly? No.

I've flown with my daughter multiple times and she's never had a problem. However, despite the best planning, sometimes things happen and it's not the parents fault. I wouldn't expect anyone who doesn't parent an autistic child to understand this so I won't take personally several of the ignorant comments I've read on this thread...because I don't think it comes from a place of malice, merely ignorance.

channa May 11, 15 10:02 am


Originally Posted by saneman (Post 24798224)
Seems like the FAs again using terrorism as an excuse to get paranoid about safety threats and inconveniencing passengers who didn't seem bothered by this. While some people don't mind seeing their precious time wasted in the name of a trivial security risk, I do.


I don't think that's the case here.

Look at it from the FA's perspective, particularly given the dysfunctional fear culture we have post-merger.

1. Serving the hot F meal as requested to calm the situation may result in disciplinary action.

2. Alerting the captain to the issue and having him make a call to divert the plane results in a large expense, a PR disaster, and 150 annoyed customers.

#1 is the "right thing to do" to go above and beyond, but that's frowned upon by the company. #2 is the safer thing to do from a liability perspective, and also the crew's perspective.

I think the crew acted completely as the company wants them to.


The crew needs do the right thing in a circumstance that arises, and when they make a call at 36,000 feet.

docbert May 11, 15 10:07 am


Originally Posted by kmersh (Post 24797316)
... I was flying United and the meal options in First Class were a cold (and by that I mean cold soggy bread) sandwich or a salad with cold protein. I asked the FA if she could heat up the sanwhich to take off some of the chill and hopefully repair the bread (even a little) and she flatly refused saying that it was against United policy to heat food that United did not intend to be served heated, which I took to mean I am too lazy to bother with any special requests and that was in PAID First Class.

I suspect in this case the FA was trying to avoid a diversion! Putting food into the ovens that isn't specifically intended to be put in them leads to the potential for burning the item - and once there's smoke, there's almost certainly a divert on the cards. I don't know a specific policy on this one, but I wouldn't at all be surprised if it's completely not allowed to do so.



Originally Posted by kmersh (Post 24797316)
With regards to the diversion my friend felt it was actually compassionate to divert, but calling the Police was a little much, just allowing the PAX to deplane would have been enough

They really don't have a choice. The moment you're removing someone from a packed plane against their will there is always the risk of non-compliance, and especially when there has already been a threat of violence (regardless of it's actual form) then not having police involved would be asking for a further lawsuit if something went wrong as they were removed from the flight


Originally Posted by MSPeconomist (Post 24797714)
I don't think it was the right decision for UA to rebook the family onto a DL flight. What if the meltdown and scratching occurred on the DL flight?

UA do not fly SLC-PDX, so the only options for a direct flight were DL and AS. Presumably the child was fed before this flight, so the chances of a "meltdown" were significantly lower...

mrboom May 11, 15 10:18 am

The decision to remove the family from the plane was done in the best interest of the safety for everyone. The safety card trumps all others. Period.

The mother should have.... the FA could have ....

I do not care about the should have, could have, would have and neither do most other travelers. We care about safely arriving at our destinations.

The family is extremely selfish to think that their daughter and her issues trump all other policies, including safety.

sweeper20 May 11, 15 10:30 am


Originally Posted by Cargojon (Post 24798365)
Parent of autistic child here:

UA was wrong to divert the flight. It was apparent that the child had calmed down, was not bothering anyone, and the crew was obviously not trained to handle someone with this kind of disability. I don't blame them personally, but more suitable training would have gone a long way.

The child was ok again in that moment. Earlier there was a threat of violence. Who is to say that in 10 mins the situation might have changed yet again? So they start a diversion a second time? Oh, then it gets better again... so they continue on..oh wait, another episode! Sorry but once the mother brought up the idea that scratching could occur, its game over.

artvandalay May 11, 15 10:32 am


Originally Posted by mrboom (Post 24798458)
The decision to remove the family from the plane was done in the best interest of the safety for everyone. The safety card trumps all others. Period.

The mother should have.... the FA could have ....

I do not care about the should have, could have, would have and neither do most other travelers. We care about safely arriving at our destinations.

The family is extremely selfish to think that their daughter and her issues trump all other policies, including safety.

^^^^

JBord May 11, 15 10:36 am


Originally Posted by Cargojon (Post 24798365)
Parent of autistic child here:

UA was wrong to divert the flight. It was apparent that the child had calmed down, was not bothering anyone, and the crew was obviously not trained to handle someone with this kind of disability. I don't blame them personally, but more suitable training would have gone a long way.

Mom was 100% wrong to throw out the "scratching" bit. Once you cross that line, in the minds of FA, crew, etc it incorrectly gets pigeon-holed into the "this pax is a threat" mindset. It's the same reason that you never argue with a FA, TSA, etc no matter how wrong they are because you're invariably going to get the "do you want to fly today?" line. My 5 year old daughter still cannot drink well from an open cup - juice boxes are a requirement. TSA is hit and miss on getting them through security, but I always bring at least one extra for the TSA to open up and smell/examine/make me drink, etc. If I ever got a super-uptight TSA agent that simply refused them through in their entirety, it would be a problem. Thankfully, it never has. Could it? Sure. Is that reason for us to never fly? No.

I've flown with my daughter multiple times and she's never had a problem. However, despite the best planning, sometimes things happen and it's not the parents fault. I wouldn't expect anyone who doesn't parent an autistic child to understand this so I won't take personally several of the ignorant comments I've read on this thread...because I don't think it comes from a place of malice, merely ignorance.


I agree with your point about it being unfair to blame the parents for a possible meltdown. My (admittedly ignorant) understanding is there are a number of things that can trigger an outburst. But it's also unfair to blame the UA crew for not knowing how to manage the situation. How does UA, or any company with customer-facing employees, train its people to deal with every possible type of medical condition?

The parents were the most familiar with their daughter's condition and didn't seem prepared to manage it, how could a "suitably trained" crew do so? And should they feel comfortable accepting the mother's claim that hot food would fix everything? And what if 20 minutes later it happened again and there was no more food to heat up? Those are a couple of the questions I'm asking myself as a crew member, and why I'd also alert the captain to the situation.

In fact, if I were a crew member, I would want to avoid any situation where I might have to restrain a 15-year old child. When someone alerts me that it may be a possibility if I don't do as they ask, I would go into risk-mitigation mode.

There are, perhaps, missing facts in the article about how the parent's reacted. All we read is that the mother requested to purchase a meal, and warned/threatened that the child would start attacking passengers if she didn't get her meal. Did the parents speak to the flight attendant privately prior to takeoff or at any time during the flight? Did they mention that this is a common occurrence and assure the FA they could handle the situation? Did they fully and calmly explain the situation, or was the first reaction after refusal of a F meal to make a smart comment about how the FA will wish they had helped when a meltdown occurs?

All that said, I will reserve judgment on the parents at this point. But I will judge UA, and I believe UA did the right thing given the facts we have.

halls120 May 11, 15 10:51 am


Originally Posted by JBord (Post 24798576)
I agree with your point about it being unfair to blame the parents for a possible meltdown. My (admittedly ignorant) understanding is there are a number of things that can trigger an outburst. But it's also unfair to blame the UA crew for not knowing how to manage the situation. How does UA, or any company with customer-facing employees, train its people to deal with every possible type of medical condition?

Especially when the parent apparently didn't contact UA in advance of the flight as to the special needs of their child.

Had the parents reached out in advance, and the same in-flight result occurred, then I would be in their corner.

JakiChan May 11, 15 10:54 am


Originally Posted by Cargojon (Post 24798365)
UA was wrong to divert the flight. It was apparent that the child had calmed down,

Disagree because...


Originally Posted by Cargojon (Post 24798365)
Mom was 100% wrong to throw out the "scratching" bit.

This. In fact, here's her own words:


Originally Posted by Donna Beegle
"He came back again and I said, 'I have a child with special needs, I need to get her something.' And he said, 'I can't do that,'" she explained. "I said, 'How about we wait for her to have a meltdown, she'll be crying and trying to scratch in frustration. I don't want her to get to that point.'"

(From https://gma.yahoo.com/woman-claims-s...opstories.html)

The way I read it, it sounded like she threatened the FA with a "meltdown". That was where things went wrong. THAT's why the flight was diverted. Juliette wasn't the problem, her mom was if you ask me. Threaten an FA and you end up getting diverted and taken off the plane.

I can understand she was frustrated, but it still seems like very poor planning on her part. She never seems to have created a backup plan for "she won't eat the airport food". I can think of two: A special needs request to the airline (dunno how they'd handle it) and instant noodles, which just require hot water.

Can we say, with hindsight, that it was an overreaction? Maybe. But in these days of both liability sensitivity and security sensitivities I think this was inevitable - if the mom acted the way she says she acted, and said what she says she said.

JBord May 11, 15 10:56 am


Originally Posted by halls120 (Post 24798669)
Especially when the parent apparently didn't contact UA in advance of the flight as to the special needs of their child.

Had the parents reached out in advance, and the same in-flight result occurred, then I would be in their corner.

I don't think I saw that mentioned one way or the other in the article. Unless I missed it, I think we have to give the parents the benefit of the doubt on what they did in preparation for the flight.

But I'm certainly reluctant to do even that, when the mother is quoted repeating a threat to a flight attendant...she didn't even try to make it more appropriate when she knew she was being interviewed?

I would imagine it can be quite stressful for parents of autistic children. I might forgive her for that moment if, after the fact in an interview, she had put that statement in context. But it seems she didn't see anything wrong with it.

waxearwings May 11, 15 11:18 am

8 pages of comments, and the vast majority seem to prefer 'Parents make terroristic demands and threaten entire plane with violence if demands not met' to 'Parent asks FA to pay for a reasonable accommodation for disabled child and explains reason why accommodation is needed'.

There is no slippery slope here.

I don't condone the lawsuit, and don't see grounds for one either, but that does not mean a diversion was necessary, justified, or in the best interest of passengers and crew. Yes, the parents could have been better prepared, but having the crew go out of their way to compensate them without meting out some form of inconvenience-punishment will not pull the pin on the moral hazard grenade and cause all parents to abdicate rearing responsibilities to flight crews.

It would certainly be an easier world if we could just pretend that difficult issues like disabilities do not exist, and clearly it would make the already difficult job of an FA a bit easier. But in lieu of this mass delusion, perhaps it would be best if diversions were reserved for actual or threatened emergencies, not hypothetical, preventable ones.

[I would have understood the diversion more if they had explained to the parents that because a hot meal could not procured (even if it could), they would have to divert. But the sequence of events seems baffling to me.]

JBord May 11, 15 11:25 am


Originally Posted by waxearwings (Post 24798808)
8 pages of comments, and the vast majority seem to prefer 'Parents make terroristic demands and threaten entire plane with violence if demands not met' to 'Parent asks FA to pay for a reasonable accommodation for disabled child and explains reason why accommodation is needed'.

There is no slippery slope here.

I don't condone the lawsuit, and don't see grounds for one either, but that does not mean a diversion was necessary, justified, or in the best interest of passengers and crew. Yes, the parents could have been better prepared, but having the crew go out of their way to compensate them without meting out some form of inconvenience-punishment will not pull the pin on the moral hazard grenade and cause all parents to abdicate rearing responsibilities to flight crews.

It would certainly be an easier world if we could just pretend that difficult issues like disabilities do not exist, and clearly it would make the already difficult job of an FA a bit easier. But in lieu of this mass delusion, perhaps it would be best if diversions were reserved for actual or threatened emergencies, not hypothetical, preventable ones.

[I would have understood the diversion more if they had explained to the parents that because a hot meal could not procured (even if it could), they would have to divert. But the sequence of events seems baffling to me.]

You're certainly entitled to your opinion, but I see very little evidence in this thread that label the parents as terrorists, or making terrorist demands. Many here are saying they made a threat, and that is very clear if you read the mother's quote...regardless of whether it was an empty threat or not.

Again, if you were the FA, would you feel comfortable that by providing the meal, there would be no other episodes for the remainder of the flight? What if the child needed another hot meal and there weren't any left? You need to answer those questions before condemning the FA, who very likely had good intentions by alerting the captain.

As for me, I'd have a reasonable concern that I may have to restrain the child before the end of the flight, in front of a mother who clearly wouldn't be ok with that situation, and risk opening myself up to a REAL lawsuit.

Perhaps the FA and the Captain actually took the most dignified approach, given what may have occurred.

JakiChan May 11, 15 11:35 am


Originally Posted by waxearwings (Post 24798808)
8 pages of comments, and the vast majority seem to prefer 'Parents make terroristic demands and threaten entire plane with violence if demands not met' to 'Parent asks FA to pay for a reasonable accommodation for disabled child and explains reason why accommodation is needed'.

Have you read the mother's own words?


Originally Posted by waxearwings (Post 24798808)
There is no slippery slope here.


I don't think most of us feel that way. And was a diversion "necessary"? Depends on your perspective. From the perspective of hindsight, and I'm sure from the perspective of parents, it wasn't. But they just threatened an FA. That NEVER goes well.


Originally Posted by waxearwings (Post 24798808)
It would certainly be an easier world if we could just pretend that difficult issues like disabilities do not exist, and clearly it would make the already difficult job of an FA a bit easier. But in lieu of this mass delusion, perhaps it would be best if diversions were reserved for actual or threatened emergencies, not hypothetical, preventable ones.

Now you're the one threatening a slippery slope. It's not like this is going to lead to grandma having to crawl up to the front of the plane because we won't let them bring wheelchairs anymore. The parents threatened an emergency. I'm sure that based on policy, once they did that the FA acted per United policy.

halls120 May 11, 15 11:58 am


Originally Posted by JBord (Post 24798695)
I don't think I saw that mentioned one way or the other in the article. Unless I missed it, I think we have to give the parents the benefit of the doubt on what they did in preparation for the flight.

I disagree. They either contacted UA in advance to discuss their situation, or they didn't. If you have special needs of any kind, the burden is on the passenger to communicate those needs in advance. That is simply common sense. I suppose one could argue that the ADA requires the airlines to be equipped for any and all situations involving the disabled, but even if that were the case, why don't the parents owe the airline the courtesy of a phone call in advance?

mduell May 11, 15 12:06 pm


Originally Posted by kmersh (Post 24797316)
I asked the FA if she could heat up the sanwhich to take off some of the chill and hopefully repair the bread (even a little) and she flatly refused saying that it was against United policy to heat food that United did not intend to be served heated, which I took to mean I am too lazy to bother with any special requests and that was in PAID First Class.

I think it's more food safety concerns than laziness here. Flight attendants are not commercial chefs, they need to follow the food handling guidelines provided for them.


Originally Posted by halls120 (Post 24798669)
Especially when the parent apparently didn't contact UA in advance of the flight as to the special needs of their child.

Had the parents reached out in advance, and the same in-flight result occurred, then I would be in their corner.

Even if they did notify UA in advance, what would UA say? I don't think there's even a standard meal code for a hot meal, and it's hard to think of how one would work on a flight with no scheduled meal service. So UA's response would be "no, we can't plan to accommodate your special request" and the pax would take the flight anyway?


Originally Posted by waxearwings (Post 24798808)
8 pages of comments, and the vast majority seem to prefer 'Parents make terroristic demands and threaten entire plane with violence if demands not met' to 'Parent asks FA to pay for a reasonable accommodation for disabled child and explains reason why accommodation is needed'.

There is no slippery slope here.

Does the airline even offer a hot meal for sale on this route? Or are you expecting the flight crew, with limited resources, to improvise to compensate for the passenger's lack of planning?

JBord May 11, 15 12:10 pm


Originally Posted by halls120 (Post 24799017)
I disagree. They either contacted UA in advance to discuss their situation, or they didn't. If you have special needs of any kind, the burden is on the passenger to communicate those needs in advance. That is simply common sense. I suppose one could argue that the ADA requires the airlines to be equipped for any and all situations involving the disabled, but even if that were the case, why don't the parents owe the airline the courtesy of a phone call in advance?

I don't think we actually disagree :).

I just stated that the article was silent on whether or not the parents contacted the airline, at least from what I had read. It could very well be that they did this. I didn't want to make assumptions, as many on both sides of the argument have in this thread. Certainly they should have contacted UA. Even if they did, I'm not sure it changes the situation.

halls120 May 11, 15 12:11 pm


Originally Posted by mduell (Post 24799068)
Even if they did notify UA in advance, what would UA say? I don't think there's even a standard meal code for a hot meal, and it's hard to think of how one would work on a flight with no scheduled meal service. So UA's response would be "no, we can't plan to accommodate your special request" and the pax would take the flight anyway?

Well, if the passenger was informed in advance that UA couldn't accommodate that need, and they chose to fly regardless, that would have made it difficult for them to now sue, wouldn't it? ;)

wrp96 May 11, 15 12:19 pm


Originally Posted by mduell (Post 24799068)
Does the airline even offer a hot meal for sale on this route? Or are you expecting the flight crew, with limited resources, to improvise to compensate for the passenger's lack of planning?

Does UA provide the opportunity to buy a hot meal in economy on any domestic flight?

If not, then this meal came from first class. And since meals are loaded exactly for the number of passengers, the meal provided to this teenager had to at best, be a leftover meal someone refused, or another passenger's meal or one of the crew member's meals.

If the explanation was that the teenager saw other people eating so needed to eat due to a routine, then there's a problem with making this the airline's responsibility. They were in coach, most likely they saw other people eating items they brought on board with them, not something provided by the airline. What would the response have been if there hadn't been any hot meals available even in first class (not unlikely depending on aircraft type)?

I have sympathy for the family, and feel reasonable accommodations should be made, but reasonable accommodations doesn't mean providing a meal when no one else in your class of service is provided one. It also doesn't mean giving into threats that include the possibility of physical violence, either to herself or others.

Diverting the flight and letting the teenager calm down and fly out on a different flight is a good move for both the airline and the family.

Tchiowa May 11, 15 12:30 pm


Originally Posted by Cargojon (Post 24798365)
Parent of autistic child here:

UA was wrong to divert the flight. It was apparent that the child had calmed down, was not bothering anyone, and the crew was obviously not trained to handle someone with this kind of disability. I don't blame them personally, but more suitable training would have gone a long way.

2 problems. First is the easiest. How she was behaving later is irrelevant. Once the pilot has made the decision to divert and informed ground control, that decision is final.

Second, the mother failed to notify the airline 48 hours in advance that there was a special needs passenger.


Originally Posted by Cargojon (Post 24798365)
I've flown with my daughter multiple times and she's never had a problem. However, despite the best planning, sometimes things happen and it's not the parents fault. I wouldn't expect anyone who doesn't parent an autistic child to understand this so I won't take personally several of the ignorant comments I've read on this thread...because I don't think it comes from a place of malice, merely ignorance.

I disagree. Again, the parents had an obligation to notify the airline ahead of time. Plus, if they knew the girl had issues with her food (later articles in some sites say that the mother said the girl would only eat "hot" food) then they could have brought on some Ramen or something similar and asked the FAs to heat it for her. With the 48 notice the FAs would have been prepared to handle it.

Since you have a special needs child you know that they often can't follow the standard rules and practices. So you prepare for that.

This mother didn't. Then she threatened the crew.

The daughter didn't get kicked off the plane. The mother did.

austin_modern May 11, 15 1:51 pm


Originally Posted by wrp96 (Post 24799137)

Diverting the flight and letting the teenager calm down and fly out on a different flight is a good move for both the airline and the family.


Horrific PR isn't good for United.

mrboom May 11, 15 2:21 pm


Originally Posted by austin_modern (Post 24799693)
Horrific PR isn't good for United.

This is great PR for United. They kept the plane and passengers safe and they did not bow down to a self entitled mother with piss poor parenting skills.

I am going to fly UA more often now.


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