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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 11, 15 5:47 am


Originally Posted by MatthewLAX (Post 24791941)
Difficult issue, but I would not be so quick to slam UA...

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

halls120 May 11, 15 5:56 am


Originally Posted by kmersh (Post 24797316)

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.

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.

cruisr May 11, 15 7:29 am


Originally Posted by fastair (Post 24795999)
Why would anyone want them to sue and win? Would anyone like a precident to be set that forces crews to 2nd guess the "safety first" mentality of the flight deck personnel?

Just to clarify I don't want her to sue and win. I was just saying she is going to sue ONLY for money. She is just saying she is not suing for the money to which I say BS.

acader May 11, 15 7:44 am

Was on this flight last week. Sitting in row 2, I could not tell what was happening a few rows behind. It sure was not apparent. It was a relatively normal flight and next thing we heard that there was an emergency and we had to land in SLC. From what I could tell, the passengers sitting around this family seemed to support the family rather than the FA or the pilot. Those passengers said that they did not have any problems.

cruisr May 11, 15 7:51 am


Originally Posted by acader (Post 24797671)
Was on this flight last week. Sitting in row 2, I could not tell what was happening a few rows behind. It sure was not apparent. It was a relatively normal flight and next thing we heard that there was an emergency and we had to land in SLC. From what I could tell, the passengers sitting around this family seemed to support the family rather than the FA or the pilot. Those passengers said that they did not have any problems.

And there seem to be other passengers who support the actions of UA. A classic Rashomon effect.

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.


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