A Portland-bound plane made an emergency landing to remove a 15-year old autistic girl and her family after making the pilot uncomfortable.
Juliettte Beegle and her family were escorted off of a United Airlines flight after it made an emergency landing when the girl’s mother repeatedly asked for food normally available to first-class passengers.
The girl’s mother, Dr. Donna Beegle, told KATU that her daughter didn’t want the food that they brought, or that was available to economy class passengers. She asked attendants if any hot food was available, which resulted in a “25-minute back-and-forth” discussion. The initial decision by the crew was that the girl could not be accommodated because the family was in economy class, not first class.
“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 told KATU.
Although the attendant then complied, it was soon announced by the crew that the plane would be making an emergency landing because of a passenger behavior problem.
Beegle claims she was told by the police that, “…the captain doesn’t feel comfortable flying to Portland with your daughter on the plane.”
Video of the police escorting the family off of the plane was posted on YouTube.
United Airlines issued a statement, which read
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.
Beegle has said she will sue United to prompt better training and create more awareness of autism. KATU points out that United is partnered with organizations which assist children with autistm.
The family was returning home from a trip to Disney World. Beegle claims that her daughter has been flying most of her life, and that this was the first time there was any problem. The girl has been described as “high functioning” but with “extreme difficulty communicating.”
The story has led to sometimes heated debate on the topic of flight safety verses the accommodation passengers with special needs.
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