Donna Beegle of Oregon, claims United Airlines kicked her family off a Portland bound flight because her daughter is autistic. Beegle, whose 15 year old daughter Juliette was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, states her daughter has a high IQ but has trouble communicating.
According to GMA, last Tuesday, Beegle, her husband, son and Juliette boarded a layover flight in Houston on their way home to Portland. The family had dinner in Houston, but Juliette refused to eat, stated Beegle. So she brought snacks on board for Juliette because if her blood sugar gets low, Juliette gets frustrated and antsy.
Once on the plane, Beegle asked the flight attendant if they had any hot meals because Juliette will not eat food that is room temperature. The attendant stated they had a hot sandwich but when it arrived, it was cold and Juliette refused to eat it. Beegle then states she could see Juliette getting frustrated so she asked the attendant to check if there were hot meals available for purchase in first class.
“I asked if I can purchase something hot for my daughter and [the first class flight attendant] said no” Beegle said. “I called him back over and I said to him, ‘Please, help us out here,'” but he again refused. Beegle explained she has a child with special needs and needed to get her food but the attendant stated “I can’t do that.” After explaining that her 15 year old autistic daughter would have a meltdown if not fed soon, the attendant brought Juliette jambalaya and rice which she ate and was fine afterwards.
About 25 minutes later, an announcement over the loudspeaker said the plane was making an emergency landing because of a passenger with a “behavior issue.”
When paramedics arrived on the scene, they found Juliette watching a video happily and asked what was the problem. According to Beegle “The paramedic said this was an over-reactive flight attendant and started shaking his head, and said ‘We have real work to do’ and left,” she said. “We were still baffled.”
The police were next to arrive and stated that the captain has asked them to step off the plane because he doesn’t feel comfortable flying to Portland with Juliette on board.
“It just killed me for her to be treated that way,” said Beegle. She stated that the passengers around her agreed that Juliette wasn’t being disruptive.
Beegle said she filed complaints with the Federal Aviation Administration and United Airlines and received responses from both, agreeing to investigate. Her goal is to encourage autism training for airline workers. Had the flight attendant been educated on autism, he and Beegle could have sought a workable solution together and a much better outcome would have resulted.
Beegle is planning to file a discrimination lawsuit against United Airlines.