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Family With Autistic Daughter Forced Off United Airlines Flight

May 11, 2015

The mother of an autistic girl has told how they were forced to get off a flight that made an emergency landing because the airline said her daughter was “disruptive”.

Dr Donna Beegle said they were flying to Portland, Oregan, from a holiday at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, with United Airlines when 15-year-old Juliette began to get hungry.

She said Juliette refused snacks they had brought with them and needed hot food quickly to avoid her having a “meltdown”.

She told KPTV: “I asked the flight attendant if they had anything hot, because Juliette is very particular about her food.

Juliette Beegle, 15, became unsettled because she was hungry

“If it’s warm she won’t eat it, if it’s cold she won’t eat it, it has to have steam rolling off of it.”

The family were told hot meals could only be served to first-class passengers.


Dr Beegle, from Tigard, Oregon, said: “The flight attendant said, ‘There’s not anything we can get you’, so I said, ‘Well how about we wait for her to have a meltdown, and start crying and she tries to scratch, and then you’ll want to help her’.”

A flight attendant then brought a hot meal from first class, and Dr Beegle said Juliette calmed down.

The aircraft then made an emergency landing in Salt Lake City, Utah, where police boarded the plane and asked the family to leave.

Dr Beegle said: “We were shocked to hear them say we’re going to make an emergency landing in Salt Lake City. We have a passenger in the back of the plane who has behaviour issues.

“I asked them why and they said ‘the captain doesn’t feel comfortable flying to Portland with your daughter on the flight’.”

Writing on her Facebook page, Dr Beegle said: “Juliette ate and was watching Pocahontas when we heard the flight attendant say ‘we will be making an unexpected landing in Salt Lake due to a passenger in the back having issues’.

“As [a] mom I could not stand the way Juliette was being treated.

“This was a sheer case of ignorance. Prejudice, ignorance and mistreatment are all too common toward people facing poverty.”

Footage of the moment the family were removed from the flight has been posted online. In it, passengers can be heard calling for the family to be allowed to remain on board.

United Airlines said in a statement: “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.”

The family has complained to the Federal Aviation Administration and plans to sue the airline.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Ian Duncan Smith permalink
    May 12, 2015 9:08 am

    Even if one assumes that chidren with so-called Aspergers Syndrome will not start to behave themselves if threatened with a good skelping from a tawse, are there no drugs that they can be given to stop them “having a meltdown”?

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