American Airlines told a family their son could not board a flight to Los Angeles (LAX) because he has down syndrome and the airline did not want him sitting in First Class.
This is the claim by the Vanderhorst family of Bakersfield, California.
The Vanderhorsts were due to fly from Newark to LAX last night when the incident took place. The family says their son, 16 year-old Bede Vanderhorst, who has Down Syndrome, was denied boarding because he posed a ‘flight risk’.
Bede’s mother, Joan Vanderhost, recorded video of the incident with her cell phone, in which Bede is seen playing with his hat in an apparently non-obtrusive manner.
‘Vanderhost is heard sobbing on the video, telling the airline official that her family is being “singled out.”
“He’s behaving. He’s demonstrating he’s not a problem,” Robert Vanderhorst calmly said.
The family, who had upgraded their tickets to first class, were denied boarding and forced to rebook in coach seats on a later United Airlines flight.
The Vanderhorsts told KTLA they intend to sue the airline for violating Bede’s civil rights and the Americans With Disabilities Act.’
American Airlines is standing by their decision to deny Bede boarding, saying he was “agitated” in the waiting area.
Statement from American (in part):
“The young man was excitable, running around, and not acclimated to the environment.”
“The pilot attempted to calm him down and acclimate him to the surroundings. His efforts were not successful. For the safety of the young man and the safety of others, American Airlines offered to book another flight for the family.”
“We were not allowed on the plane because they saw my son and made a decision,” Joan Vanderhorst said.
Sites That Link to this Post
- American Airlines Responds to Down Syndrome Flier Incident | September 7, 2012