VIDEO: Girl Kicked Off Continental For Excessive Coughing

Here’s a video interview with the mother of the 16-year old student kicked off a plane for coughing too much.

While we appreciate the pilot’s concern for the other passengers, we still think he was overcautious.

We’d hate to be thrown off a plane for sniffles… but then again, we’d hate to sit next to some chick coughing up a lung for 10 hours.

It’s really a matter of whose shoes you put yourself into, and whether they’re filled with mucus. — BEN POPKEN


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  1. Asvetic says:

    They must have thought she was a terrorist fighting with Germ Warfare.

    I’m sorry about your cough, you’ll have to leave the plane now and spend a night alone in New York, while the rest of your friends and teachers go home without you.

    Oh, that was thoughtful of the pilot to decide this for her.

  2. faust1200 says:

    “While we appreciate the pilot’s concern for the other passengers, we still think he was overcautious.”

    When you are the Captain of an airliner there is no such thing as overcautious.

  3. Matthew says:

    If she’d stayed on the plane and succumbed to some weird bronchovirus mid-flight, her mom would be comlaining to the media even louder.

  4. homerjay says:

    This is one of those Damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario’s.

  5. ikes says:

    @Asvetic: from the story, she was not alone. she was accompanied by a teacher.

  6. Pelagius says:

    I recall reading somewhere that Honolulu has one of the worst infectious disease rates for air passengers, and this is a particular worry in terms of the avian flu outbreak.

  7. saerra says:

    It’s hard to tell from the interview how sick she really was. The mom makes it sound like “she had a small cough, a little tickle, and she was just waking up… when she got kicked off.”

    If it was much worse, I can understand the pilot’s concern (maybe she was on the verge of a medical emergency that would have forced the plane to make an emergency stop to get her treatment, etc.)

    I am a little curious about what actually happens in a case like this – if the pilot decides you are too sick to fly, does the airline pay for your hotel? Reimburse the ticket? Or what?

  8. detrop says:

    well, that’s precisely the point, isn’t it. she didn’t just have “the sniffles”. she was coughing uncontrollably.

  9. jendomme says:

    I love it when the mother says ‘we’ve all had coughing fits’. I heading into my fifth decade on this planet – no coughing fit yet.

    The pilot made the right call. Matthew said it perfectly. Her mother would be raising even more of stink if she became gravely ill on the plane.

  10. matukonyc says:

    Flying, like driving, is a right, and not a privilege.

    What about the hundreds, perhaps thousands of other people who could have been potentially inconvenienced or sickened by an ill passenger?

  11. Youthier says:

    @jendomme: Seriously? Granted, this girl was coughing because she was sick but you’ve never had a “tickle in your throat” and just cannot stop coughing for a few minutes? Lucky.

  12. nequam says:

    Shouldn’t the airline have assisted the girl and chaperone with finding a hotel for the evening? It sounds like they offered to pay her expenses after-the-fact, but it must have been disorienting to the girl and teacher to suddenly find themselves off the plane and with nowhere to stay.

    I’m reluctant to criticize the pilot for his on-the-spot decision, but I would have hoped the airline had been extra-accomodating given the circumstances.

  13. scoobydoo says:

    Keep in mind that the flight from Hawaii to the mainland is a LONG one, this isn’t a short hop domestic US. Clearly someone on the flight thought it was serious enough to get a doctor involved. They had to make a decision, and this is the one they made. Right or wrong, they took a decision that was meant to protect the health of her and her fellow passengers.

  14. dbeahn says:

    I happen to think that the OTHER passengers have the right to not be forced to catch whatever she had by having to spend over 10 hours breathing in some pretty obviously (based on the fact they thought a doctor should come examine her) contagious condition. Better to inconvenience the one kid and one of her chaperons than to inflict a contagion on the other (however many – over 100 not including her class trip group I’d bet) passengers.

  15. @matukonyc: I think you meant, “is a privilege, not a right”, right?

  16. Skeptic says:

    It seems like all the people who say she should have been allowed to fly while having a severe coughing fit aren’t considering what it would be like to sit next to her and in front of her for 10 hours.

    This was a pretty extreme measure for the pilot to take and it seems likely that the cough was not just a light little cough–even if the doctor said her lungs were clear. One need not be a doctor to know that having her on a plane would have been and inconvenience for other passengers.

  17. Gopher bond says:

    This falls into the “sucks for you but yay for me” category of opinion.

  18. Tallanvor says:

    @faust1200: You mean like the “Captains” who kicked off a Muslim doctor for performing his evening prayers?

    Or these scholars who were kicked off their flight, handcuffed, and questioned?

    Or there was a man who got kicked off a flight for wearing a t-shirt that called Bush the world’s #1 terrorist.

    I’m sure I could find many more examples for you where the pilots overreacted. So, really, at this point, there’s ample reason for us not to trust pilots to do anything more than fly the plane.

  19. Gopher bond says:


    Yeah, you know what? I just realized that the dude or dudette who’s flying the plane has my permission to request whatever the hell he wants as far as I’m concerned. If it’s not to my liking, I’ll get off.

    Maybe if I knew how to fly a plane my opinion might change but not until then.

  20. rbb says:


    As for the Muslim Doctor, why not put it into perspective by saying it was one week after the arrests in Britain broke up an alleged airline bomb plot

    As for the so called “scholars”, you mean the ones that are even suing the people who reported their suspicious behavior? The same ones who kept chaging seats before takeoff? The same ones who asked for seat belt extenders, not because they were obese, but because they could be used to block the aisles? The ones who immediately went screaming to CAIR?

    Well to all that I say:

    Dear Muslim Terrorist Plotter/Planner/Funder/Enabler/Apologist,

    You do not know me. But I am on the lookout for you. You are my enemy. And I am yours.

    I am John Doe.

    I am traveling on your plane. I am riding on your train. I am at your bus stop. I am on your street. I am in your subway car. I am on your lift.

    I am your neighbor. I am your customer. I am your classmate. I am your boss.

    I am John Doe.

    I will never forget the example of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 who refused to sit back on 9/11 and let themselves be murdered in the name of Islam without a fight.

    I will never forget the passengers and crew members who tackled al Qaeda shoe-bomber Richard Reid on American Airlines Flight 63 before he had a chance to blow up the plane over the Atlantic Ocean.

    I will never forget the alertness of actor James Woods, who notified a stewardess that several Arab men sitting in his first-class cabin on an August 2001 flight were behaving strangely. The men turned out to be 9/11 hijackers on a test run.

    I will act when homeland security officials ask me to “report suspicious activity.”

    I will embrace my local police department’s admonition: “If you see something, say something.”

    I am John Doe.

    I will protest your Jew-hating, America-bashing “scholars.”

    I will petition against your hate-mongering mosque leaders.

    I will raise my voice against your subjugation of women and religious minorities.

    I will challenge your attempts to indoctrinate my children in our schools.

    I will combat your violent propaganda on the Internet.

    I am John Doe.

    I will support law enforcement initiatives to spy on your operatives, cut off your funding and disrupt your murderous conspiracies.

    I will oppose all attempts to undermine our borders and immigration laws.

    I will resist the imposition of sharia principles and sharia law in my taxi cab, my restaurant, my community pool, the halls of Congress, our national monuments, the radio and television airwaves, and all public spaces.

    I will not be censored in the name of tolerance.

    I will not be cowed by your Beltway lobbying groups in moderates’ clothing. I will not cringe when you shriek about “profiling” or “Islamophobia.”

    I will put my family’s safety above sensitivity. I will put my country above multiculturalism.

    I will not submit to your will. I will not be intimidated.

    I am John Doe.

  21. Pelagius says:

    @rbb: Who gave Michelle Malkin a Consumerist commenter account? Puke.

  22. rbb says:


    At least you know where it came from ;) Tell me, which parts do you actually disagree with?

    And as for getting my commenter account, I got it just like anyone else – when they opened the rosters. I didn’t even have to put pressure on the father of one of the editors who is a good friend ;)

  23. detrop says:

    so what you’re saying is… you’re John Doe?

  24. amb1545 says:

    Considering how terrified everyone is of a coughing teenager, I’d hate to see how you react to something really serious, like buying a house or getting a job.

    Would you be making the same statements if she was kicked off a bus instead of a plane?

  25. esqdork says:

    @amb1545: Ayup. Besides, the point isn’t about her having a cold, it’s that she didn’t bother taking a cough drop. They sell it at the Hudsons at the terminal. People may still catch her cold, but at least she would have tried being courteous to the other passengers.

  26. valet_of_the_dolls says:

    @rbb: It sounds like you’re going to be very busy. Good luck with all that.

  27. faust1200 says:

    @Tallanvor: I am not familiar with all these events that you lumped onto my post so I am not going to comment on them. At any rate, when you find yourself responsible for a planeful of people at 30,000 ft. talk to me then. Otherwise please go back to your hole of ignorance and try to appreciate those who are looking out for your safety.

  28. Sonnymooks says:

    I’m mixed, if I was the girl, I’d be upset and mad at the airline, however if I was a passenger to be seated near her, then I’m probably happy.

    It all depends on whose shoes you want to wear.

  29. Tallanvor says:

    @faust1200: How is it ignorant to believe that a pilot isn’t always going to make the best decisions? If the article is correct, the pilot chose to ignore a doctor who was on the flight and said it was safe for her to fly. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to medical matters, I don’t ask pilots, I ask doctors. –The people who studied for years to become experts in that field.

    And pilots aren’t infallible. If you want to believe they are, try not to think about pilots trying to fly when they’re drunk.

    As for me? Part of my job requires me to travel, so I fly quite a bit. I follow the instructions, even the ones that are asinine, because it’s the law, and I’m not going to get thrown off the plane or arrested. But I’m not going to pretend to like following pointless rules, or believe that it all makes me safer. –I may be many things, but I’m not ignorant.

  30. mac-phisto says:

    i felt it was a little X-TREME!!! they needed a voice-over echo for that part. seriously.

    not a whole lot happens in hawaii, huh? i imagine the story after this was “fender bender disrupts traffic on big island for 15 minutes”.

  31. jendomme says:

    @Tallanvor: The pilot is in charge. Period. You don’t need to go to medical school to know that being stuck in a pressurized aluminum tube at 30,000 breathing dry, recycled is a great way to share germs.

    You also are out on a limb by assuming just because someone goes to medical school that they are the ‘experts’. It is called medical arts for a reason. Doctors know very little about the human body. Fuck, they can’t even eliminate the common cold. Don’t let someone bullshit you into believing them just because they have MD, RN, NP or whatever at the end of their name.

  32. It seems silly to even bring terrorism into this conversation, since the likelihood that (the pilot) removed her from the flight because she was a terrorist is very slim. Instead, this is about the health of the other passengers, and the concern that the girl might have gotten worse or just continued to cough *through a 10 hour flight*. Given those possibilities, he did what was actually best for both the girl and the other passengers. I personally can’t stand sitting in a plane with people coughing even a little, and I’m hardly a germophobe. Planes are flying petri dishes.

    The real crime here, based on that video, is that mom is dumb as a post and about as articulate.

  33. Owen Says says:

    That is with out a doubt one of the many problems with America today. I could bet the mother of that 16 year old teen is going to sue now because her daughter got kicked off and was humiliated. Something ridiculous just to get a little bit of money.

    I think the media completely blew this out of the water and created a pro-teen and mother vs evil airline.

    Let’s face it, having the kid dropped off is a much safer bet for all of us. She might have some sort of complication and could of died or she might be the one to pick up that flu that might be the next big super bug.

  34. jendomme says:

    @amb1545: It not a point of being terrified by a coughing teenager. It is the point that the TSA, FAA and airlines are not putting up with any shit. You want to raise suspicion, in its myriad of forms, when you are at an airport or on a plane. Go right ahead. Just know that the staff, employees and patrons are watching you and will boot your ass faster than you can cough ‘Halls Mentho-Lytpus’

  35. faust1200 says:

    @Tallanvor: I debated whether or not your statement deserves my response but I decided to give you the benefit of the doubt and spell it out for you. First of all, nobody said that pilots are infallible. The Captain is responsible for all the souls onboard. Can he/she afford not to act if he/she perceives a potential threat whether it be from a bomb or a virus? Let me help you: the answer is ‘no.’ The doctor “cleared” this patient you say. Perhaps it was safe for this teen to fly but what of the rest of the passengers? At best, this girl was not contagious but what about the psychological impact on the passengers? You say you fly often, would you want to be seated next to such a person? Here’s another scenario: They take off with the girl and once at altitude the girl goes in to anaphylaxis over the Pacific Ocean? Do you think the pilot would escape liability because someone who said they were a doctor said this coughing-on-the-ground-girl “checked out ok?” Do you understand that pilots would rather err on the side of caution rather than to risk the safety of the flight? I hope so.

  36. jendomme says:

    @faust1200: well said.

  37. a says:

    I love how the shocking expose leaves out the fact that the airline “reimburse[d] her daughter’s expenses incurred during the extra day, including the cost of the hotel.”

    Free dinner, breakfast, clothes, toiletries, and likely plane fare (not mentioned specifically in the article), and a hotel for TWO people is a pretty even trade to forgetting to wash your hands or not picking up some cough drops. It’s amazing this story is even being covered by media.

    This was handled exactly as it should have been, and if airlines stop taking such measures because of fear of stories like this, there are going to be a lot of passengers who happen to sit next to me on planes with in-flight pillows mysteriously lodged in their throats.

  38. aestheticity says:

    i approve of this. the more ways they can find to encourage people to stop making flights, the less pollution they create. fear of disease is a good one.

  39. acambras says:


    Ha! Good luck finding an in-flight pillow these days.

  40. Buran says:

    @LaurenKitsune: And there’s going to be a lot of you rotting in jail for committing assault.

  41. a says:

    Ah, yes, because I was 100% serious!

  42. Tallanvor says:

    @faust1200: Our flying experiences have obviously led us to hold different views of pilots and other members of the airline staff.

    I’ll agree there are circumstances where a pilot might have to make decisions that affect the lives of the passengers on the plane, based on the information available to us, I don’t believe this was one of those times.

  43. Coronagold says:

    Have you seen that recent TV ad for Family Guy where Peter opens a plane door and falls out? There ya go!

  44. Hoss says:

    Seems like the doctor faced a serious malpractice claim if he in fact gave an opinion of fit to go (with very little examination) and something ultimately happend to her. I mean, if she were choking, he should help her, but why risk litigation to get her home quicker? (And I love the “who’s going to pay for this” attitude by the father. That would be you sir)

  45. facted says:

    @Hossofcourse: Actually, the physician is protected from malpractice suit via Good Samaritan Laws which were created for scenarios like the “doctor in a plane” where the doctor wouldn’t help a heart attack patient, for instance, for fear of being sued if the patient didn’t do well. For some info:

  46. @nequam: I think that would have solved the entire problem, had they had customer service immediately arrange for a hotel and transportation thereto. Most big airports have a doctor or nurse available — bonus points if they’d had the doctor over to take a look at her while they arranged the hotel to reassure her. And her long-distance worried mom.

  47. Hoss says:

    @facted: Thanks for the reference, but I think I’m unconvinced. I’m feeling a difference between a doctor doing something to save a life (or reduce pain), and what we have here: a doctor giving advice that the person is not at risk. I’m not a lawyer though

  48. mon0zuki says:

    I don’t think I side with the pilot at all on this – a doctor on board even checked her out and said she was fine, just needed a little nyquil. The pilot could have even given her nyquil and waited, but no, she needed to go because god forbid she contaminate the air! Nevermind that people fly sicker than that all the time.

    As a teacher of mine once said, “flying is like making out with every other passenger on the plane.” She has a point – coughing doesn’t technically make a difference when air’s being recirculated for 10 hours.

    In any even tthough, from the story, it doesn’t sound like she was coughing uncontrollably. More like a 30-second coughing fit, which can happen even when you aren’t sick if air goes down the wrong way.

  49. mon0zuki says:

    @Eyebrows McGee – Good solution! Exactly what I’d recommend.

  50. epp_b says:

    Only in America.

  51. WhatsMyNameAgain says:

    How can anyone disagree with this decision? She couldn’t BREATHE for a brief period. Suppose it had gotten worse while in-flight? Do you realize how long it would have taken to find a runway, land, get an ambulance and get her help if they were going over, say, Nebraska? If that had happened, then the entire flight would have been hours behind schedule. He did what’s best for the passenger and passengers.

    As a pilot, what would you do if all you knew was “there’s a passenger that can’t breathe?”

    It’s a crappy situation for the girl and her teacher, but he did what he needed to do with the information he had.

  52. spryte says:

    I just think this is ridiculous. When you choose to fly on a commercial airplane, you are taking the risk that, due to be in a confined space with recirculated air for many hours, you might end up becoming ill. I’ve ended up with a cold or stomach bug a few times after flights, and on none of those flights do I recall anyone coughing excessively or doing anything to indicate they were sick.

    The girl didn’t have fucking TB. And all this “OMGZ what if she has a seizure/heart attack/exploding brain during the flight” crap is so over the top. She was coughing. It does not necessarily mean something wholly worse was going to happen. So now people will have their travel plans screwed with because they just might possibly have a chance of maybe being sick? Fuck that. I’m more worried about people who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom…

  53. potent1al says:


    This is one of those Damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario’s.

    I wholeheartedly agree. You have a girl who is coughing, and not just coughing, coughing uncontrollably. Either you kick her off like he did and deal with the consequences, or

    You keep her on board, all the whilst knowing she could be carrying something contagious that could put the whole passenger cargo at risk. So the question he had to ask himself self-consciously, is which one is correct?

    Well, since 9/11, this guy has probably been taught to be safe or sorry. And he’s absolutely correct. It is a split second decision, and I feel sorry for the girl, but if you think about it he did the right thing.

  54. apeguero says:

    I wonder if others have mentioned this already but, Wow! Spending your hard-earned spring break money in NYC or DC? I guess it’s what people that live in Paradise see as different and fun?!?

  55. BadDolphin says:

    Cancer kills more people EVERY DAY than died in the 9/11 attack. Ten times more Americans kill themselves every year than died in the 9/11 attack.

    So please stop wasting time spreading the John Doe “we’re frightened little girls” meme. It’s effective only on true cowards.

  56. amb1545 says:

    @jendomme: I see that the real problem is that you have some grudge against the medical profession. No, I don’t trust someone simply because they have a title attached to their name. And no, I’m not going to trust the opinion of a RN for a medical diagnosis. But there’s a reason doctors need to spend 10 years in schooling/training before they even begin their practice. I, for one, trust the opinion of a MD. They sure know a lot more than you or I possibly could, this goes for the pilot as well. Fact is that you’re going to encounter sick people in your daily life. You are more likely to catch a cold from germs on a doorknob or your keyboard than from someone sitting on a plane. Why live your life in fear of something bad happening? In the grand scheme of things, catching a cold doesn’t really seem too bad.

  57. Ben Popken says:

    GHS writes:

    “A quick note…I once flew from South Africa to London seated next to a fat guy who hacked/couched/sneezed and spat all (13 hours)the way…(in first class no less)…A few days later I was in a London hospital with pneumonia…two weeks later, still unwell, I happened to check with the airline and discovered that most of the people in the compartment suffered the same fate…”