Family Wants United To Apologize For Treatment Of Special Needs Daughter

A family from New Jersey had previously flown with their daughter, who is a stroke survivor in addition to being quadriplegic. While FAA regulations require kids over 2 to have their own seats, their daughter is the size of a 1-year-old and unable to sit up on her own. This led to a dispute between the family and a flight attendant that kept their plane grounded for an hour. Now the family wants an apology.

In a blog post about the incident, the girl’s mother explained their daughter’s travel restrictions, adding that they purchase a seat for her, as the regulations require, but she isn’t physically able to sit up in it. Her parents hold her on their laps, as they would for a smaller child. This hadn’t been a problem during past travels for the family, but one literal-minded flight attendant on a United Airlines flight from the Dominican Republic wouldn’t tolerate this alternate seating arrangement.

The remaining 3 flight attendants pleaded our case, in fact one was in tears, but this one attendant dug her heels in and wouldn’t budge. The other 3 attendants scoured the Flight Attendants’ Handbook and found a clause that stated that if a passenger was unable to sit independently they were allowed to sit on a lap. She had the opportunity to make a justifiable exception and chose not to.

My husband pleaded with her, my other 3 children were sobbing, my niece was sobbing, other passengers were getting involved yet this woman still displayed zero compassion. The end result occurred when my husband finally approached the pilot and asked for help coming up with a solution that worked for everyone.

This compromise involved the girl being buckled into a seat per the regulations during takeoff and landing, with part of her body lying in her father’s lap. Her mother told ABC News that the family doesn’t want money or flight vouchers: what they want is an apology from United for the way the flight attendant treated them.

Update: United Airlines has clarified the situation in a statement. The airline explains that the rest of the family had seats in business class, but the seat purchased for the daughter was in economy class, even though she wasn’t able to sit by herself. In a statement to ABC News, the airline said:

The parents, who were ticketed in first class, wanted to hold the child in their lap rather than have the child take the seat they’d purchased for her in economy. Federal safety regulations require any child over the age of two to have his or her own seat, and flight attendants are required by law to enforce that safety rule. As we did in this case, we will always try to work with customers on seating arrangements in the event of any special needs.

Each child having their own seat doesn’t count if the family has no plans to actually put the child in that seat.

Mom of Child With Special Needs Says Airline ‘Humiliated’ Family [ABC News]
United With Ivy [Tumblr]

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