Family Claims They Were Escorted Off United Airlines Flight After Autistic Daughter Deemed Disruptive

A trip home from the most magical place on earth was anything but magical for an Oregon family after they claim their United Airlines flight made an emergency landing and they were escorted from the flight because of their autistic daughter.

ABC News reports that the ordeal began shortly after the family boarded their flight to Portland, OR, following a layover in Houston.

Although the family, who was traveling home from Disney World, ate during their stopover, the family’s mother says their 15-year-old autistic daughter had refused to eat.

During the flight, the mom says she asked a flight attendant if her daughter could get something hot to eat, as she can become frustrated and antsy if her blood sugar gets low.

“We try to anticipate that and prevent that,” the woman says, adding that she had brought snacks in her purse. “[She] refuses room-temp food, I had no real way to bring hot snacks in my bag.”

A flight attendant told the family he could get the girl a hot sandwich. However, when it arrived the meal was cold.

“I could see her getting frustrated,” the mom tells ABC News.

She then asked if there were any hot meals available for purchase in first class, but the flight attendant refused.

“He came back again and I said, ‘I have a child with special needs, I need to get her something.’ And he said, ‘I can’t do that,'” she recalls. “I said, ‘How about we wait for her to have a meltdown, she’ll be crying and trying to scratch in frustration. I don’t want her to get to that point.'”

The flight attendant did end up bringing the girl rice and jambalaya, which calmed her down, her mother says.

About a half an hour later, though, the crew announced that the plane was making an emergency landing in Salt Lake City because of a behavior issue with a passenger.

Upon landing, paramedics and police officers boarded and arrived at the family’s row.

“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,” the passenger recalls. “We were still baffled.”

The woman says that when the police officers asked if there was an issue, she said no. But when the authors began to leave, the flight’s pilot allegedly intervened and the family was asked to leave.

“It just killed me for her to be treated that way,” she said. “It was awful. It was completely uncalled for.”

A fellow passenger tells ABC News that there really was little issue or disruption because of the girl.

“This was just ridiculous… she was calm, she had done nothing,” the passenger said. “I’ve been on flights where kids have screamed for 4 hours and they’ve never diverted a flight. I have never in all my years of flying seen anything like this.”

The family says they have filed complaints with both the Federal Aviation Administration and United Airlines, with both entities agreeing to investigate the issue.

A spokesperson for United tells ABC News that the crew of the flight made the “best decision for 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.”

Still, the family says they are looking into their legal options, saying their goal is to encourage autism training among airline employees.

“If they had autism training when I explained to him when I needed something hot, we could have found a workable solution together,” she said. “But his whole view was, ‘I’m trained to give a first class meal.’ He didn’t understand at all. He was disrespectful, he was rude.”

Woman Claims She and Daughter With Autism Were Kicked Off United Airlines Flight [ABC News]