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A woman says that Alaska Airlines kicked her family off a flight to Seattle (SEA) on Monday after her teenage brother with Down syndrome vomited a small amount.
Meaghan Hess, a third-year law student and staffer for the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, was not traveling with her family from St. Louis (STL) to Seattle (SEA) on Alaska Flight 779 on Monday. However, in a written statement Hess says that her brother had just boarded the flight when flight attendants asked him and his parents to deplane.
“After boarding the flight, Patrick threw up a little and the airline workers kicked my family off the flight,” Hess said in the statement.
Alaska then rebooked the family on a flight the following morning, although it did not offer to pay for accommodations overnight. Hess said that an Alaska representative told her father that the family should have been charged for the reaccommodation on the flight the following day, but the airline was instead extending the comped flight as a courtesy.
Hess said that the airline left them “stranded at the airport for nearly eleven hours knowing that my family had nowhere to go for the night. Instead, all they did was hand my parents a black garbage bag, saying that my brother could just throw up in that.”
On the flight the following day, the three travelers were upgraded first class, where flight attendants reportedly gave the teenager “a black trash bag” for their trip home to Washington.
Hess told NBC News that in a direct message on Twitter, a representative from Alaska said: “I’m truly sorry for your family’s experience. Safety of all passengers is our number one priority. I am glad to see that we re-booked them at no fee in the morning. I apologize that we cannot provide hotels in these situations.”
A spokeswoman from Alaska later said that the teenager posed a potential health threat. “The family was not able to depart on their original flight because the family’s child was visibly ill,” she said. “Out of an abundance of caution the agent determined that the child was not fit to fly. In the case of a medical-related situation, it is safer for guests to be treated on the ground, as our crew are not trained medical professionals.”
The airline also said that it’s looking into how the incident was handled and has reached out to the family to better understand what happened.
Hess said she’s not satisfied with Alaska’s response, calling the treatment “disability discrimination.”
“I can’t help but think if a non-disabled child that threw up, would the airline have kicked that family off the flight,” she said.
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