Subscribe Now

travelers today

Home » News

Teen Banned From Boarding American Airlines Flight Because He Has Down Syndrome, Family Claims [VIDEO]

Travelers Today       By    Katie McFadden

Updated: Sep 04, 2012 02:59 PM EDT

Text Size: A A A

american airlines
A mom was humiliated when an American Airlines flight attendant told her she couldn't use her breast pump on board.(Photo : Reuters)

A California family claims that they were not allowed to board an American Airlines flight because their 16-year-old son has Down Syndrome.

Joan and Robert Vanderhorst of Bakersfield, Calif., were supposed to fly on an American Airlines from Newark, New Jersey to Los Angeles on Sunday with their son Bede, however they were never allowed on the flight because they were told that Bede, who has Down Syndrome, was a flight risk.

After being told that they wouldn't be able to board the flight because of Bede's behavior, Joan Vanderhorst took out her cell phone and started recording the incident, claiming that they airline was violating her son's civil rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Share This Story

In the video, an airline official tells Vanderhorst to turn off the camera. She can be heard sobbing as she questions why her son was being singled out. In the video, Bede can be seen sitting quietly at the gate, playing with his hat.

"He's behaving," Robert says in the video. "He's demonstrating he's not a problem."

"Of course he's behaving. He's never not behaved," Joan says.

The Vanderhorst's believe their son was singled out because of his condition.

The family has flown on dozens of other flights, but they have never had a problem. The only difference was that the family had upgraded the tickets to first class. The airline reportedly told the family that Bede's behavior would be a concern in first class because it was close to the cockpit and they wanted to prevent didn't want the pilot to have distractions.

"My son is no different from a 4 or 5 year old as far as behavior," Robert told KTLA.

After police intervened, the family was booked in coach on a United Airlines flight instead. The family claims they were forced to sit in a back row with no other passengers nearby.

American Airlines claims that Bede was "excitable, running around, and not acclimated to the environment," according to KTLA. They said that multiple crew members, including the pilot, tried to get him to calm down, but they failed.

 "Asking the family to take the next flight was a decision that was made with careful consideration and that was done based on the behavior of the teen," the airline told the New York Daily News.

"Our customer service team worked with the Vanderhorst family and the EWR [Newark airport] team, as well as the crew, tried to get Bede comfortable. Unfortunately, the crew determined he was still agitated" American Airlines continued.

However the Vanderhorst's claim this isn't true. They said that the pilot and the crew never spoke to them before the flight as they never made it on the plane. They believe the officials made a judgment just based on Bede's condition.

The Vanderhorsts were able to return home in coach on the United Airlines flight. They were never refunded for the upgrade fee that they paid American Airlines for first class.

The family plans to sue American Airlines and they hope that a similar incident will not occur in the future.

"Respect each person's dignity," Robert said to KTLA. "Every one of us should be treated with equal dignity."

 

© 2015 Traverlers Today, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Join Our Conversation

Travel Tips

Lima, Peru

A Travel Guide to Peru: Things to Know

Peru is a cultural hub filled with unique sights to see, amazing cuisine, a plethora of activities, and is definitely somewhere worth putting on your travel bucket list, but there are a few things to know before planning your trip.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive the latest travel news, reviews, and more..

Want more Travel?

Most Popular

20 sleeping dam workers were killed Balochistan, Pakistan

Dam Workers Killed: 20 Sleeping Workers Gunned By 40 Men In Pakistan

Dam Workers Killed – Early Saturday, gunmen in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province shot and killed at least 20 sleeping workers, while wounding three at a dam construction site. The attack which had the dam workers killed is now considered the deadliest attack in recent times which targeted civilians in a region with low-level insurgency.

Disturbing video shows horse thief being beaten by police in California

Horse Thief Beaten By Police: Shocking Footage Shows 11 Officers Brutally Beating Thief, Gets Internal Investigation

Horse Thief Beaten By Police – A video showing more than ten deputies beating and kicking a suspected horse thief is making headlines. The footage of the showing the horse thief beaten by police has been recorded by an NBC Los Angeles helicopter Thursday, and it lasts for about two minutes.

Six Thais, one Italian injured in car bomb blast on Thailand's Samui island

Thailand Car Bomb Explosion: Injures 7 In Popular Resort Island, Act Of Islamic Insurgency?

Thailand Car Bomb Explosion – On Friday, a bomb exploded at the Central Festival shopping mall in Samui Island in Surat Thani province, one of the country’s popular resort islands. The Thailand car bomb explosion, which went off in the basement of the mall after a fashion show at 11:30 p.m., injured seven people, according to authorities.

7 died in a plane crash near Bloomington, IL while returning home from NCAA championship game

Bloomington, Il Plane Crash: 7 Dead While Returning From NCAA Tournament, NTSB Investigating

Bloomington, Il Plane Crash – Seven people died after a small plane crash in McLean County, Illinois, near the Bloomington airport Tuesday while on its way home from the NCAA basketball tournament in Indianapolis. Authorities said that two members of Illinois State University's athletic department were amongst those killed in the Bloomington, Il plane crash.

Dozens arrested as violence erupts at Kentucky's basketball celebration

Lexington Fans Arrested: Wildcat Fans Rampage Over Loss, 31 Arrests Made

Lexington Fans Arrested – Following the loss of Wildcats to the Badgers, a number of Wildcat fans were left bewildered over the loss. However, some fans were quite enraged that they took their rage literally with a number of fires spread in the University of Kentucky’s Lexington Campus.

Caribbean Beach

Delaware Family Pesticide: Family In Critical Condition Following Alleged Pesticide Poisoning At Caribbean Resort

Delaware Family Pesticide – What should have been a safe and enjoyable Caribbean getaway turned out to be a deadly one. A family from Delaware is in serious condition following an alleged pesticide poisoning at the Sirenusa Resort on St. John in the US Virgin Islands.

75,000 Solar Workers To Be Trained By 2020, Says Obama

75,000 Solar Workers: To Be Trained By 2020, Says Obama

75,000 solar workers will now be trained due to a new initiative to expand the nation’s solar industry workforce. The launch of the 75,000 solar workers initiative was made by President Obama during a visit to Utah’s Hill Air Force Base on Friday, according to the Washington Post.

Hundreds of fishermen rescued following Indonesian slavery probe

Hundreds Of Fishermen: Rescued From Slavery In Indonesia, Tasered, Beaten, Whipped With Stingray Tails, Forced To Catch Fish For Western Restaurants?

Hundreds of fishermen rescued Friday from an isolated Indonesian island occurred after an investigation by the Associated Press investigation revealed the workers were enslaved to catch seafood possibly ending up in Western restaurants.

U.S. Navy alarmed at Beijing’s ‘Great Wall of sand’ in South China Sea

China’s Great Wall Of Sand In South China Sea, Why Is U.S. Navy Alarmed?

Great Wall Of Sand – China has been building a “Great Wall of sand” with the use of an unparalleled program of land reclamation in the South China Sea. Because of this great wall of sand, many are having "serious questions" about the country’s intentions for it, according to the BBC.

Find Us on Facebook

travelers today

© Copyright 2015 Travelers Today All Rights Reserved.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Real Time Analytics