Airline accused of 'disability discrimination' for kicking off teen with Down syndrome when he vomited

Yahoo Lifestyle

Alaska Airlines has been accused of “disability discrimination” by a woman who says her family was forced to deplane because her teenage brother with Down syndrome threw up, NBC News reports.

Meaghan Hess has issued a written statement about her brother Patrick’s attempt to fly from St. Louis to Seattle with their parents on Monday. Hess, who was not traveling with her family, says Patrick vomited “a little,” prompting airline staff to allegedly force the group off the flight and leave them “stranded” until the next morning.  

“After boarding the flight, Patrick threw up a little, and the airline workers kicked my family off the flight,” the third-year law student claims. 

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Employees reportedly offered Patrick a plastic garbage bag to be sick into and rebooked the family for a flight the next morning “as a courtesy.” But Hess says they should have also covered their accommodation for the night.

Alaska Airlines is accused of disability discrimination. (Photo: Dave Alan/Getty Images)
Alaska Airlines is accused of disability discrimination. (Photo: Dave Alan/Getty Images)

The airline left the family “stranded at the airport for nearly 11 hours, knowing that my family had nowhere to go for the night,” Hess says. “Instead, all they did was hand my parents a black garbage bag, saying that my brother could just throw up in that.”

She argues that Patrick was treated differently because of his disability and that the airline would not have reacted in the same way with another youth.

“I can’t help but think [that] if a nondisabled child threw up, would the airline have kicked that family off the flight?” she said.

But Alaska Airlines, which eventually upgraded the family to first class for their flight the following morning, insists that staff was just following regulations.

“The family was not able to depart on their original flight because the family’s child was visibly ill,” airline spokesperson Ann Johnson told NBC News.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the agent determined that the child was not fit to fly,” she continued. “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.”

In a tweet about the incident, Hess clarified that she was more concerned about the “horrible treatment” her family received after they had to deplane.


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