A California couple says their 16-year-old son wasn't allowed to board a plane last weekend because airline employees described him as a "flight risk." But Joan and Robert Vanderhorst believe they were actually removed from the American Airlines flight from Newark, New Jersey to Los Angeles because employees did not want their son Bede, who has Down Syndrome, to sit in first class. The New York Daily News reports:
Bede and his parents had been in Jackson, N.J., visiting family and were eager to make the long return flight home. On a "lark" they had even upgraded their seats to first class, shelling out an extra $625 dollars.
"My wife said, 'oh Bede's never flown first class,' he'll be so excited."
Vanderhorst said Bede, a freshman in high school, has flown "at least 30 times" through his life and has never caused any trouble.
Nothing was different before Sunday's flight, he said. Bede was sticking close to his parents and was not acting unruly, nor was he upset.
But as the family waited to board, an American Airlines official pulled them aside and said the pilot had observed Bede and didn't feel safe allowing him on the plane.
The airline told the Daily News that Bede was "agitated" in the waiting area. "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 said. The family was escorted away from the gate by police, and rebooked on a United Airlines flight. Bede's parents are considering a lawsuit accusing the airline of violating the teen's civil rights and the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Image: Airplane parked at gate via Shutterstock.