Dad Says Delta Airlines Kicked Family Off Flight for Child's Head Lice: Fair or Not?

The family discovered mid-flight that their son had head lice and were told they would be barred from boarding their connecting flight because of the bugs.
Alex JW Robinson/Shutterstock 

A dad says he and his family, who were en route to Nashville from Paris, were pulled out of the friendly skies because his 6-year-old son had head lice. And now the Internet is divided as to whether Delta airlines made the right call, or was unfair to restrict travel based solely on pesky bugs in a child's hair.

Dad Clay Travis, his wife, and their three sons, ages 9, 6, and 2, had just enjoyed a European trip, during which no signs of lice were ever noticed, Travis explains in an essay on Out Kick the Coverage. But on their return flight, halfway across the Atlantic ocean, the lice was discovered while the couple's son was waiting in line to use the bathroom.

Travis, a lawyer, writer, and Fox Sports analyst, recounts, "My six year old started to scratch his head. My wife checked to see why he was scratching his head and saw then that he had lice. Several flight attendants rushed over too and peered down at my son's head. 'Oh, my God, he has lice,' they said." At that point, flight attendants informed the Travis family that they would not be allowed to make their scheduled connection to Nashville once they landed in Minneapolis.

"We remained quarantined on the plane and the airline brought two medical people onto the plane too," Travis writes in his essay. The family was told their kids would need to be examined, which included taking their temperatures, oddly. Later, once the family was allowed to de-board, they were pulled out of a customs line for their 6-year-old to be examined again.

"I said that I didn't want to submit my six year old to a medical exam and [the flight attendant] said if I refused then we were not allowed to get on our next Delta flight. At that point what options did I have? So someone in gloves starts combing through my six year old's hair in the middle of the customs area," Travis writes, adding that they still were ultimately not allowed to get on their Nashville-bound flight.

Another man informed them they had to leave the airport immediately, and have the child treated for lice, then obtain a clearance form to prove he'd been treated, before anyone in their family will be allowed to fly with Delta again.

At the end of the day, I'm torn as to how I feel about what happened to this family. Since all three of my daughters have had head lice at the same time, I know what a nuisance it is to get rid of. I also know how easily it can spread from one person to the next.

But it's true that mainly, head lice is spread from direct contact with the hair of someone who has it, so it makes sense to wonder how many people on the same flight would actually be touching the child's hair. Still, I wouldn't want my kid sitting in that child's seat on the next flight!

That being said, if I were his parents, I would not feel comfortable with people I don't know examining him in the airport. And clearly finding someone to treat your child for lice in an unfamiliar city is hardly an easy task. But as the dad admits, Delta did provide the family with a hotel voucher. But he added, "My family incurred over a thousand dollars in additional travel costs because of Delta's decision."

Comments to Travis's essay landed on both sides of the aisle, so to speak. "He doesn't own his seat, he doesn't have a legal right to dispute his eviction, airlines have the right to kick people off their planes and refund their money when they decide to do so at their discretion. You agree to that when you buy the ticket. If you don't want to give up that right you can drive or walk instead," one insisted.

Many other commenters pointed out how entitled Travis came across in his essay. As one humorously wrote, "'Excuse me ma'am, just want to inform you that the passenger previously in your seat has head lice.' Would YOU sit here?? Your self entitlement and selfishness to expose and infect potentially many others to your sons head lice is exactly what's wrong with the MEMEME society."

But another commenter noted about Delta's decision, "Then they need to kick [off] everyone with the sniffles and a cough too."

UPDATE: Parents.com reached out to Delta for comment and received the following statement: "We will always prioritize the health of our customers and employees, as safety is our top priority." The spokesperson went on to say that Delta has an internal process on how to handle medical events that occur before, during, and after travel. "Once we become aware of an event, we consult with multiple medical experts to determine how to proceed with a resolution."

The spokesperson also referred us to Delta's contract of carriage, which states: "...Delta may refuse to transport or may remove passengers from its aircraft...[w]hen the passenger has a contagious disease that may be transmissible to other passengers during the normal course of the flight."

So it seems the action taken against this family is justified based on Delta's general rules.

What's your opinion on this story?

Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger/mom. Find her on Facebook and Instagram where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.

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