Every parent knows that when your child is sick, you'll go to the ends of the earth to help them get well. For Talia and Logan Tallman, whose 3-year-old son Escher was diagnosed with a rare, soft tissue cancer called spindle cell rhabdomyosarcoma in July, that meant temporarily relocating to Los Angeles to seek treatment at UCLA Health. There, Escher had three surgeries to remove a 5.5 centimeter tumor. They returned to their home in Delray Beach, Florida earlier this month, but had to go back to L.A. this week for an appointment on Tuesday, March 13. And what the Tallmans encountered when they attempted to board their Spirit Airlines flight at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport can only be described as a complete nightmare.
After going through security, they learned their gate had been changed to one much farther away at the airport, according to The Miami Herald. So, with their three kids and luggage, they made their way over to the other gate, but sent Talia's mom Adrienne Becker ahead of them to let Spirit know they were on their way. “She said, ‘Please wait for us because my grandson had an appointment the very next day with his surgeon,'” Talia explained.
Spirit's response, according to the Delray Beach-based mom: The airline only accepts passengers up to 15 minutes before take-off, so they could only wait 30 seconds later. (Spirit refutes that claim, the Herald reports.) By the time the family arrived—just five minutes later—the gate had been closed down. Logan Tallman banged on the door, begging and pleading with the airline to let his family board the flight. Making matters even worse, they had checked baggage that was packed with Escher’s pain medication. Yet, gate agents said there was nothing they could do.
“They showed literally zero compassion,” Talia Tallman said. “That was really what was so upsetting to me is these people were being so heartless when they had the opportunity to make a big difference in our lives by letting us on the plane.”
Soon thereafter, Talia took to Facebook to share a video about her experience. "Spirit Airlines, you have showed atrocious service,” she wrote in the caption alongside the post.
The silver lining of this horrifying experience: all the support that the Tallmans received in the wake of the incident. "It has really been such a crazy experience," Talia tells Parents.com. "I don't have a lot of friends on Facebook, so I couldn't imagine so many people viewing it."
The response has left Talia feeling "like a pretty empowered mother with an amazing support system." She shares, "Overall, I feel people can sympathize, and I am overwhelmed by the kindness I've received."
In a statement to the Herald, Spirit saId, “Our records show they were not present at the gate when the flight closed. Our team made every effort to hold the flight for as long as possible. Ultimately, the flight had to take-off to ensure a timely arrival for our other guests waiting on board.”
Thankfully, the Tallmans were able to fly on Wednesday, albeit with two connections in Chicago and Denver. Spirit waived a $15 rebooking fee, and Escher's doctors agreed reschedule his appointment. That said, they still were without his pain medication.
No family should have to endure what the Tallmans went through. With hope, their experience will somehow preempt a situation like this from occurring again.