Teen with ASD Kicked Off Flight, What To Learn From Incident

tips for flying with an autistic child

In May of 2015, the Beegle family flew with United Airlines from Houston to Portland. The family was forced to leave the plane after an emergency landing in Salt Lake City. The captain felt that 15-year-old Juliette Beegle, who has autism, endangered the safety of other passengers.

In truth, the family had only requested a hot first-class meal for Juliette, who does not eat anything other than hot food. Juliette began to cry, because she has difficulties communicating verbally. She eventually received her meal and no longer exhibited any irritation or upset feelings. Shortly afterwards, however, the family was ordered to exit the plane, escorted by police officers. Despite many passengers’ protests, the family could no longer continue their flight.

United Airlines paid for the family’s flight on another carrier as an apology. Yet, nothing can truly compensate for the extra hassle, time, and embarassment that the captain’s ignorance has caused the Beegle family.

The Beegle’s story proves that now, more than ever, advocates must work to protect everyone’s right to travel safely and comfortably. Loved ones with disabilities should have their rights protected and respected by all people. However, travelling with someone who has autism may pose challenges, as not all people understand the various symptoms and needs of those with ASD.

You can help ensure that your loved one travels comfortably by taking the proper measures before the actual flight. Here are some basic resources and facts you should know before boarding any plane with a passenger who has disabilities:

  • Different airlines have various accommodations and policies that affect the disabled. You can research which airline is the best for your unique needs with the following website, which can direct you to the websites of all major airlines in the United States: http://www.disabledtravelers.com/airlines.htm
  • The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) was established to protect the rights of all passengers with disabilities. This fact sheet answers frequently-asked-questions about special rights for the disabled, elaborates on screening policies, and outlines the process of filing a complaint: http://airconsumer.ost.dot.gov/rules/20011029.htm
  • The Transportation Security Administration can help answer any further questions about security policies and procedures. Travelers may call TSA Cares for free at 1-855-787-2227. It is recommended that those in need of service call at least 72 hours before boarding. TSA Cares can also help with answering any questions relevant to a particular disability, and can refer you to a specialist who can educate you on your rights and accommodations. The hours of operation are: Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Eastern Time and weekends and Holidays 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

If you feel like an airline has not followed the law and exercised discrimination against you or a loved one with disabilities, remember that you can be in control of the situation if you do your research. Ask questions. If there’s any silver lining to the Beegle’s story, it’s that everyone should stand up for their rights, their loved ones, and their ability to travel safely and happily.

A helpful blog we found offering more tips on air travel with those with disabilities is The Friendship Circle (click here to view).

Written by Samantha Mallari

This entry was posted in Autism Action Alerts, Autism Advocacy, Autism America, Autism Awareness, Autism Media Coverage, Autism News, Autism Research, Autism Symptoms, Autism Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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