PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon woman says her family was removed from a United Airlines flight because her autistic teen daughter was deemed “disruptive.”
Donna Beegle told KOIN-TV it happened last week when her family was flying back to Portland.
Beegle says she had asked to buy a hot meal for her 15-year-old daughter, Juliette, and after some back and forth, the flight attendant eventually complied. But soon after the pilot made an emergency landing in Salt Lake City and Beegle’s family was escorted off the plane.
She says she thinks they were asked to leave “because of the fear of autism.”
United Airlines spokeswoman Jennifer Dohm told KOIN that after working to accommodate them, “the crew made the best decision for the safety and comfort of all of our customers and elected to divert to Salt Lake City after the situation became disruptive.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Video contains brief profanity.
“There was a lot of howling, and we thought well, what’s going on? And it never stopped,” fellow passenger Marilyn Hedlund told KOIN. “She wasn’t put off the plane because she had autism, she was put off the plane because she was maybe proposing some kind of a threat, to (about) 170 other people at 36,000 feet, which doesn’t make anyone feel safe.”
“What if she got crazy and got up and opened an exit door at 36,000 feet?”
Beegle disputed that notion, saying her daughter was kept safe by the girl’s father.
The Beegle family was eventually removed from the plane following an emergency landing because of a passenger with “a behavior issue.”
Jodi Smith, one of the other passengers on the plane backed up the Beegles’ story and said Juliette was not a disruption after she eventually got a hot meal.
“Then the medics came on, then the police … They went right straight to Dr. Beegle. You could hear them saying their daughter was perceived as a threat,” Smith told ABC News. “I stood up and said, ‘Absolutely positively not.