A family claims that American Airlines kicked them off a flight because their autistic child was having a meltdown during the boarding process.
Heather and Adam Halkuff of Rockwall, Texas, booked an Oct. 4 flight to Kansas City, Mo., with their five sons, including 5-year-old Milo and 2-year-old Ollie, both of whom have autism.
“I first contacted American Airlines and I asked them if there were any programs or anything they can do for us because we’d be traveling with five boys, two that had autism,” Adam Halkuff told Dallas-Fort Worth’s NBC 5.
The airline, which was awarded a top score in July for “its commitment to disability inclusion” from the American Association of People with Disabilities, agreed to allow the children to practice going through airport security and the boarding process one week prior to the flight.
On the day of the Halkuffs’ trip, however, 5-year-old Milo became distressed while boarding the flight. “All the passengers are walking by. They’re very kind, they’re like, ‘Oh, mom. You got this. Don’t worry about it. Do you need any help?’” Heather Halkuff told NBC 5.
However, she says a ticket agent became concerned. “Right away she goes, ‘He can’t get on the flight. … He’s going to bother the other passengers and then he’ll still be upset during the flight and we’ll have to turn around and escort you off the plane,’” she told the news outlet.
The parents said they offered to have Adam return home with Milo so that Heather and their other kids could board the plane and and head to Missouri as planned. “I’m thinking now that my older boys,” said Heather, “I don’t want them to resent Milo, ever, that we can’t do stuff.” However, that suggestion was reportedly rejected, and Heather and her sons were forced to return to the terminal.
The Halkuffs could not be reached for comment by Yahoo Lifestyle.
A representative from American Airlines tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement: “We are concerned to hear about this situation. Our team has reached out to the Halkuff family to gather more information about what transpired at Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW). The American Airlines team is committed to providing a safe and pleasant travel experience for all of our customers.”
The statement continues: “When it comes to autism, American is a strong advocate for children. Our team members work closely with various nonprofit groups to alleviate the stress these children and their families may experience while flying, including offering families the opportunity to take a test fight on the ground. This process — which includes role playing and realistic airport interactions — helps children grow accustomed to the experience of flight.”