An Oregon mother is suing United Airlines after her family was forced off a flight last Tuesday.
Dr. Donna Beegle was traveling back to Portland, Oregon, with her family after a vacation in Disney World when there was a misunderstanding involving her 15-year-old autistic daughter, Juliette.
"I asked the flight attendant if she had any hot food, Juliette will not eat cold food and had refused her dinner prior to the flight," Beegle wrote on Facebook. "It was a very long flight and I wanted her to get something in her system."
The flight attendant refused to serve Juliette hot food from First Class or chips, even after Beegle offered to pay for the food, according to Beegle.
"Juliette was beginning to cry," Beegle said. "I said, after she has a melt down and tries to scratch in frustration, will you help her then?"
Self-injurious behavior, such as scratching, is often exhibited by people with developmental disabilities as a result of frustration, according to the Autism Research Institute. The attendant eventually brought Juliette a hot meal from First Class. The plane then made an unexpected landing in Salt Lake, where two paramedics boarded the plane.
"The paramedic asked if Juliette was okay," Beegle said. "I said, 'she's fine.' " The paramedics asked if Juliette had scratched the other passengers, which she had not. Police officers boarded, and the family was asked to leave the plane.
"I told the officer the flight attendant gave her hot food and she has been fine the whole trip. The officer said that we were going to still have us exit the plane," Beegle said. "Passengers around us were telling the officers that Juliette was fine and there was no problem."
The family left the plane and was rebooked for a Delta flight, arriving at home hours later than planned, according to Beegle.
"After working to accommodate Dr. Beegle and her daughter during the flight, 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," United Airlines said in a statement to KPTV.
Beegle is suing United Airlines to ensure flight attendants receive training, and she has filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration.
"I am stunned they landed the plane and held everyone up," Beegle said. "This was a sheer case of ignorance."