Down Syndrome Teen Kept Off Plane as 'Flight Risk'

Airline refuses to allow 'excitable' boy on flight
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 5, 2012 4:02 AM CDT
American Airlines said the teen posed a flight risk.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, file)

(Newser) – The parents of a 16-year-old boy with Down syndrome say that they've flown as a family dozens of times, but only had trouble when they tried going first class. The Vanderhorsts say that American Airlines refused to allow them to board their Newark-Los Angeles flight on Sunday, claiming that their "excitable" son was a flight risk who could distract the pilot because their seats were so close to the cockpit, KTLA reports. The family ended up flying with a different airline.

"For the safety of the young man and the safety of others, American Airlines offered to book another flight for the family," an airline spokesman explains. He says the boy was running around and the pilot tried to calm him down. The parents deny the teen ever met the pilot. In their video of their confrontation with airline staff, their son can be seen quietly playing with his hat. "My son is no different from a 4- or 5-year-old as far as behavior," says his father. The parents believe the airline violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, and plan to sue.

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