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Family kicked off flight after misunderstanding involving girl with autism

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SALT LAKE CITY – An Oregon family is furious after they say they were removed from a flight because of a misunderstanding with their teenage daughter who has autism.

Dr. Donna Beegle said she was flying home with her family from a trip to Walt Disney World when her daughter Juliette became hungry.

Beegle said she knew she needed to get her daughter food to avoid a meltdown.

She asked a flight attendant if she could purchase some hot food from first class, but the flight attendant told her the hot meals were served to first class passengers only.

“Frustrated I said, after she has a meltdown and tries to scratch in frustration, will you help her then?” Beegle wrote about the situation on her Facebook page.

Juliette’s dad told KGW that his daughter scratches when she is frustrated.

Beegle says the flight attendant came back with food and her daughter calmed down.

“The next thing we hear is we’re doing an emergency landing in Salt Lake City,” said Beegle. “We have a passenger on board with a behavior issue.”

Beegle says police officers boarded the plane and ordered the entire family off.

“As a mom it ripped my heart out,” said Beegle. “I was shaking.”

Beegle wrote on Facebook that passengers even told police officer that Juliette was fine and there was no problem.

But the officers insisted the family get off the plane.

“The officer told us ‘the captain is not comfortable flying to Portland with your daughter on the plane. You have to leave the plane,'” Beegle wrote on Facebook.

After police officers took statements from the other passengers, Beegle says officers even told her that other passengers supported her claim that nothing happened and that the family shouldn’t have been kicked off the plane.

United Airlines stands by their decision.

“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,” said United spokesperson Karen May. “We rebooked the customers on a different carrier and the flight continued to Portland.”

Beegle filed a complaint with United and the Federal Aviation Administration.  She says she plans to sue the airline in the near future.

 

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