Family film the moment American Airlines “refused them their first class seats because their son has Down”s Syndrome”Family was told that their 16-year-old son with Downs syndrome was being disruptiveParents disagreed and said that the American Airlines pilot was uncomfortable with the boy”s disability and didn”t want him in first classThe family is now threatening to sue the airline
Discrimination: Joan and Robert Vanderhorst are threatening to sue American Airlines after they say they were victims of discrimination over their 16 year old son Bede who has Downs syndrome
A family have claimed they were stopped from boarding a flight because their son has Down”s Syndrome and was not wanted in the first class section.
Joan and Robert Vanderhorst are threatening to sue American Airlines after they say they were victims of discrimination over their 16 year old son Bede.
The couple claim as they waited to board their flight back to their home near Los Angeles they were told by airline staff they were not allowed to take their seats.
Airline staff allegedly told them their son was disruptive and a danger to the flight crew.
ButMrs Vanderhorst told KLTA TV that she began filming her son as he waited in the departure lounge showing him sitting silently waiting to board the flight at Newark, New Jersey.
In the video, she can be heard sobbing and her husband expressing disbelief.
“He”s behaving,” Mr Vanderhorst says. “He”s demonstrating he”s not a problem.”
“Of course he”s behaving. He”s never not behaved,” his wife added.
Mrs Vanderhorst told KLTA: “I kept saying, “Is this only because he has Down”s Syndrome””
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Frequent flyers: Robert and Joan Vanderhorst said that they have flown with Bede dozens of times before but they have never had an issue, and this was the first time they were flying first class
Problem: An American Airlines employee (left) confronted the family before they boarded the plane and Mrs Vanderhorst filmed the interaction to prove her son was not being disruptive (right)
Thefamily, who have flown together dozens of times insist Bede was singledout on this occasion as they had upgraded to the first class section.
“Thislittle boy had a seat in the first class area, and for some reason, they didn”t want that. That wasn”t acceptable,” Joan said.
Bur American Airlines claims Bede was “excitable, running around, and not acclimated to the environment”.
They also said the pilot had unsuccessfully tried to calm him down while in the waiting area.
“For the safety of the young man and the safety of others, American Airlines offered to book another flight for the family,” American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller told KTLA.
Mr Vanderhorst says the family was warned their son”s behavior was a concern because their first class seat was too close to the cockpit and a distraction to the pilot could cause a mid-flight emergency landing.
Traveler: The boy”s parents said that their son is always well behaved and does not cause trouble
Active: Bede, seen with a Spiderman impersonator (left) and when he was pulled onstage at a Journey concert (right), supposedly behaves like a four or five year old child
“My son is no different from a 4 or 5 year-old as far as behavior,” he insisted.
The Vanderhorsts claim Bede hadn”t caused any trouble and instead was being discriminated against.
They said the airline was in breach of her son”s civil rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Airline personnel called airport police to intervene in the dispute and the family were re-booked on a United Airlines flight.
The Vanderhorsts reached their home in Bakersfield, California, but travelled in economy and say they have not been refunded for their first class upgrade.
They say they plan to sue American Airlines, and hope their experience will teach the company and people in general a valuable lesson.
“Respect each person”s dignity,” Mr Vanderhorst said. “Every one of us should be treated with equal dignity.”
WATCH THE VIDEO HERE