Shame on airline
My son Bede Vanderhorst was denied a flight home from Newark, N.J. to Los Angeles, because the American Airlines pilot decided that my son should not be in first class. Our original tickets were for coach seating. We flew to New Jersey on coach Aug. 29. Then on Sept. 2, we arrived at the Newark airport about three hours early for our flight home. My wife suggested an up-grade to first class, There some seats available, but none together. She hit the button on the computer and we were up-graded. She was happy; she wanted to sleep in those big seats. It would be Bede’s first first class trip. Joan and I thought it would be fun!
All hell broke loose because we dared to fly Bede in first class. I asked the Gate 32 lady if she could arrange seating so that I could sit next to my son who I described as disabled with Down Syndrome. She told the pilot something and then he came to the gate and observed my son. Bede was just walking around with me, killing time and watching the activity outside the windows. At no time was Bede ever “agitated” or “running around the gate area” as the pilot later described. The pilot sent a customer relations guy to talk to me and my wife “about the pilot’s special rules” for Bede to board the flight. Joan would hear none of it. He was discriminating against Bede not for Bede’s behavior but because of Bede’s appearance and who he is: a teenage boy with Down Syndrome
My wife and I will not let any airline deny our child a flight in first class or any class when he is well behaved. For the pilot to just look at our son and decide he was not suitable to travel first class is just plain discrimination of the worst sort. Shame on American Airlines!
Robert E. Vanderhorst