American Airlines Denies Boarding to Teen with Down Syndrome

By | September 5, 2012

American Airlines is coming under fire today, and it isn’t just because they allegedlydiscriminated against Glenn Beck. This is for their actions involving a

American Airlines

sixteen year old with Down Syndrome and his family.

The teenager was booked with his parents in first class from Newark to Los Angeles on Sunday. American Airlines commented that the teen was excitable and running around, and the pilot unsuccessfully tried to calm him down before telling the family he posed a risk to passenger safety. The boy’s parents insist the pilot did not come near their son, or interact with him in any way.

In fact, they insist they never entered the jetway, and have flown several times with their son without incident, although this was their first first class trip. It is their belief that American didn’t want him to fly in first class because of his disability, and plan to sue the airline for discrimination.

There is some video, showing the teenager playing quietly with his hat, and an American Airlines representative ordering the video off, but nothing that proves either side. However, we have to agree with the parents, who point out that their son is no different than a 4 or 5 year old in behavior. And most of the time, they do not deny them boarding.

American has agreed to refund the upgrade fees. After being denied boarding, the family chose not to fly American, and American did arrange for them to go on United, where they insist they were isolated in the back of the aircraft with several empty seats around them.

The family intended to sue as a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, however, this was an airline issue, which is covered under the Air Accessibility Act. If an airline excludes a passenger on safety grounds, which they are allowed to do, they must provide a written explanation of the decision within ten days. They must also provide a Complaints Resolution Officer upon request. The DOT can fine an airline for failure to follow these procedures.

Is the scenario as the family says, or is American’s version closer to the truth? Was the teenager acting out, or sitting quietly? We will keep an eye on this for the future.